A portion of Natalie's winning essay:
Being a new mom and entering a full-time graduate school program, I will be unable to work. My husband will be the sole-provider for our family financially. At the present time he is only making $11.00 an hour. I know that I am called to be a nurse, and I have a strong faith in God that He will help us pay for school. With your help, we can make progress toward that goal--not to be served, but to serve. The greatest show of love for others is through serving them. Love is an action, not merely a feeling. Physical acts of kindness by way of a smile, a hug or a laugh as well as through deeds such as giving a cup of water, a bite to eat or clean clothes are examples of love. Helping others meet their most basic needs from their soul to their physical body are all forms of service. When I ponder what warms me inside, what fills my heart with love, what challenges me to allow goodness to flow from within me to others, it is when someone has served me. When I have been loved affectionately by someone else, the wellspring of life and love from deep within me pours out to those around me. There is great power in this kind of service. The seeds of trust and regard are planted by acts of love and service. Over time these seeds grow and impact our life in many areas. This type of change is for the good. It is a change that affects a person's well-being as well as the lives in his/her circle of influence. This is my calling: to serve others by loving them so that their outlook on life is more positive, their hope is higher, their love for and trust in others grows and their life is changed for the better.
Over the past two and a half years, I have seen the impact of love and service toward others at the Children's Hospital at the University of Virginia Medical Center. I served as a Patient Care Assistant on 7 Central and 7 West. At the hospital, I cared for patients as young
as a few days to occasionally 20 year olds. My role in this team of caregivers was to serve and care for the children I was assigned to as well as other children when I was able. While caring for the children, it was imperative that I showed respect to and assisted the families as best I could. My specific duties for each patient in my care were as follows, but not limited to: measuring vital signs, recording input and output, assisting in activities of daily living, such as: baths, which included oral and hair care; diaper, clothing and linen changes if appropriate and as needed, assisting patients in ambulation, transfers in and out of bed, spending time talking, playing and/or holding patients depending on their age and always lots of love.
It was at the hospital that my calling was made clearer. In my past, I have always enjoyed working with and being around children. I knew my gift was relating to, caring for and being with children. I was unsure; however, in what facet this gift would best be invested. Looking back at my past experiences with children, I can now see my life was being steered toward work that focuses on children who are suffering and in the midst of healing. Even while attending college in Florida and working part time, clues to my future were being shown to me. I worked at Pediatric Health Choice. This company provided medical supplies and medications to children with special needs. I worked in the office and the pharmacy and was exposed to the different
supplies and medications I would eventually see and use and hear used all around me on the hospital floor. It was here that I remember the first glimpse of my calling.
One day I went with a nurse that worked with our company to a daycare center for special needs children that was fully staffed by nurses. This would be my first real exposure to children with special needs. Seeing a two-year old running around playing while a twenty foot long oxygen tube was attached to him was culture shock to me. At the same time he also deeply touched my heart. The next pivotal experience happened in Charlotte, NC. I was completing my degree at the University of North Carolina and wanted to volunteer at the children's hospital in Charlotte. I was only able to volunteer twice due to extenuating circumstances, however, the two visits I had greatly impacted me. I have never forgotten the children I met there. One little girl, about three years old, came into the playroom with her grandmother. The little girl's face appeared very sad as she looked around the room. At one point, I picked up a toy near where she was playing and handed it to her. For some reason this was so special to her, and her face lit up in a big smile. Her grandmother was so excited. She told me that in the four days since her surgery this was her first smile. Meetings like these do not happen by coincidence. I was meant to be there. She was meant to touch my life as much as I touched
Following this experience, I worked as a nanny and babysat for several different families. One family, with a ten year old boy and twelve year old girl, was in the process of a divorce. Another family lost their mother just two months prior to my meeting them. An eight year old boy and twelve year old girl were trying to cope with such a tremendous loss. The third family included a two year old girl, an eight year old boy and ten year old girl. A few months before I began caring for them their father had committed suicide. Even though in these families the children were not ill due to disease, they were still suffering greatly. These experiences readied me in ways I had not imagined for life with ill and injured children.
No work or service I have ever done in my life has been more intrinsically rewarding, more satisfying to my soul and more life changing than working with these special children and their families. In a family's greatest time of suffering, it is an honor to be there to help them in any way; getting them some water, or supplies or just a listening ear. To serve them and be a part of this most delicate time in their lives is a gift and a blessing to my life. Not only have I been able to be a blessing of love to them, they have done the same for me, and in so doing, have forever changed me. The children I have served and loved are a part of me, of my soul, of my history that can never be changed or taken away and is deeply cherished.
*John-a nine-year old boy with leukemia loved Fruity Pebbles. During a time when it was so hard to get him to eat anything, I brought some in to him hoping he would eat. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, "Can I give you a hug?"
*Lydia-a two year old with leukemia came onto the floor riding on her mother's lap in the wheelchair because she couldn't walk at this time. From down the hall she saw me, and called down the floor in her two year old voice, "Natalie!" just grinning from ear to ear.
*Maria-a six year old with cancer told me that she and her mother prayed for me during their bedtime prayers.
*Lakesha-a sixteen year old-- post spinal fusion-- After helping her walk to the
toilet she asked me to wait in the bathroom with her. While we were waiting she said she wanted to sing me a song, so she proceeded with the most angelic voice to sing to her Father.*Elizabeth-an eight year old girl with cancer was recovering from major lung surgery where the doctors removed as much cancer as possible. This was a complicated and painful surgery, and for days afterwards Elizabeth was very angry and irritated. She fought us every step of the way when we had to move her or transfer her to the chair to sit up for a while. A few weeks later she came onto the floor, ran up to me and said, "I love you!". A few months later she was in Heaven.
*Eric-a fifteen years old with cancer was sleeping when I walked in. His mom was reading by the window. We began to talk, and she asked for my hands. She began to pray for me, for my hands that touch these special children, my hands that touch families that are hurting, hands that carry water into their rooms, hands that serve and love their children...
My hope in becoming a nurse is to continue to serve and impact the lives I touch for good. I hope to work again on the Pediatric floor of UVa's Children's Hospital when my Clinical Nurse Leadership program of education is complete. Having participated in several seminars and workshops to further my knowledge of the healthcare field, I am thankful that education continues after the completion of a degree. I also have a deep passion for volunteering in
underprivileged areas in the United States and in other countries; to help the poor, widows and orphans of the world by donating my skills, knowledge, resources and time to them.
The University of Virginia's School of Nursing's Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) program seems like the best fit for me and the direction my path is taking me. I am confident that through the CNL program and the skills I acquire that I will be able to step into the nursing role and succeed. From my experience so far in the health field, I have seen the importance of leaders. In order to maintain a stable and orderly work place leadership is essential. Confidence in one's role, responsibilities and quality of work is reflected in the care of the patients and the atmosphere of the workplace. The CNL program seems to be all encompassing and diverse in the types of classes it requires to equip me with the skills I will need to perform at an excellent level as a floor nurse. Being a master's level program, I also feel this program will equip me with a solid foundation to begin a nursing career.
As far as my educational goals are concerned, this program would help me attain the knowledge and training required to be an influential member of my future patient's healthcare team. Due to little experience with team management, I am excited about the educational and on the floor training the leadership component of this program will instill in me. As a leader, there are several characteristics I deem valuable. One's attitude is a huge component in maintaining respectful relationships with his/her co-workers. Being positive, helpful, humble and service minded make up the type of leader I am striving to be. My heart and spirit are aligned in this way, and I am confident that my time at the UVa School of Nursing will help me acquire the practical skills I need. With the CNL program being a second-degree program, this suits my needs very well. Having a bachelor's degree in Psychology, I am very thankful to be able to apply this part of my life toward a greater goal. The length of the program also appeals to me being that it will enable me to get out in to the work field relatively soon.
The events, jobs and experiences I have had in my past have all prepared me for this transition into registered nursing. Every step had to happen, every step was a key to the next door and every step was needed to get me to this very place in my life now. God's timing is
perfect. I am excited and look forward to embarking on this journey at the School of Nursing at The University of Virginia.