In the spring of 2009 I took an anatomy and physiology course at a community college in Connecticut. Prior to this course, I had taken only a plant biology course as a necessary requirement for a past English degree. The complexity and sheer volume of the material was overwhelming at first, but I soon found myself engrossed in the intricacies of the human body. Although this class made heavy demands on my time and energy, it rekindled my passion for learning. I often studied at the restaurant where I worked, glancing furtively at beer-soaked flashcards behind the bar top.
Over the next year, I completed the remainder of my prerequisites. My appetite for knowledge was gaining momentum as I digested the courses whole. I applied to an accelerated BSN program at Southern Connecticut State University in the winter of 2010 and eagerly awaited a response. It was not without trepidation that I unfolded the letter, aware that I held a prospective future in my hand. I was exultant as I read the first word, “congratulations.”
Nursing is tough. The momentum I had been building during my prerequisite coursework slowed to a crawl. My finely tuned ability to memorize massive quantities of information—bones, muscles, microorganisms, chemical structures—went relatively unused. I often left my classes frustrated, failing to earn the high grades I believed I deserved. It wasn’t until my second semester that it finally clicked. The scientific bases of nursing are foundational to an even higher and more demanding level of care.
It is difficult to define this concept with a single term. Some call it holistic nursing care, others call it humanistic nursing, and the rest simply call it nursing. Because humans have always been more than a tangle of cells and a beating heart, nursing has always been more than a science. This art of caring is what I found so difficult at first. My anatomy and physiology courses never considered emotion or dignity to be homeostatic factors. No Lewis structure or microscope can explain the fabric of the human soul. Now that I am nearing the end of my program, I would argue that factors such as these are as integral to a person’s health as any lab value or medication.
I will conclude with a reference to the prolific songwriter, Rufus Wainwright. In his song, “One Man Guy,” he refers to his body as “three cubic feet of bone and blood and meat.” This crude approximation of the biochemical composition of the human body is not necessarily inaccurate, but it fails to account for the very thing that makes us human: spirit.