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Coming Full Circle in my Professional Nursing Program

Emily Brett Seiden, B.A, S.N.
Arizona State University

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The "Circle of Life," a medley of songs, was inspired by my first clinical semester as a nursing student. It began with children and newborns and ended in a long-term care facility, where death was ever present. My inspiration came from the fact that the nurse can be involved in birth, life, sickness, and death. Through witnessing these life changes, my personal knowing of the true meaning of nursing increased immensely. Each life change was an opportunity to touch an individual’s life whether it was to perform a well baby exam or to perform activities of daily living for those who could not do it themselves.

The medley begins and ends with the song, "Circle of Life" because to me, that is the central theme of nursing. Elton John sings, "It’s the circle of life/It’s the wheel of fortune/Through despair and hope/Through faith and love/Till we find our place/On the path unwinding/In the circle/The circle of life". The message of this song is that as the elderly die, new children are welcomed into the world each day. Thus, the circle of life might be witnessed when the time of death is called on an elderly patient at exactly the same time a child’s first breath is taken outside of it’s mother’s womb two floors away.

The second song was inspired by participating in immunization clinics and volunteering for health fairs and screenings. Learning the role of the nurse in health promotion and disease prevention is reflected in "Heal the World" by Michael Jackson. The song begins with a child talking about healing the world and making it a better place, symbolizing for me that all things begin with the children. The lyrics are "Heal the world/Make it a better place/For you and for me and the entire human race/There are people dying/And if you care enough for the living/Make a little space/And make a better place for you and for me." Through health promotion we contribute to making the world a better place to live.

The third song was inspired by my clinical experience in long term care. Not only do we protect and heal the living, but also those who are dying. It is here that another Elton John song explains how imperative it is for a patient on the brink of death to feel the gentle hands of a healing nurse. "The Last Song", was written for a dying AIDS patient. The words are "Yesterday, you came to lift me up/As light as straw and brittle as a bird/Today, I weigh less than a shadow on the wall/Just one more whisper of a voice unheard/Tomorrow, leave the windows open/As fear grows, please hold me in your arms/Won’t you help me if you can/To shake this anger/I need your gentle hands/To keep me calm. On the last day of clinical, my patient’s daughter was called and told that her mother probably would not make it through the night. As I approached the bedside, I noticed that the patient looked empty, hardly like the woman I once helped. I began stroking her hair, whispering comforting words, and telling her she was not alone. I was there until her last breath was taken almost thirty minutes later. Whether or not my patient heard my words or felt my touch, I can take comfort in the fact that she was not alone at the very end.

"The Messenger," a song about death coming to an individual, is also sung by Elton John. His words, "Turn away from madness/Burn the inner light/Pray for me as cheerfully/As I slip into the night/Death is just a visitor/Watching for awhile/Sullen and predictable/Love is versatile. This song shows me that while death is evident and brings such sadness, patients who have prepared for it can feel peace as their journey in life comes to an end.

I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the wide range of emotions felt during this semester. It began with health, children, and happiness, and ended with illness, old age, and sadness. Music was an effective way to express my deepest feelings at times when it was most difficult to do so. Through this art form, I could clearly describe my thoughts and feelings and provide others a deep look into the aesthetic side of nursing. I believe that nurses remain a constant in people’s lives providing protection, understanding, comfort, and caring from birth until death. It is here that I have experienced the "Circle of Life."

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