Words of wisdom for aspiring nursesMay 13, 2019
Dean Gwen Gaston, DNP (c), offers encouragement to future nurses and reflects on the moment she realized how much a nurse can impact someone’s life.
Gwen Gaston, DNP (c), MSN, RN, has devoted her career to nursing, providing patients the care they need and helping them through life and death situations. As the Dean of Nursing at Dallas Nursing Institute, she helps prepare a new generation of nursing professionals to provide the compassionate care today’s patients—and health care providers—demand.
Q: If you could send all nurses everywhere a message of encouragement and support, what would you say to them?
Dr. Gwen Gaston: I am glad that you chose nursing as your career. It is an honorable and trusted profession. In fact, in Gallup’s 2019 poll nursing was ranked as the most trusted profession in the United States for the 20th straight year.
The best thing I can say to you stems from my personal experience: I have had ups and downs, moments of difficulties and discouragements, but I would not trade this joyful profession for any other.
What you do matters, whether it is being there when a newborn enters this world, titrating dangerous medications during a code, advocating for a patient, or holding the hand of a patient as she takes her last breath. Your actions make a difference.
There are many unknowns in nursing, but with the science learned in school and a compassionate heart, you are well-trained to handle them. You translate prescriptions and help patients understand what has been said by the doctor, and what treatment has been ordered for them. You share your knowledge with patients by teaching them about medications and the pathological signs and symptoms of a disease process, by changing dressings, preparing them for surgery, and more. Your responsibilities are endless and rewarding.
Remember to recognize that some days will be difficult, but you should love what you do. When you love what you do and do what you love, you will never regret a day in your life of nursing!
Q: What inspires you about educating the next generation of health care professionals?
Dr. Gaston: My role is to ensure that our future generation of nurses has the necessary tools to be successful. It is exciting to be surrounded by them, and they keep a fire ignited within me.
One of the most poignant moments teaching was with some of our senior students. As we progressed through our time together it hit me: “Oh my God! They get it. They’re speaking the language of nursing.” I was thrilled and excited to see them embrace the profession and watch their skills and competency level develop.
When I told them that I was no longer speaking to student nurses they were alarmed—but when I explained this was because I now saw them as nurses, they beamed.
It is that transition that inspires me to get up every morning. Alumni call me and say they can hear my voice in certain instances when they are working. Encouraging students, watching them develop, and learning of their accomplishments after graduating are fuel for my soul.
Q: Can you share a moment in which you realized the impact you were making as a nurse? One that solidified your commitment to this profession?
Dr. Gaston: As a pediatric intensive care nurse, I was charged with taking care of very ill children. One of these children was an infant who had undergone open-heart surgery.
The infant was gravely ill and was not expected to make it. She was connected to several machines and on a respirator, had a minimum of ten intravenous lines, and was unconscious. It was at the end of my shift and the mother was told that the infant would not survive, but she wanted to hold her daughter before she passed away.
I told this to the oncoming nurse who was perplexed at how we could make it happen with all the medical equipment. But I knew we could not let this mother down. So, I came up with a plan to hold the infant and equipment in the air, pulled the bed out and replaced it with a rocking chair for the mother to sit in, and put the baby in her arms.
It took an hour, but we did it. I watched as the baby settled into her mom’s arms, relaxed. It was one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming experiences. It was also the moment I knew I was doing what I was supposed to do—advocating and caring.