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Grappling with a disadvantaged past was one thing. But remaining composed while going toe-to-toe with the specter of an untimely death illuminated resolve rare among human beings. Janet showed us the real face of courage. And, for that, she will remain immortal.by interleukin Feb 27, '08
Janet didn't belong in nursing school ... or so we thought.
Fresh into the first semester, she began arriving late or missed class altogether. If it wasn’t a doctor’s appointment, it was a car problem or some child-care issue. This single mother always had a quick excuse. Soon, anyone late or absent from class was accused of, "doing a Janet."
Janet’s speech was peppered with street slang and capped with bursts of nervous laughter. Many viewed her as an immigrant in her own country, shackled by what we assumed was a broken or disadvantaged past. Some felt she was simply miscast in an academic role and not serious about the nursing program.
But, a few of us rallied around her hoping to offer the warm glove of acceptance and help her develop a stronger academic focus.
She agreed to join a study group we had formed. But even in this informal setting she was ill at ease, contributed little, and often appeared lost within herself. This perceived complacency created resentment in our group.
By mid-semester, Janet was less frequently late and was seen eliciting after-hours help from a teacher. But, as we moved into clinical rotations, her poor habits reemerged. She arrived for pre-clinical conferences ill-prepared looking hung-over. Queries into her personal life were invariably met with variations on the, "I'm fine, how are you?" theme. When cautioned about her tenuous academic status and the need to prioritize her affairs, Janet silently fidgeted, the words seeming to pass right through her.
But, when Janet was with patients, she was a natural. Speaking tenderly and without hesitation, she’d hold her patient’s hand and stroked his brow. Her dark eyes conveyed some deep secret of serenity.
Janet continued through the following year in a similar fashion of uneven attendance and waxing and waning interest. We were relieved when she dropped out of our study group. The well of our patience had long been drained and we'd all grown too busy with our own lives.
Few were surprised when she had to reschedule her final exam. She even missed our pinning ceremony.
"I'm sure she's got a great excuse!" someone remarked.
But one student had befriended Janet early on and encouraged her despite the gradual alienation of the rest of us. And only now--long after the thin veil of our compassion had fallen away--did we learn the truth.
Janet was not lazy. Nor was she apathetic. She missed the pinning ceremony because she had pneumonia--pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. And she'd been so often tardy and self-absorbed because she'd been suffering the physical and psychological assault of AIDS. Now, one month after graduation, Janet was dead.
Her friend explained that Janet had long lived in the shadow of obscurity. But she was determined to accomplish some mainstream success before it was too late.
"I don't want to die a nobody," she had confided in her friend. "I want to be a nurse."
Grappling with a disadvantaged past was one thing. But remaining composed while going toe-to-toe with the specter of an untimely death illuminated resolve rare among human beings. Janet showed us the real face of courage. And, for that, she will remain immortal.Last edit by Joe V on Apr 29, '12
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interleukin. (Feb 27, '08). Tips For Human Beings Entering Nursing. Retrieved Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013, from http://allnurses.com/showthread.php?t=284910
- Feb 27, '08 by angelchickOh my... what an incredible story of how NOT to JUDGE!! something we have all been guilty of at some stage in our nursing careers. Thank you for the reminder... this woman truely left a give by you telling her story.
- Feb 27, '08 by SuninmyheartI am moved to tears. Thank you for such a beautiful and often needed reminder to stay open-minded and compassionate out in this big world of ours. Namaste - Lisa
- Feb 28, '08 by mother/babyRNAs a person, a writer AND a nurse, I have always felt if we are moved to tears by someone or something, there is an element we either identify with or have experienced within ourselves. My heart hurts and the tears are flowing, for you, for Janet, for myself and any of the people or experiences I have ever misjudged or prejudged. Thank you for such a poignant and beautifully written testimony not only to Janet, but to at least one of her classmates and fellow nurses (you), who cared enough to tell her story....
- Mar 2, '08 by Aubie85Wow. This definately makes a good point that you shouldn't judge people.
- Mar 6, '08 by GSSPNSad but beautiful story. Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
- Mar 19, '08 by mischa0816
- Mar 29, '08 by interleukinDear mother/babyRN,
Thank you for your kind and poignant words or wisdom.
- Apr 1, '08 by hopetobe"Janet" should, without a doubt, be an inspiration to us all.
- Apr 3, '08 by rgrgraywow, goosebumps! Im speechless.