Monday, June 11, 2012


Anyone who knows me knows that I have a 19 year old who lives away at college where he studies pre-med.  Very early on in his pursuit to become an M.D., he realized that this was in no way going to be easy.  He and I talk on the phone regularly and I get to hear all about his day-to-day journey into the world of medicine.  As with any journey of accomplishment, some days are better than others.  So when he is in the midst of having one of those not so great days what do I do as his mother and greatest cheerleader?  I encourage him.  I know that he will be a great physician.  I know what it takes to achieve this and I know he has it in him.  There are just times when we all need to hear that we can do it.  Knowing that someone else believes in you often strengthens your belief in yourself.
Before I write on to illustrate my “case in point”, let me state the dictionary definition of encourage:  To give support to; To inspire with hope, courage, and confidence. 
I try to do all of the above when talking to my son, or anyone else who tells me about their hopes, dreams, and ambitions.  I absolutely love to encourage people.  After all, sometimes that is all a person needs to make something happen – the belief that they can do it.  I would hate to be on the other side of that coin, the person who does the opposite:  a discourager.  Let’s take a look at the definition of discourage: To hamper; To deprive of confidence, hope, or spirit.  Yuck!  That absolutely goes against every fiber of my being.

Remember now, I’m speaking specifically about how we react to another person’s dreams, ambitions, or calling in life.  Why would anyone want to let the air out of another person’s balloon?  Well we all know people like this don’t we? 
Personally I feel so good inside when I know I’ve encouraged someone in life.  In any way, shape, or form that I am able to do so I do it.  I mean it’s not as if there’s only a certain amount of success out there and it’ll be all used up if a lot of people achieve their goals.  There’s plenty for everyone, and then some!  Let’s all keep patting each other on the back with a smile and a confident word of hope.  Start by saying, “you can do this, I know you can”.  We will all get so much farther in life if we do.

Which brings me back to my case in point.  My son called me one day to tell me about a fellow pre-med student who was in tears over something that her Philosophy professor had said to her.  Long story short, he had cut her down in front of the class and basically had told her that perhaps not everyone in the pre-med program was cut out to be a doctor (meaning specifically her).  In other words give up girl – you’re never going to make it.  I was heartbroken to hear this.  It was first semester first year.  How does he know she doesn’t have what it takes? Why would anyone want to plant seeds of discouragement in someone else’s life?  I took it upon myself to reach out to this girl.  After all, someone had to undo the damage this man had done. 

I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years.  I’ve worked in ICU, PCU, post op open heart, case management, account management, and most recently catastrophic trauma case management.  Currently I’ve been with the same company for 14 years.  Along the way I’ve headed up committees, written articles for hospital medical journals, given public speeches, delivered educational seminars, received multiple awards, plaques, and various honors, but most importantly, I’ve helped thousands of people throughout my years as a nurse when they needed it most.  I’ve helped people recover, rehabilitate, and become whole again following illness or surgery.  I’ve sat beside countless bedsides as people left this world and I held their hand every step of the way because they had no one there with them.  I’ve stayed over after my shift had ended to lend support to family members as they made decisions about their loved ones that no one should have to make.  I’ve stood by doctors as they delivered the “I’m sorry” news to patients, and lent my support afterward.  And I’ve cried alongside a whole host of husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, and loved ones on their darkest days; my heart breaking in sympathy for the sorrow they were feeling.  So many lives I have touched, so many people I have helped when they needed it the most, and so many still to tome that I will be there for.  I am proud to say that the world of nursing and medicine has been a better place with me in it. 

So after hearing about my son’s fellow classmate, I reached out to this girl whose confidence had been injured.  She was very sweet, very impressionable, very naïve, but also extremely intelligent with high ambitions to become an oncologist (God bless her because it is such a special calling for folks that work in this field).  I told this girl of all of my years of work, achievements, honors, and awards from being a nurse.  Then I told her that when I was 17 years old, naïve, scared, and impressionable, and in my first semester of nursing school, one of my instructors said the exact same thing to me.  This girl couldn’t believe it!  Yes, it was true - one of the nursing instructors actually said to me that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a nurse.  Guess what?  She was wrong. 

When I told my son’s classmate this, I noticed that her confidence shifted and so did her posture.  She stood upright and smiled as she agreed with me.  “Yes,” she said, “That nursing instructor was very wrong.”  I looked her straight in the eye and added, “and so is your philosophy instructor”.  She was beaming!  (Take that philosophy prof!).

So ignore the nay-sayers, focus on your goals, and above all please look for ways to encourage those who need it.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to change a person’s life for the better. 

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