What I Learned in Nursing School

Shall I be sentimental or should I keep it real? Or is this one of those dreaded multiple-multiple select all that apply questions?

I began nursing school in awe of the nursing knowledge of my professors and the students ahead of us. As I leave, I’m still in awe of the nursing knowledge and alpha, beta, and charlie personality characteristics of my nursing instructors, and am humbled by how much we still have to learn even as we begin the celebratory circuit of pinning and graduation ceremonies and parties to celebrate our accomplishments. I’m mindful of my current and former classmates who will not be with us as we walk across the stage next week knowing that I could easily have been in that same boat.

Dr. Barkley taught us to remember that each person is a “pyschosocial, cultural, and spiritual being” and that we have to keep this in mind when working with and advocating for our patients. She kept us in check with frequent reminders to observe “professional courtesy on the floor” even while walking through the hallways at school and by asking us, “what’s your reference?” to make sure we really had read before class and weren’t just making stuff up.

From Dr. Miller, I learned humor is good and keeps class moving along but unless you know the material you won’t get very far. From some instructors I learned how I’d like to be and from others I learned habits I’d like to avoid.

From Dr. Persaud, I learned the most valuable lessons. That some things are unacceptable, that the way we choose to conduct ourselves can make or break us, and that we have to look inward at our own flaws and actions when situations go awry.

I’m humbled by the care, compassion, and integrity I saw from nurses as they struggled to meet the needs of their patients and balance those with a myriad of other concerns. I learned about team work and noticed I gravitated toward and away from certain types of people in my personal relationships.

I learned from my patients about facing death or chronic and debilitating illness with grace and dignity. I learned not to presume that I can accurately judge another’s pain. I learned about the quiet spaces inside myself where I go to help deal with pain and suffering I’ve witnessed. And I learned the importance of prayer, making time to have fun, and having a good support system to help me to get through those darker moments.

I’m learning how powerful words and ideas are. I’m working and trying hard to improve the quality of my speech and to restrain myself when words will not better a situation. I’m learning not to laugh at others because I haven’t been tested with what they have been and I can’t put myself in their shoes. And that type of hard-hearted laughter is a sign of arrogance. I want to be humble, I want my heart to be soft even as it makes me vulnerable, and I want to live with sincerity and integrity.

I’m beginning to think more like a nurse and I’m beginning to live more like a decent human being. That’s what I learned in nursing school. My sincerest thanks to all of my teachers, those that I named and those that I didn’t name, I’ve learned a lot.


  1. Beautifully written Ify. I’ve seen nurses in action when my mother was in the hospital and behind the scenes when I worked in a hospital. Nurses do twice the work doctors do and a nurse can be the difference between a healing hospital stay versus one that can make us feel worse than we already feel. You have a lot of responsibility on your hands, mashaAllah and I pray that Allah helps you to serve others well with it.
    Congratulations!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Ameen! Thank you Amani, especially as this is National Nurses’ Week. I do hope I can learn and become an expert in fulfilling the needs of my patients with all of the other demands on our time. When I got into nursing, I had no idea just how much care is provided by nurses but I’m glad I stayed.

  2. This is beautiful, Ify. I’m sure everyone around you learned just as much, if not more, from you and your character mashaAllah. Your patients will be lucky to have you as a nurse. May Allah bless you with the best of all possible journeys, Ameen! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ameen, thank you Cucumber! I hope I was able to convey something of good to those around me, more positive than negative. My peers voted for me to receive the Florence Nightingale award as a reflection of some good they saw in me. Or maybe just because my clothes resemble hers? Working to ensure my inward character shines as brightly as the external.

      But in some ways, I agree with Ashley Judd’s comments, what others say about us, whether good or bad are “equally fanciful interpretations.”

  3. Salaam ‘alaikum. Good luck to you in your career! Quite a few women in my extended family (including one sister) have worked in your profession, so I have some inkling about how rewarding and challenging your work will be.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam JDsg, Thank you for your kind words, it’s quite humbling to realize I’m joining the long line of those who preceded me in the profession. But I’m excited to see what challenges and opportunities I’ll encounter along the way.

  4. Salam alaykum.Congratulations Ify.I am so happy for you.I pray your work in healthcare becomes a source of blessings for you in this world and the hereafter.There are a lot of ethical issues that you’ll encounter and i pray that you deal with them in the best possible way using the Quran and sunnah as your guide.All the best.

  5. Salam alaikum Ify…To me, you sound somewhat fulfilled already in the nursing profession…i think this has a lot to do with your good and positive personality not just the nursing profession..If teaching, farming, plumbing or carpentry training e.t.c is what you have engaged in,you would have still done well as you have rightly done now…Many congrats.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Jamilah, thank you for the vote of confidence. Nursing challenges me in a myriad of ways but I hope I am open and up for the challenge.

    1. Kathleen, thank you so much! Even after nearly six years of blogging, I’m still delighted and humbled that people somehow find their way here and read anything I write.

      I’ve been reading your blog mostly in my inbox each day for several months. I love your courage, spirit, and optimism. And your photos!

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