Graduate Michael Scott’s Convocation Speech: By Small and Simple Things

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Nursing graduate Michael Scott and his wife, Amy Taylor Scott

Excerpt from Scott’s convocation speech, given on April 25, 2019.

There is one experience that I would like to share in detail from my global health practicum about a patient that we’ll call Terry. I invite you to look for the small, simple things and their impact on the people involved.

Just so you have an image, [Terry] is African American, lean, and his bicep was about the size of my head.  At the time we cared for him, Terry was serving a sentence at the Utah State Prison.  “During our shift, [Terry] was admitted to the psych unit for suicide watch because he had just been assaulted and would not speak to anyone.  While in the cell, he fell to the ground and clenched his chest.  He was pulled out of the cell and placed in the infirmary.  The nurse asked us to place a 12-lead EKG.  Over and over, the guards, nurse, and PA asked Terry what had happened.  He just kept pointing to his heart and then his jaw.

They seemed frustrated and the EKG came back normal although his blood pressure and pulse were elevated.  It seemed like he was having a panic attack.  The PA later speculated as much.  Everyone cleared the room besides one guard. James and I stayed behind with [Terry].

It was quiet for a minute and then James placed a hand on [Terry]’s shoulder and said something along the lines of “we’re here with you, you’re not alone.”   [Terry]’s eyes welled up and tears poured down his cheeks.  He told us how this past month, he had lost everyone he loved.  His dad had died of cancer, his brother in-law had committed suicide and his Aunt and nephew had died in a car accident.

Terry had committed a serious crime and spent the last 15 years in prison but as we listened to Terry, I remembered the words “in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me…”

For me, Terry was an example of “the least of these my brethren.”  As a nurse, I have rarely felt so privileged with an opportunity to serve the Lord as I have inside the prison.  It is a place where an understanding of divine identity and the reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is tested and expanded.

My experience with [Terry] impacted me.  It reminded me that the Gospel should be at the center of every care plan.  Moving forward from this experience, I hope to serve not only the patients who seem to be most deserving but also those who seem least deserving.

Staying when others leave or placing a hand on another’s shoulder are small simple acts, but they had a significant effect on Terry and on the two young nursing students by his side.

As nursing students, we have regular opportunities to make small and simple decisions that make a great difference in the lives of those around us. To mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. To succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. We can advocate for the right each person has to govern their own health care and to accept or reject lifesaving interventions.  We can give our love, time, energy, and hope to others.

Out of the many small and simple things we can do, loving others seems to me to be the most valuable.

And I believe the small and simple decision to love our patients is what changes nursing from a collection of tasks into practicing the Healer’s art.

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