In early April of 2008, I was nominated and elected Class Speaker for the Temple University Nursing Class of 2008. After elections, I stood in the elevator leaning on my crutches (I had recently had knee surgery for a skiing accident). Waiting there amidst the chaos of class dismissal, my buddy Ian ran up to the elevator doors as they closed, thumbs up yelling, "Hey Jamie! Break a leg!" Hardy har har. Nurses are funny. Here is the speech I wrote for my beloved peers.


Good evening. 

This evening, it is an honor to sit amongst a group of people who are not only nurses, but also a group of men and women who epitomize the values of nursing: Perseverance, generosity, humor, dedication...and here is the big one, compassion. And the list of qualities we share could go on and on. But I think, the energy of this class and the charisma is almost tangible as this evening we celebrate our completion of nursing school and the grand accumulation of a knowledge we never imagined just two years ago.

Since we have reached the end of one road, it is only fitting we reflect on our small beginnings. Two years ago we arrived at orientation where Dr. Schaeffer shared with us unforgettable words, "Nursing is one of the most satisfying professions and I always say I never regret the day I became a nurse. But it's tough. And when you get to nursing school, you're going to hit the ground running hard and don't stop!" What did that mean? I remember feeling privileged and terrified all at once! In the early parts I just remember feeling as though I was falling down an endless set of steps. What was this running business she was talking about?

And then as a class, young and unknowing, we embarked on a series of firsts that would help us to understand Dr. Schaeffer's words. 

First Semester of nursing school.

First simulation lab. Is that a prop or is that really a clamp on the foley? Maybe we should just pull it out. Is that wheezing or is that Sim-Man's rubber chest scratching against his robotic lung around his mechanical heart?

The first patho exam. You can never be too specific at the "cellular level." When in doubt choose the longest most detailed answer.

First time taking a manual blood pressure and you can't get it - so a senior says to you, "Try putting the cuff around the neck, you get a really great pulse from the carotids." And you actually have to think about it before you realize it's not a good idea.

First clinical rotation: bed baths and beyond.

First patient.

First assessment.

First injection, not to mention the 20th injection when you think you have it down, give a flu shot to a friend, and somehow manage to hit her artery. Apply pressure.

First lovenox injection and you realize you have arthritic thumbs in a matter of months.

First trach patient.

First IV fluids or IV med set-up.

The first time you administer a suppository but don't know where it goes.

The first time you administer a suppository and do know where it goes - but you've never changed a diaper in your life so you have to recruit your best friends to clean up the aftermath.

First stage four wound dressing change, tunneling and all.

First whiff of C-diff.

The first time you run in to assist a natural birth.

First C-Section.

First time cutting an umbilical cord.

First time teaching a new mother how to hold her child as the first rays of morning sunshine stream into the room.

First time asserting yourself to inturrupt a doctor during rounds to inquire about or suggest something for your patient.

First realization that all patients are mortal and so are we; and while quite skilled to save lives our humanity limits and humbles us.

The first time you get organized and make a checklist for the day but nothing goes as planned and you wonder, "How did my day go wrong? I had it all planned out!"

First time being a team leader.

First time working night shift and afterwards you cry because you realize you have Circadium rhythms of STEEL.

The first time a patient says, "Thank You," and realizing you truly are a nurse, you smile and say, "You're welcome." 

These were our first steps. And my have we come a long way. Our first steps felt scary, a little unsteady, and now all of those firsts are merely second nature to our professional nursing practice.

I suggest, that was we embark on a new set of firsts, independently and in our respective directions, that we remember that first time we embraced our vulnerability. We took on a challenging two years that took a great deal of determination, persistence, initiative, creativity, and sometimes, sweat and tears. Embrace the vulnerability. There will always be that unknowing. No matter how well we plan our shift or how well we do our jobs, the unknown will always exist - and that is the perfect time in our lives to learn more than we ever imagined. As a nurse, you are never truly caught up. But that's okay. Because we're Temple Nurses. We know what you've gotta hit the ground running hard and don't stop!

Enjoy tonight and celebrate the accumulation of knowledge that has prepared us to face the unknown with brave faces and tough hearts. Congratulations Nursing Class of 2008!