Walking out of the audiologist’s office at four years old I remember flinching at how loud a passing motorcycle was. Standing there, I heard exactly what my parents whispered as they watched me carefully process this new exciting world with hearing aids. Most importantly, to me, I heard the birds for the first time. The sound was exquisite; a perfect high pitched melody. Five minutes is how long my parents stood there watching me. In five minutes I gained a new appreciation for what we all take for granted, the simple pleasure of sound. In that moment I learned what it was to be truly amazed by something seemingly insignificant in life.
I will never take the field of medicine for granted. With all my experience in this field, I have gained a multitude of insights into the most intricate interworkings of it. Passion and compassion in medicine make me believe that I would be perfectly suited for the nursing profession. I have one distinct memory that will always stick with me that taught me the greatest lesson I could ever learn. The moral of the story was to take time with and listen to your patients when at all possible.
In life, it is easy to get caught up in what we are doing, it is easy to rush. I remember working at an assisted living facility right out of college and being both horrified and moved by numerous situations. We were understaffed and overworked, we had over twenty patients to each nursing assistant, and we were tired. I worked there for two years and still remember everything about each of my patients, even the seemingly insignificant moments.
I had one patient, in particular, who had the greatest impact on me. Her name was Norma and she changed my life in just five short minutes. Norma saw me every day; I ran around trying to do everything all at once for twenty people. Every day she would grab my hand, look me hard in the eyes, and tell me “slow down, honey.” I would smile, ask if she needed anything and carry on with my organized chaos. I found that I would come in early and stay late just to talk with Norma a little longer. She had such great stories and she was surprisingly witty and intelligent (attributes I was unaware of).
One day I came into work and her room was empty; she had passed away overnight and I was shocked. Her family came that day to pick up her belongings and gave me a letter she had written me. In the letter were some words of wisdom that I have followed every day since:
“…slow down, honey. One day you will wake up and realize that you were too busy living life to really enjoy it. Take an extra moment to talk to a stranger and you might learn something you never thought you would. Remember that it only takes five short minutes to change someone’s life; that is all it took to change mine…”
I thought long and hard about those words that day. I evaluated my life and though I did my job well I found that what people wanted was not just to be well cared for but to be heard. So, I made a change, I would visit outside of work hours and just sit and talk to the patients. I would listen to their stories and laugh with them because their families never came to visit. I took an extra five minutes and just sit with them on my lunch hour just because I could.
Through Norma, I learned the value of a small deed and a kind heart. This makes me feel that becoming a nurse would not only save lives, but change lives too. I learned that basic human needs require compassion. Norma taught me that to give five minutes to someone might not mean a lot in the moment, but in the long run will change a life. I held on to her letter and read it again from time to time. I now think harder about the choices I make as a caregiver, a medical assistant, a “soon to be” nurse, and most importantly, as a person. All it takes is five minutes to change someone’s life. All it took was five minutes with hearing aids to change mine, I just needed someone to remind me.