Honoured guests, faculty, family, friends, fellow nurses.
My name is Rachel Pede and I feel so privileged to be speaking today on behalf of the McMaster Nursing graduates of 2007.
I believe you will agree that in front of me today sit some of the most talented, creative, intelligent and beautiful men and women ever to enter the nursing profession.
Last night, as I sat reading over what I had prepared for today, I couldn’t help but wonder how I could use words to convey the degree of inspiration, encouragement and love that many of you have given to me over the course of our four years at McMaster. And even after four years of reflecting, I struggle to find the words and emotions to communicate this message…
However, be assured that what I have to share with you today is from the bottom of my heart. You graduates have made an impression that will never be forgotten and withstand the test of time.
In order to begin, I’d like to share with you a few words we’ve heard or spoken many a time since the beginning nursing school at McMaster University. The acronym I am about to use to outline my speech may shock and appall you, but be assured; I’ve changed the words that the letters represent and hopefully the meaning as a result. The acronym is: P-B-L., Yes, PBL.
For some of you, just the sound of those letters makes your ears bleed, yet for others it was the setting of our most valuable educational experience. For those of you non-nurses, many of you have heard us complain about these letters the last four years, tirelessly.
Today, I hope to inspire you with a different approach to these letters.
I remember in first year writing a silly poem ‘Ode to PBL’, since I was already pulling an all-nighter to finish the Learning Binder final assignment. It seemed fitting to conclude our first year of nursing school in this fashion by sending positive PBL vibes into the nursing universe.
So it seems perfect that I should conclude four years relating back to this experience. Plus, what kind of a good McMaster nurse would I be if I didn’t incorporate its use?
So what do these letters stand for today you ask?
P represents the basic desire to enter into the field of nursing. The element that all of us possess but that is at times difficult to express. The realization that we were created to be nurses.
That today isn’t just another step in a random scheme of events, it is the result of dedicated students, striving to be skillful nurses.
Florence Nightingale believed that for her, nursing was a divine calling, a life mission, a vocation, and not simply a career. For some of us, this feeling may be true, for others it is work in progress, while still others may not share in this ideal.
But whether this feeling is prevalent among the graduates today, the undeniable fact remains that we want to make a difference in this world.
Recently I attended a lecture by Stephen Lewis. It was in celebration of the School of Nursing 60th anniversary. While he was speaking I have never felt more excited to be a nurse. His words exuded confidence in the nursing profession. I felt a spark, like never before, a spark of hope, reviving my passion for nursing. I will never forget two phrases that Stephen remarked during the lecture. The first being that “nurses are the anchor for social justice and equality in society.”
I have an elderly friend that would say, “if that doesn’t light your fire, then you’re wood is wet.”
Stephen was able to inspire a room full of nurses with this simple phrase, but in the absence of passion, these words would have been uttered in futility. These words not only inspire, but they demonstrate the responsibility of the profession to the public. It conveys a sense of accountability to humanity that is mind boggling. A duty to advocate on the behalf of those unable to do so themselves. A voice for voiceless of sorts. Nurses have the potential to fill that gap in society and must continue to mobilize its forces to progress toward change.
While this might seem a bit overwhelming, Stephen continued. His second comment was that “he would lay down his life for the nursing profession.” Not only did he believe nurses possessed the skills neessary to make a difference, but in this short phrase he added a sense of worth. Meaning. Value.
A statement so powerful that his life itself was worth the sacrifice for the nursing profession causes many to reflect to the core.
Passion is beautiful.
It is inspiring.
It is what the world needs more of.
Let passion radiate through you as you leave this place, a graduate of the nursing program and embark on your nursing career. Shine brightly where you are to expel darkness. Serve as a beacon of hope. An agent of change. Let this pin today serve as a reminder of our dedication, commitment and desire to the nursing profession.
We move onto B.
B represents the element of belief
Belief in oneself and belief in others.
Perhaps changing the world involves changing ourselves. Starting with our values, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. If we are to really become the change we want to see, the process begins here and now and has in fact already begun.
I have never spent more time examining my own values and beliefs than these last four years in the nursing program. I have never felt more frustrated or confused, misguided and lost, yet at the same time reveled in the experience of the journey.
Despite everything, I think I would much rather stand confused at the crossroads, than waiting at the starting block for the gun to go off.
It is this discovery phase that exudes potential.
And potential sits before me today.
While, nurses may have varying personal beliefs, but there is common ground.
Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist, once stated that a group of committed individuals has the power to change the world, and is in fact the only thing that has ever done so. This belief is crucial to humanity.
And Mac nurses are not just dynamite, they are an explosion of energy, catalysts for change.
I believe in that wholeheartedly.
But allow me to come back to this letter a little later on…and move on to the last letter, L.
You’re going to hate me for pulling out another nursing cliché for this last letter, but before you protest, let me explain.
L stands for Life long learning…
But not just continued competence, workshops, evidenced-based literature and conferences. Deep questioning that shapes who we are as people and professionals.
On my last first day of PBL, my professor inspired us with a quote. It was about physicians, but my professor eloquently added nurses into the mix. The quote from a physician editor of the British Medical Journal expressed the desire to be cared for by doctors and nurses who everyday question their actions, and worry about their weaknesses. He seemed to state that there is value in admitting the possibility for greater understanding, for growth.
We have all had this special professor, the one who seems to make learning effortless. To those of you who have encouraged us throughout these past four years, thank you. From all of us. To those professors who provided that extra ray of sunshine, and who we will want to stay in contact with forever, you know who you are. You made the difference in the lives sitting before you today.
Graduates. Continue to challenge yourself to greater heights. Question. Adventure. Seek. Grow. Learn. However, the journey does not finish here with this degree, or this pin, graduation is simply beginning
And I’ll make sure to creep on your facebook to find out what you’re up to…
So there you have it: Passion, Beliefs and Life Long Learning: A new kind of PBL.
But before I begin to conclude, I’d like to go back to the letter B.
With these last four years, our careers as nursing students, I can’t believe the obstacles many of us have overcome: stress, failure, all nighters, grief, procrastination. I’m sure many of you can relate to these experiences and probably can add to the list… And yet without this seemingly regrettable suffering, our successes would not seem as sweet.
I’m slightly embarrassed to tell all of you this story of defeat, but I can’t make my point without it. So, my pride suffers for the greater good…
I remember one fateful day, only one month into nursing school. Thanksgiving hadn’t even rolled around yet. It was late Saturday night and there was a party going on in my residence. A full out bash.
But I wasn’t at the party, I was at my desk. Studying. Why? Not totally because I tend to err on the geeky side…but because the nursing program had four midterms coming up. In three days.
Four midterms, three days.
I remember sitting at my desk, trying to study anatomy, psychology, biochemistry and gerontology.
All at once.
I can see now the flaw in my attempt, but at the moment studying by osmosis seemed like a brilliant solution. I’m sure we’ve all made that mistake at one point.
Anyway, it’s obvious that a full fledged panic ensued.
At around 9pm, I decided that I’d had enough, the sense of homesickness was ensuing and a fear of failure looming overhead.
I decided to place a phone call.
Luckily my mom answered. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but I do know that at that point, after self-pity and an episode of tears… I no longer believed in myself. That I couldn’t cut it, that I could be a nurse.
Two hours later, I got a phone call. It was my parents. They were sitting in the parking lot.
I couldn’t believe they drove all that way. The one thing I will always remember is what they brought to cheer me up. A pineapple.
They believed in me, in my moment of weakness.
They inspired me with the ability to believe in myself.
That pineapple sat there over the course of the next few days and was toasted the completion of the week.
Forever the pineapple will serve as a reminder that I succeeded. That I was good enough. That I could believe.
Today I would like to give you the gift that my parents gave to me.
While I may not be able to give each and every one of you an actual pineapple fruit. I have something that might last a bit longer.
A picture pineapple, to remind each and everyone of you to believe.
To believe in yourself, to believe in others, to believe in the world around us.
In the form of a bookmark, I hope this pineapple serves as a lasting reminder that I believe in each and every one of you.
That when you walk onto the ward as a real nurse for the first time, when you’re faced with an emergency situation, when your moment of disbelief surfaces…that you will remember this moment, this pineapple, a belief, in yourself.
Because we have grown, we have learned, we have laughed, we have loved, and we cherish these memories, because they are now a part of who we are. Today we sit here, different people than when we sat in Health Sci 1A1 our first day of orientation. We are nurses.
In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my personal heroes, Mother Teresa, that I believe beautifully encompasses the nursing profession. “In this life we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love.” Let each day of our future career be full of great love.