Continue to be extraordinary

 

Laurel Hallock Koppelman, F.N.P., M.N.,
and family

Thanks to Laurel Hallock Koppelman, F.N.P., M.N., a recent family nurse practitoner graduate of the School of Nursing, for sharing her parting words to the FNP 2013 graduating class here. Congratulations to all of the School of Nursing Class of 2013 graduates!

Last June, David McCullough, a high school English teacher, made global headlines as he and his speech to graduating seniors went viral on the world-wide web. The striking comment, the one that got the most attention from students and parents was, “You’re not special. You are not that extraordinary.” He was speaking to the point that while these 17 and 18 year-olds were graduating from high school, an accomplishment for many, this simple fact didn’t put them in a class above many others. He said, “Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating. That’s 37,000 valedictorians . . . 340,000 swaggering jocks . . . 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.”

Well, I’ve got news for David McCullough. In this hall today we have 398 BSNs, 68 MSNs, one Graduate Certificate in Public Health, six Post-Master’s Certificates in Nursing, five PhDs, and 14 DNPs . . . That means we’ve got more than 275 Littman stethoscopes, at least 300 pairs of Dansko clogs, a wide variety of colorful scrubs and 325 people who have realized that they are in fact SPECIAL and that they have a gift, an EXTRAORDINARY gift in the scheme of things, to put the health of others at the forefront of their lives. The people in this room have spent the last 2-4 years sacrificing sleep for studying, chosen ramen noodles over sushi so they can buy schoolbooks, put relationships with family and friends on hold so that they can better themselves to help others. How many of us can say we missed a chance to put our own children to bed while we stayed late at the clinic to care for someone else’s child? And how many of us gave up going to a concert or a party so that we could spend just a few extra hours at clinical learning how to suture? Why would we do this? Because we are special.

I know. I know. If you are like me, you are doubting yourself constantly. Am I doing the right thing? School is really hard . . . do I want to really be responsible for the lives of other people? And the answer is, yes, you do.

When terrible things happen such as natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy when hospitals like NYU lost their generator power and nurses were hand ventilating babies from the ICU down the stairs . . . weren’t you the first ones cheering them on? And when the bombings at the Boston marathon happened last month, weren’t you so grateful for the first responders, the physicians, the surgeons and the NURSES? You are doing something that many people only dream of and guess what – you did it, all the while making plans to help the human race.

You are graduating in perhaps the most exciting of times in health care history. Not only do we have new federal legislation, we also have the work of our state legislature and Governor Kitzhaber with the CCOs. The Cover Oregon insurance plan should be up and running October 1. Other states across the nation are watching us up close and personal, to see not only where we will falter but also where we will succeed.

We are new graduates and, of course, we are nervous, we don’t have the experience of many of our colleagues and we have just SO MUCH to learn. But we have a chance to make a difference in the way health care is delivered. Many of us decided to become advanced practice nurses because we witnessed first hand a disjointed system where too many humans fell through the cracks. We all have a story of what brought us here, and soon, undergraduates, you will have a story too. Mine was as a nurse, watching admission after admission of stroke patients – most of whom hadn’t been to a primary care provider in years, most of whom smoked, or had high blood pressure or diabetes or all of the above. What’s your story? How did it start? Today is the day we get to start writing the conclusion or at least the next in the series!

Now we have an opportunity to be those primary care providers. We have an opportunity to be collaborative with physicians and physical therapists and dentists and PAs and we get to bring with us our nursing background. You remember it . . . the art and science of nursing, the holistic care a nurse provides that sits in the core of our being. It’s what makes you SPECIAL.

One last thought, and something I hope everyone, whether you are an undergrad, a post grad, a recent grad or a grad from another generation, [will hear] . . . the education at OHSU that we just spent so many years getting gives us the authority to make our opinions known . . . whether it be by marching on city hall, standing on the capital building steps, attending a fluoride rally or talking to your neighbors, your families or your friends about the issues of social justice and health care. We have come so far and YOU ARE SPECIAL. You made it. But now, don’t waste it. Don’t be silent. Don’t sit back and let things happen to you, your patients and your communities. What you say and do, how you practice is a reflection of your dedication to this craft. Remember what brought you here in the first place, what made you sign up for this . . . your story: YOU ARE SPECIAL. CONTINUE TO BE EXTRAORDINARY.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Zdunich is a communications specialist in the OHSU School of Medicine Dean's Office.
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