Nursing Student Wins International Essay Contest

December 15th, 2011


By , BSN, RN

In the eight months since Notes from the Nurses' Station launched we have covered a lot of ground. Articles have looked at the trend towards more education and achieving the bachelor's of nursing (BSN) as wave of the future; we have investigated the number of men in nursing and plans to draw more into the profession; and, we have talked much about nursing employment, nursing shortages and the difficulty of getting a nursing job after nursing school despite the shortage. I have brought you contests, suggestions for extra work and ideas for marketing all in an effort to help finance your nursing education and future.

Now, I am going to loosely tie them all together—education in nursing, men in nursing, job prospects and contests.

Last month, a 20-year-old nursing student named Dan Erwin Cruz Bagaporo won an international essay contest. A student at the University of Santo Tomas, in the Philippines, Bagaporo shared his thoughts on his future in nursing, his struggles and his dreams for his future profession. Bagaporo's essay won the youth category of the Goi Peace Foundation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Essay Contest. The contest, with the theme "My Story of Inspiration," attracted almost 7,000 entries from 140 countries in the children and youth categories.

Pride in Profession

by Dan Erwin C. Bagaporo

Being a nursing student in the Philippines is very hard. You have to deal with the thought that after graduation, you will be among thousands of others who will be competing for limited employment slots. Many nursing graduates end up un- or underemployed. Sadly, this has led to stigmatization. Every time people ask me what my course is and I answer Nursing, they would shake their heads.

Many are already starting to poke fun at my profession. One time, I heard my friends joke around saying, "You train for 4 years and what? Wash bed pans afterward?" I have to admit that this stigma got to me. I saw myself as someone insignificant. I came to school uninspired and did not bother exerting much effort in school work. "After all, you’re just a nursing student," they told me.

It was not until the summer of my third year that I found inspiration in the most unusual place. Last April, some of my friends invited me over to help them with their thesis. My friends’ study was about geriatric loneliness. They asked me to help them with distributing questionnaires to people living in a retirement home. We traveled a long way to this secluded compound surrounded with tall fences. It was very peaceful and quiet, but not well-maintained. The corridors had a pungent smell and the comfort rooms were in a deplorable condition. The facilitators were doing their best to maintain the facility, but were clearly understaffed and lacked funding.

During the interviews, I got to know stories of people inside. Most of them were either rescued from the streets or were abandoned by their families. I remember one particular interview with an old woman. She told me that a few years ago, she was homeless and was "taken" from the streets by authorities, separating her from her family, who were not with her at the time. She was then brought to the retirement home. Because of this, she never saw her family again. She then went on, describing her state and experiences. It turned out that she had been suffering from hypertension and arthritis for some time now, but can hardly manage it because there is no consistent medical supervision or advice. She even asked me if there was a way I could reunite her with her family.

To be honest, I did not know how to react. I wanted to help reunite her with her family, but it was just not possible, given the limited resources. So I just remained silent and listened to her. After a while, I gave her health teachings regarding home management of hypertension and pain, like eating raw garlic and putting warm compress on affected areas. That was all I could do, I guess, being just a nursing student. We then continued our conversation. I sensed that her mood was growing lighter, because we were already exchanging a few laughs. Before the interview ended, she asked me again for my name and course. "Dan, and I'm taking up Nursing", I said. That was the time she said the words that I still keep in my heart up to this day: "Thank you, Dan. I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray that you finish your course." After this, I tried to listen and give as many health teachings as I could to the other people I interviewed. It was during this day that I realized the importance of who I am and what I was doing. I was not just simply doing interviews; I was actually caring.

Nurses are trained to care and I realized that listening and health teachings are an expression of caring. I began to see my profession in a new light. I realized that the most important question to be answered is not "how will you fare after you graduate?" Rather, it is "how many people can you help at the end of the day?" This experience has taught me that you do not need impressive degrees or huge sums of money to make a difference in a person’s life. All you need is a listening ear, empathy and basic practical knowledge.

After that summer, I began to exert more effort in school work and in joining organizations. I became active in our Red Cross unit and started joining medical missions. I even plan to specialize in Research and Geriatrics upon graduation. One day I also plan to go back to that retirement home, make another study or at least, do something to make the lives of the people there better. I want to pay them back, because their stories gave me the strength and determination to write my own. No, I am not just a nursing student. I am a nursing student. And no one will ever take the pride in that statement away from me again.

To the rest of the nursing students and nurses out there I offer you a contest. It may not have the cache' of UNESCO but it does have a thousand dollars at stake to put towards your education. And, to quote Anna Morrison, my interview from earlier this week, "Who doesn't love a contest?" is sponsoring an essay contest that ends next week. In 25-500 original words tell them why you want to enter the field of nursing. The deadline is December 20, 2011. It's just a slightly different version of Why Are You In Nursing School?.

Good Luck!

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