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Meet a Real Nurse

Name: Martha Smith

Education: Atlantic Union College, associate’s degree in nursing, working toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing


The Job: Martha works from 11:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. on the geriatrics psychiatry floor of Heywood Hospital in Gardner, Massachusetts.As a registered nurse, Martha primarily watches over the patients on her floor—which is a lot of responsibility. From the moment she gets to work she takes many precautions to ensure the safety of the patients.First she goes on a walk with a nurse from the previous shift and receives reports on every patient on the floor. Then, after conducting a narcotics check and entering data into the hospital computer (along with many other tasks), Martha and her fellow nurses take turns going on rounds. They check up on treatment progress, medication necessities, and general patient reports.

Words to Live by “Christianity has made me a more compassionate nurse. It makes me care more for the patients—not only their physical conditions, but also their spiritual conditions. I may not always be able to pray with them, but I always pray for my patients.”

Nursing for you?

Consider Nursing as a college major if you're crazy about:
•human interaction (in all colors, shapes,and conditions)
•problem solving (you’ve got to figureout what all the symptoms add up to)
•a liberal education (you’ll study every-thing from science to psychology to communication)

Avoid Nursing as a college major if you get nauseated by:
•the sight of blood (chances are you’ll see a lot of it)
•empathy (“Who cares?” is not a popularphrase at the hospital)
•bodily functions (it’s life, and sometimesit’s part of your job to deal with it)
•responsibility (you’ll have someone else’swell-being in your hands)
•working hard (unmotivated sloths neednot apply)



"Is Vilma home?" I asked.

“No, she’s not,” said the voice on the telephone. “She’s at the library studying.”

I’d been trying to reach Vilma Rodriguez, a nursing major at Atlantic Union College, for days now. So far each of my phone attempts had been met with the same answer: “Vilma’s at the library studying.”

I was beginning to think that Vilma lived at the library!

“She’s never home,” I groaned to my good friend Phyllis as I watched her run around her house. “I may have to talk to you about nursing instead.”

“No problem,” she shouted, pulling her white nursing scrubs from the dryer. Her voice echoed from the hollows of the machine. “Just not tonight. I have a huge test to study for, plus I have to leave the house by 5:00 a.m. to get to clinicals.”

As she whizzed by, I slumped in my chair. These nursing majors were impossible to catch standing still. They were always getting up in the middle of the night or waking up at the crack of dawn to go to school or the hospital.

“Hey, Phyllis,” I mumbled. “Let me ask you a question. What do you like most about nursing?”

“Every day’s a new day; I love the variety. There’s never the same old same old.” She smiled.

“And what do you hate?”

Dressed in clean scrubs, she slung her backpack over her shoulders and paused at the door. “Having no social life.”With that, she ran out the door.A few nights later I crossed my fingers, sent up a short prayer, and dialed again.An unfamiliar voice answered. “This is Vilma.”I sucked in a deep breath. Yeah! Vilma herself!

My mind raced for a few seconds, trying to compose my thoughts. Fiddling with the computer, I scrolled desperately for my prepared interview questions.

Not only did I have to recover from the shock of actually getting the chance to interview Vilma—I began to have anxiety about probably stealing her only block of free time since last winter.

After quick greetings and salutations, I began throwing out my questions. And here’s what resulted from 45 minutes of very pleasant—and never rushed—conversation.

On Course: Hey, you’re always at the library when I call. I guess you have a lot of studying to do?

Vilma: Extreme amounts! I have to do a lot of research papers.

OC: Wow. What’s your typical schedule like?

Vilma: Classes usually start at 7:00 in the morning. Sometimes, on the days we have tests, classes begin earlier. At 11:30 I go to lunch, then return around 1:30 for more classes. I get finished at 5:30, and I have the rest of the evening to study.

I think the teachers schedule classes this way so we can get used to the early hours for clinicals, which all start around 6:30 or 7:00 a.m.

Last semester we had clinicals all day, so then we’d have classes in the early afternoon. I missed out on a lot of sleep.

OC: Let me ask you this: Is studying the hardest part about being a nursing major?

Vilma: Yes. When I began the program, one of the first things my teacher told our class was that we would have no social life. And it’s true! People are always wondering where the nursing majors are. And well, we’re hibernating in the nursing department!

Nursing students are also expected to uphold school rules more strictly. This is because we’re representing the college each time we’re at the hospital.Besides all that, we have to carry around 50 pounds of textbooks!

OC: And you chose this major? Why?

Vilma: My best friend’s mom is a nurse, and I thought she was the kindest person in the world. I don’t think I knew anyone else who was a nurse, so she kind of inspired me to become one. Also, my best friends all went into nursing before me. When they told me how great it was, I decided to become a nurse too.

OC: Well, I don’t know much about the nursing major. All I know is that you guys have things called clinicals, which is something no one else on campus has. What are they, anyway?

Vilma: All nursing students have to start going to various hospitals as soon as they enter the nursing program and finish training. We start at the most basic level of nursing, then work our way up.

At each hospital I’ve been to, I’ve learned a different aspect of nursing. So clinicals are not only education—they provide a great opportunity to get a job later because we end up meeting so many people in the profession.

OC: So you’re doing real nurse stuff, and yet you’re still a student! Are you afraid?

Vilma: It can be overwhelming if you don’t know your stuff. For example, I got to work in the maternity department during my clinicals. And I participated in an actual delivery!

But I wasn’t really scared, because I was well prepared—I was familiar with the machines, the medications, the stages of delivery, and everything else you need to know to have a baby. The most stressful part is worrying about the baby’s and the mother’s health.

During my first visit I took care of a pregnant 16-year-old girl who didn’t speak English. I didn’t get to see her deliver, but I was with her for the entire time before, holding her hand and translating from English into Spanish and vice versa.

It’s an overwhelming experience to be in the presence of such vulnerability that the mothers are experiencing. They’re in so much pain and fear, and they have to trust in a complete stranger to help them get through it. I found it to be a milestone in my life to be able to share that experience with someone.

OC: What kinds of qualities do you think make a good nursing major?

Vilma: I would say a person who has compassion. If you don’t have compassion, people become hard—I’ve seen it happen. There’s no way you can be an effective nurse if you’re not compassionate.

And you can’t be in it for the money. What I really hate is to hear that people say they’re in nursing for the money.

OC: Well, a career that thrives on compassion is what God wants from all of us, isn’t it?

Vilma: I think of Christ’s purpose here on this earth—He came and healed. I mean, you can talk religion to someone until you’re blue in the face, but if they’re sick and you can provide comfort, then you’ve helped them on that physical level. Once Jesus did that, He was able to work on other levels of healing.

OC: So you’d say your Christian faith works well with your career choice?

Vilma: Definitely. The best part about nursing is being able to witness to other people. When we go to hospitals, people automatically notice something different about us. They ask where we’re from, and we get the chance to tell them that we’re from a small Christian college, which opens up the conversation to many opportunities.

And there are also opportunities to pray with patients. We shouldn’t forget that we can pray. We can ask, “Can I pray for you?”

OC: But don’t you meet a lot of people from different religious backgrounds who make it difficult for you to talk about what you believe?

Vilma: My intention is not to convert people, but to show them that there’s a God who cares for them. As a nurse you have to be open-minded and nonjudgmental.

I meet people of many beliefs, so sometimes I don’t know what to say when religion comes up. But I immediately pray silently, “Lord, whatever comes out of my mouth, let it glorify You and not hurt anyone.”

OC: You really like what you do, don’t you?

Vilma: I think it’s the best profession in the whole wide world!

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