STANDING beside a bedridden old man while compressing his artificial breathing mask wasn’t my idea of spending that sunny July afternoon. While other students in the campus were enjoying the great weather outside, I was stuck inside a cold hospital room, monitoring the old man.

He could not turn, speak, or open his eyes fully. His grave condition made it difficult for him to even breathe on his own will. In the field where life and death is a day to day matter, I was ironically afraid that he might lose his life anytime soon. But after seeing how his nurses dealt with his condition with utmost care, I felt assured that this man was in good hands. At that point, I once again began to wonder if I was in the right path like them.

Throughout my almost four years as a nursing student, I have often doubted my place in a field where thousands of students face many hardships to get a diploma and a license. I found myself lost in the sea of people who thought that a nursing degree was synonymous to a ticket abroad and high salary, though I took it up for three different reasons: parental advice, nursing as a possible pre-med course, and finally, a chance to fulfill my first childhood dream of becoming one.

During those years of studying, I couldn’t grasp the meaning of the things we routinely did. Administering medications and the like had their immediate rationale in textbooks, but I was searching for something deeper than what books could provide. I often wondered, what really was the meaning behind this popular profession?

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Since the start of our clinical practice, I have been considering the value of its technicalities, hoping to find inspiration in them. For a short while, my fascination with the science of our field quelled my curiosity. I was amazed by the knowledge of human anatomy, its physiology, and its alterations. Unfortunately, the feeling faded eventually and I was back to zero. It was a scary thought, thinking that my search would end in vain and that I would graduate not knowing, or rather, not feeling the essence of what I had been doing all along.

But just when I was about to call it quits this school year, I realized that what I was actually looking for was sitting right beside me several months ago—my patient.

I remembered her recently when we discussed psychiatric nursing as a possible topic for research. I would sit beside her twice a week, talking about her life and dreams. Her hair was quite short, and her smile was a toothless grin.

She was a psychiatric patient whose thoughts did not fit the conventions of society and yet, it was through her thoughts that I came to understand the reality of my course.

As weeks passed, I came to know more about this woman whose illness was poorly understood by many. Aside from the many conversations we had about her past and the other things that interested her, my group mates and I conducted “activity therapies” for all psychiatric clients, including my patient, to help them express their thoughts and their feelings.

During our last day in their psychiatric institution, my patient told me that she looked forward every week to those two days when we would visit them. She told me that, somehow, I made a difference in her life by simply listening to her and giving her hope to continue living. As a victim of physical abuse and a broken family, she found it hard to open up to people before. Due to my consistency in checking her condition, she became comfortable with me.

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Hearing those words from her, I guess all I really needed was a patient to show me the essence of what I was doing. For me, patients do not just give meaning—they are the core of the nursing profession.

I know I still have a lot of things to learn, and my search has just begun with its newfound direction.

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