Allison Widhson, MBA, BSN, RN, clinical nurse, Tower 4B and Caritas Coach
As a hematology/oncology nurse, I reflect on the delicate balance of life and death that our patients are faced with every day. When I reflect on this year alone, our floor suffered tremendous loss, and I see the faces of those patients, many of whom we took care of for years. They are now part of the legacy of our floor – their stories touched and changed our hearts and are an eternal piece of our own legacy as nurses. But along with this sadness, I also witnessed many miraculous moments on our unit that continually energize and renew my spirit to be in service to others.
A stem cell transplant is a truly marvelous and miraculous process. We obliterate a patient’s immune system with chemotherapy and/or radiation and then infuse stem cells (from the patient or a donor) to grow a completely new immune system. On the day of the stem cell transplant, it is an honor to wish your patient “Happy Birthday” as it marks the day of a re-birth and a renewed hope for their future. Modern science has set the stage for big miracles to take place, and for some, a miracle is defined as overcoming something that seems impossible.
But what I’ve mostly experienced are the collected moments of patients, families and co-workers who share stories of miracles: a patient’s first sips of water or bite of food after battling mucositis for weeks, patients and families expressing a new or deeper meaning to their lives despite a poor prognosis, or an intuitive thought by a nurse that helped guide a difficult conversation or situation. There are many, many examples of miraculous moments – call them “big” or “small,” these shared miracles offer profound validation, healing and hope for all of us. Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, writes,
“All I can say is that our rational minds and modern science do not have all the answers to life and death and all the human conditions we face; thus, we have to be open to unknowns we cannot control, even allowing for what we may consider ‘a miracle’ to enter our life and work.”
Prior to my work with Caritas, I did have a personal practice that incorporated self-care and spirituality to ensure my continued energy and presence with patients. But my work with Caritas and Caring Science offered a shift in perspective that helped deepen my connection with self and others. When I “allow for miracles,” I incorporate an intentional practice that includes willingness, openness and a loving presence with patients and others so that I can witness or be a part of a miracle. I may need to check-in with myself multiple times during a stressful, busy day but it is the continued practice of re-setting and tuning into my purpose that has strengthened my ability to be present with patients and others.
I am particularly grateful and inspired by my team. As nurses, we “see” our patients with our eyes and hearts and are there to guide, validate and witness their human experience, but we are also here for one another. I encourage you to share your stories with each other so that we may create an environment that “allows for miracles.” By doing so, we remain open to the mysteries of life and allow the unknown to unfold.