Nursing Pinning Ceremony Speech by Kim Stiles - Registered Nursing Program Alumni News

When I graduated from nursing school, what excited me the most was the opportunity to learn how to love no matter what. I was pretty thrilled that my profession would provide plenty of opportunities to learn how to truly care for whomever walked or was carried in the door, no matter how lovely or unlovely they happened to be at the time. I was eager to join the front lines in making the world a better place.

Now 13 years later, I am more consumed than ever with the question of how we can love more effectively and be a healing influence in the world. I find it interesting that heart disease is the number one illness in developed countries, and while risk factors such as stress, sedentary lifestyles, and diet are causative factors; I can't help but wonder what else our hearts are pleading for. We also happen to be in the middle of not just an American hospital nursing shortage, but from my perspective, a worldwide nursing shortage. So we as nurses are needed more than ever, and our challenge is to learn how to be passionate about our work for the long haul without suffering irreparable heart burn along the way.

Fortunately, as I was pondering this dilemma in the middle of my own struggle with burnout several years ago, I decided to enroll in an anthropology class. The teacher was this incredible dynamo who at the tender age of 33 had accomplished more positive change against incredible odds than I had seen anyone else accomplish. Having had lots of practice being a student most of my life, I felt pretty confident in my ability to pick up the new material and engage in the conversation, and we had a great class discussing the assigned topic for the day. As the other students and I were feeling pretty good about how well we had handled the material, the teacher for some mysterious reason turned to me, looked me in the eyes, and said “You'll be a really good student when you can pay as much attention to what isn't said as to what is said.” Needless to say, our whole class kind of froze, since not one of us could even identify what wasn't said, let alone discuss it.

So I began to pay more attention to all the things my patients and coworkers weren't saying. I began discovering a whole new world, because for everything that is named and talked about there is another story in the background that is equally important. According to physics it is estimated that the matter we see makes up only about 10% of our world, while the other 90% of matter is invisible. Needless to say, I am still very much a beginner in exploring this hidden aspect of our universe.

I began to notice that the really good nurses kept in touch with the invisible and responded to it, even though they often weren't consciously aware of it and usually didn't document it. For example, one day in our clinical post-conference near the end of the semester, after we had spent a lot of time discussing how we had met the emotional and spiritual needs of our patients, I asked the group how many had chosen to write psychosocial or spiritual nursing diagnoses in their care plans. Of course everyone immediately got a guilty look on their face, and I quickly confessed that I have never written a nursing diagnosis in my nursing career for spiritual support even though it was something I addressed a lot in my practice. The point is that it is easier to document the physical and the quantifiable. It is much harder to capture the more subjective, continually mysterious aspects of ourselves such as spirituality and soul.

I have noticed that most institutions will eagerly support intellectual development through providing continuing education classes and inservices on the latest equipment and the newest advances in treating a disease. We need this new information and I am grateful that institutions are willing to keep their staff updated on the latest skills, especially since these skills are changing all the time. However, what I especially encourage you to pay attention to is identifying continuing education opportunities for your heart, so that you can replenish and nourish the soul of you in nursing. What nourishes your heart works in mysterious ways, and looks suspiciously fun, so I wouldn't expect to get CEUs or professional credit for participating in these activities. Ironically these are the activities that will feed you for the long haul and will have the most lasting impact on your nursing career.

We live in a high tech world that is the most visible, and if it is one thing I have learned about love over my nursing career is that no one person can meet all the needs of another. The myth of Superman or Superwoman is over, and now we need the abilities of a Spiderperson, of a web weaver. When time is short, it is essential to bring all the various specialists together to meet the needs of the patient, and the nurse is the one generalist who can understand all the different languages and cultures, and who can translate and interpret between the parties. The nurse is responsible for weaving together many different strands in a strong tapestry of support for the patient to help ensure that the most healing encounter occurs.

I hope we are on the verge of realizing, from a planetary perspective, that we need new ways of loving and communicating that may be more horizontal and web-like in nature. Sometimes when I need a quick break, I escape to the movies. The most recent movie I watched was National Treasure. For those of you who have not seen it, it involves the main character stealing the Declaration of Independence to reveal an invisible treasure map on the back of it that leads to a huge room filled with gold. As I watched this movie, I felt a deep appreciation for the founders of our country and those who struggled so hard to create our democracy. After I left the theatre and was replaying the movie in my mind, I suddenly wondered, “What if the real treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence is the next Declaration? What if the next declaration is a Declaration of Interdependence? What would it say? Who would write it? Who would be the new founders, and what role would nurses play?

I thank you for this opportunity to share my vision with you; I wish you full hearts and many blessings on this incredible journey you have chosen!

Kim Stiles, RN, MS
December 10, 2004