Remarks: Student speaker, Alexandra Lagoutis '14

Members of the monastic community, Saint Anselm College faculty, staff, and students, family, friends, guests, and the Nursing Class of 2014, have you ever shared a Popsicle with someone? A seemingly trivial thing, often meant to soothe an aching throat, or serve as a summer refreshment, has come to mean so much more for me.

Alexandra Lagoutis '14

I started analyzing the sharing of a Popsicle just after watching the movie Wit in our Intro to Professional Nursing Class freshman year. This movie chronicles the story of Vivian, a middle aged English Professor diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer and undergoing an intensely aggressive treatment regimen.  There is a scene in the movie where Vivian shares a Popsicle with her nurse as they discuss her wishes about life saving measures, and whether or not she wants a do not resuscitate order. It was more than a Popsicle shared between these two, but a moment where the nurse was able to give her patient time, attention, and advocacy.

I am sure I can speak for many nurses when I say that we have all had our share of Popsicles, to one degree or another. Recently, though, I literally shared a Popsicle with one of my patients, and will never forget the moment that came with it. This patient had a multitude of ailments, aging her quite a bit. When I came on and met her, she was sleepy and very soft spoken. I expected to do my assessment, give her some medications, and check in on her now and then, but figured she was ready to rest and would spend most of her night asleep. Around 1:30 in the morning she rang her call bell and told me she had some bad dreams. She was quiet and slow to speak, explaining that she couldn’t sleep and her mouth was dry. I gave her some water and a spoonful of ice, but nothing seemed to soothe the chronic discomfort. I asked if she would like a Popsicle, not even thinking of Wit or the scene with Vivian, just desperate to bring this woman some comfort. She loved the idea, and sent me out to the freezer. I held it while she ate, her body generally weak from illness and fatigue. “It’s just so good,” she said repeatedly. Minutes later, she looked up and asked if I knew Psalm 23. “The Lord is my Sheppard, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” She recited quite a bit of the passage, before looking at me, tears in her eyes, stating that she could not remember the rest. “Pastor Joe would remind me, my husband would remind me, my children know it, too.” I explained how I unfortunately did not have that psalm memorized, but I could absolutely look it up and bring it to her. She answered with the question “Do you know the Lord’s prayer?” With one hand in hers, the other dripping with pineapple Popsicle, we said the Our Father together, in the dark of her room, at two in the morning.

This was the most humbling experience I have ever had as a student, a nurse, a person. In sharing a Popsicle, this woman and I shared a story, a moment, a hope, a prayer. In asking me to pray with her, we broke down the wall between patient and nurse and became people. We created a sacred space, an area conducive to healing of the spirit, in a place where noise and sickness are seemingly unceasing. The fact that I had class at 8am, an assignment due the next day that I had yet to complete, and the mere exhaustion I was experiencing disappeared entirely.

As nursing students, we spend countless hours working. There are late nights, early mornings, papers, projects, and exams. Lectures can be long and exhausting, clinical can be an overwhelming whirlwind of rules, regulations, and a game of where on the unit is your instructor. But then, there are moments that we have making it all worth it. Patients that smile and say thank you. Patients that tell you you’re going to make a great nurse one day. Classmates that give you a hand when you’re struggling, laughs shared, and bonds formed among us as students far from our comfort zones. These things change your perspective. They make you grateful, and they make the trials and tribulations well worth enduring.

After four years on the hilltop, I have been told time and time again that we, as nurses, are a different breed. Our practice will be propelled by compassion. By the willingness to channel Florence Nightingale and create an environment of healing. To recall the theories of Jean Watson and care for not only our patients, but our colleagues, and most importantly ourselves. To realize that nursing is not just a job, but a demanding and rewarding profession. To challenge, to question, to research. To think holistically, to advocate, to care, and to comfort. To hold hands, and share Popsicles. From this day forward, we are not just nurses, we are Saint Anselm nurses.