The best I can be

By Susan R. Giscombe | 10/18/2018

“Share your gift!” my grandmother told me.

The best I can be
After more than four decades of healthcare experience that began with practical nurse licensure, the author still strives to be all she can be and is helping others do the same.

Throughout life, we are given opportunities to learn from others—sometimes from those who are experts in their fields, other times from wise people who have learned life’s lessons well. In the course of my healthcare journey, I have been blessed with many such teachers, caring people who wanted to help me become the best I could be.

My early education was acquired through parochial schools in upstate New York. The sisters­—nuns—were stern but affable. I admired the determination shown on their countenances as they sought to make sure my classmates and I received a quality education—to be the best we could be. Those who teach, imparting information so others can learn, often say it is a calling.

As a senior in high school, I assisted with teaching religious studies to kindergarteners in local public schools. We used songs and simple exercises to teach, and the students were delighted to participate. Replicating teaching techniques I had seen nuns use, I sought to help each student learn as much as possible—to be the best they could be. I knew then that I wanted teaching to be part of my professional career.           

After graduating from high school and becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN), I joined the U.S. Navy. On 10 February 1980, I arrived at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida, USA, with one large bag in tow. I wasn’t alone; the butterflies in my stomach kept me company. As a new LPN, I wasn’t completely sure where this journey would take me, but I knew I wanted to teach, serve my country, and care for those in need.

Of the 125 recruits in my company at the beginning of basic training, I was chosen to lead. The military officers who trained us had clear expectations. Using a disciplined approach in classes that were far from ordinary, they taught us basic survival techniques, use of artillery, and how to prepare for chemical warfare attacks. Our instructors were determined to help us become the best sailors we could be.

Eventually, I was assigned to a new training center in Great Lakes, Illinois, to become a hospital corpsman and, later, a medical lab technician working in forensic science. After several years of experience, I was given the task of teaching new service members the importance of using laboratory techniques that ensured quality results. The goal? To help them become the best they could be while serving their country. After 11 1/2 years, during which I cared for service members and their families both stateside and overseas, my military career came to an end, and I received an honorable discharge—for being the best service member I could be.

After my service years, I decided to take my nursing career to the next level. My undergraduate nursing program was not easy. The professors delivered the course content with countenances that reminded me of the nuns from my parochial school days—friendly but determined. Although the amount of material I needed to learn seemed insurmountable, they somehow found a way to make each section comprehensible, making it easier for my colleagues and me to succeed. They wanted to help us become the best nurses we could be.

As a teacher’s assistant in graduate school, I taught undergraduate nursing students, and I emulated the teaching techniques and strategies professors used when I was an undergraduate. I made every effort to help students understand the material because I wanted them to become the best nurses they could be.

After more than four decades of healthcare experience, I now have a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a postgraduate certificate in nursing education. Recently, I was appointed as an adjunct faculty member to teach at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, where I am helping nurses advance in the profession. I want to inspire others through teaching and mentoring. I enjoy helping develop the next generation of nurses by influencing them to be the best they can be—as caregivers, leaders, and innovators.

As I think of teachers who have helped me along the way—nuns, military officers, professors—I would be remiss if I did not mention my grandmother. Her influence served as a catalyst in my nursing journey. I can still hear her say, “Suzy gal, you’re kind and you’re loving. Never take that for weakness. Share your gift!” I carry those words with me in all that I do—as a mother, a nurse, a veteran, and, finally, as the teacher I longed to become. RNL

Susan R. Giscombe, DNP, MS, FNP-BC, administrator for Carroll ACO, an Accountable Care Organization affiliated with Carroll Hospital in Westminster, Maryland, USA, is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland.

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