The Importance of a Human Touch
By Megan Baird
I’m scared. Right now I am 21 years old, a senior in college, 6 months pregnant & 1 year ago I found out I am HIV-positive.
I know what I just told
you made you uneasy. I know it made me uneasy to say it. How would you respond if someone told you this?
How would it make you
feel? This person could be anyone. She could be a friend, a neighbor, a colleague or even a relative. 2 years ago she
was my patient. Let me tell you how I responded.
It was my first interview with a
patient & I must admit that I was nervous, very nervous. I didn’t want her to know this was my first interview
& I was unsure of myself. I took a deep breath & called her in. Her name was Jennifer.
I tried to be as professional as
I could during the course of the interview. When she told me she was HIV- positive & pregnant, I quickly wrote
down the information & attempted to be unaffected by her response.
My mind was racing & I
found it difficult to concentrate. I had so many concerns for her. How was she dealing with her diagnosis? Was she scared? I tried to shake these thoughts from my head. I had an interview to conduct. I needed to be strong & confident & not let Jennifer see my weaknesses.
In the middle of my questions,
she stopped me. She looked at my name tag & asked, “Megan, why didn’t you tell me how you felt when I told
you I had HIV? Why didn’t you respond?” I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say.
I slowly put down my
clipboard, looked up at her & asked, “How does it make you feel?”
She told me she was scared — very scared. She said she felt very alone sometimes & she was afraid of what her future held. She had dreams of becoming a lawyer
but was devastated when she found out she was HIV-positive. She was worried about how people would treat her & most importantly,
she was concerned for the health of her unborn child.
I told her how I felt when she told
me — how I had wanted to comfort her but that I was afraid to be unprofessional.
It was then that she told
me something I will never forget — something that has changed my approach to nursing & given new meaning to the
career path I have chosen.
She said, “Megan, never
grow cold to your patients’ needs. That’s how many doctors & nurses deal with the emotional strain that comes
with caring for people. They find the stress & heartache too difficult to handle & eventually grow numb to it in an
attempt to cope.
Don’t ever let
this happen to you. I'm not just a disease, not just a check on a piece of paper, not just a diagnosis. I'm a person.
My illness can't just be treated with medicine; it must also be treated with tenderness & compassion.
I am just like you. I have
hopes & dreams just like you do. I know that you get scared & hurt just like I do. Only when you realize this will you truly be able to care for, heal & help people.”
When the interview was over
I wished her luck & thanked her. She then turned to me & said, “You're going to be an amazing nurse someday,
I came to Georgetown
to become a nurse & became a better person. Some of the most rewarding moments of my college education have occurred when
the books are closed & I'm face to face with another person.
Thru these encounters, I've
learned to be comfortable with my own emotions & responses. In sharing this personal part of myself with other people,
I'm beginning to understand how vulnerability can lead to strength & not weakness.
My exchanges haven't been
one-sided & I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to listen to others & share their journeys with them.
This shared experience has helped me to recognize the person in myself & the person in those around me.
At the end of May this year,
the members of the senior class will leave Georgetown with degrees in hand. But these degrees are a testament to only part
of the education available here. There isn't a certificate symbolizing what I've learned from my family, friends, patients,
teachers & the strangers who have changed my life with one brief encounter.
have made me a better person & I wish I could thank them all. Maybe I'm not the one who deserves the certificate of chievement,
but then again, maybe I am their reward.