My favorite teacher
Editor’s note: This reflection was presented by Bonnie Meyer, MS, RN, assistant professor, School of Nursing, at the LLUSN alumni vespers program held Friday, March 31.
Christian teachers do make a difference in students’ lives. I had some great teachers at Loma Linda. I’d like to share a few memories about Judy Hart, one of my teachers who represented for me everything that Loma Linda University School of Nursing stands for.
It was my first clinical lab in labor and delivery. I was not at Loma Linda. I was at one of the other hospitals the students rotated to. I was caring for a woman in labor. She spoke no English. Lucky for me I spoke some Spanish. When it was almost time for her to deliver her baby, she started sobbing uncontrollably and saying over and over, “Oh God, forgive me. I love my baby.” Turns out no one had known that she was giving up her baby for adoption. At that time, mothers giving their babies up for adoption were not allowed to see the baby. As she was wheeled into the delivery room she began begging to see her baby. In the delivery room the nurse grabbed a towel and held it over her face while she struggled and yelled that she had to see her baby. As soon as the baby was born it was whisked out of the room before she could see it. She was moved to the recovery room where she continued to cry out begging God for mercy and forgiveness, praying for her baby, and expressing her love for her baby. I stood motionless in the recovery room overcome by my emotions as I witnessed this drama. My teacher took over the care of my patient. I felt appalled by the lack of human compassion. My image of caring nurses had just been dashed to pieces. “Doesn’t anybody care?” I wondered. “What am I doing here? Nursing is not for me.” I glanced at my teacher as she walked out of the room to get something for the patient. When I saw the tears in her eyes, I understood what her words would not have been able to convey. Nurses can and do care deeply.
The next day I cared for this woman again. She still was begging to see her baby. My teacher, through some very skillful negotiations, somehow managed to arrange for an exception to the policy. I knew she hadn’t earned herself any popularity points from the staff by doing this. I remember standing by the sobbing mother while she looked through the nursery window as my teacher tenderly held up the precious baby for her to see. That’s when I understood the meaning of the words “patient advocate.”
The patient returned to her room and went in to shower. While I waited for her to return I stood looking out the window, wondering how anyone could bear the pain this woman was experiencing. Judy walked into the room and stood quietly beside me for a few moments. Then she said softly: “It’s hard to understand how the sun could be shining on a day like this, isn’t it?” From that experience I understood the meaning of empathy.
At my next lab I was distressed to discover that Judy had assigned me to be in labor and delivery again. When I protested, she said I had to go because I had to have a positive experience so I could know that childbirth could be beautiful. She handpicked the patient and the nurse. It was wonderful. That’s how I discovered I wanted to be an OB nurse.
That morning Judy read excerpts from the “The Majesty of Calmness” by William Jordan. It was first published in 1900 in The Saturday Evening Post. What she read meant so much to me that I got a copy for myself. When I became a teacher, I read the same words to my lab students for 20 years. Later, when I experienced a devastating tragedy in my own life, I went again to this book in my search for comfort and hope and reread what she had read to us so many years before. The words there not only provided inspiration for me but exemplified the deep calm I saw in Judy and the depth of character that I so admired in this teacher.
Jordan says, “Calmness is the rarest quality in human life. … It is the peace and restfulness of the depths of our nature. The fury of the storm and of wind agitate only the surface of the sea; they can penetrate only two or three hundred feet. Below that is the calm, unruffled deep.”
“The man who is calm has his course in life clearly marked on his chart. ... His hand is ever on the helm. Storm, fog, night, tempest, danger, hidden reefs—he is prepared and ready for them. He is made calm and serene by the realization that in these crises of his voyage he needs a clear mind and a cool head; that he has naught to do but to do each day the best he can by the light he has. … That, though he may have to tack and leave his course for a time, he will never drift, he will get back into the true channel, he will keep ever headed toward his harbor.
“When he will reach it, how he will reach it, matters not to him. He rests in calmness, knowing he has done his best. If his best seems to be overthrown or overruled, then he must still bow his head—in calmness. To no man is permitted to know the future of his life. … God commits to man only new beginnings, new wisdom, and new days to use to the best of his knowledge.”