Mary E. Cockey

September 2009
Class of 2010


This I believe about nursing… “Nurses treat not only the disease but also the patient, a task which they are able to accomplish with both wisdom and compassion.”

When I was a senior in college, I rarely had to use either wisdom or compassion in a truly meaningful way. My life was very simple; I was mainly preoccupied with studying, friends and boys. I considered compassion to be as easy as putting a baby bird back in it’s nest- until disaster hit my family.

Before the last semester of my senior year in college, my sister developed an auto-immune liver disease. At first she was just feverish and groggy but within a week’s time she needed a liver transplant to survive. Since her disease was rare, the doctors couldn’t explain what was happening and my family was terrified. We were heartbroken and helpless as my sister became jaundice yellow and slipped into a coma.   

Despite her unconsciousness, the nurses in the hospital treated my sister with the greatest respect and care.  One evening as I approached my sister’s room I heard someone singing and when I walked in, I realized that her nurse was singing her a lullaby during her evening bath.    I immediately started crying in gratitude. The entire time my sister was in a coma her nurses spoke to her and explained procedures even though she could not respond. They treated her as though she was still there and deserved respect.

Ultimately my sister did not make it but I will never forget the kindness and humility of her nurses. They could not treat her disease but they gave her comfort and dignity. Even though she was not able to thank them, their actions forever impacted my life and inspired me to become a nurse. They showed me how to be truly compassionate and how to give empathy and respect at the same time. After graduating with a degree in philosophy and a minimal science background, it took me some time to finally get to nursing school but I am so excited to have arrived. I am also so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for helping me get there and helping me pursue my dream of being a compassionate and caring nurse.