Daniel Billings

February 2015
Class of 2015


I believe this about nursing… "Nursing is a profession where the need to understand your patient outweighs your need to be understood."

I believe that nursing is a profession where the need to understand your patient outweighs your need to be understood.  Every clinical experience confirms this tenet.  From my first rotation with a bipolar patient on a medical surgical unit, to my recent rotation in postpartum, I have found each experience to be especially unique.  Each experience motivated me to want to stand up for my patients and their families.

When I decided to pursue nursing, I was a full-time opera singer at a theater in Bielefeld, Germany.  Five years prior to this decision, I had helped care for a friend named Ron, who died of cancer, during the last 6 months of his life.   Besides the fact that he was a young 31 year-old and diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there were two things that really caught my attention: 1) the way the hospital staff interacted with him and his family; 2) the great amount of caregiver strain that his mother faced.  From the day I first met him, in his hospital bed, we immediately became friends.  Also, it was at that moment that I had decided to help him and his mother by providing respite for her and just providing a distraction for Ron.  He was a great guy and I regret not knowing him sooner.  However, being allowed to be a part of his journey made an impact on me and I will always be grateful for this. 

In thinking back, that experience really played a role in my decision to become a nurse.  The experience of an “awkward” silence can be so frightening and scary to some.  As Ron told me over the phone that his medical team had declared him terminal, I remember not being able to say anything.  How do you respond to someone who tells you that they are going to die?  I didn’t know what to say.  This is where nursing comes in.  Yet, it is not about conducting therapy sessions.  It is about recognizing the enormity of a situation and the implications of each action or the lack thereof.  Already, a nurse would be anticipating outcomes and is ready to respond in a way that is in the best interest of the patient.  Having the ability to understand is paramount.

I often reflect on my experience with my friend and realize that I was made for nursing, albeit in the most novice form possible.  That notwithstanding, with the right guidance, encouragement and being in the moment, I am confident that those moments of silence will be filled with much more than awkwardness.  They will be opportunities for me to listen, be present and to understand.   I believe this is a great nursing intervention.