Leadership Profile

Dynamic Speaker Tells Nursing Students to Work from the Heart

If a nurse is in the profession for the right reasons, she/he has the opportunity to make a lasting mark on her patients well beyond vital signs, head to toe assessments, or patient notes, said nurse and nationally recognized speaker Selinza Mitchell, presenter of a program titled, “Fingerprints: The Art of the Exceptional Professional Experience,” at Cedar Crest College on Oct. 2.

Selinza Mitchell with CCC Professors

The affable and flamboyant Texan recalled her days as a home health nurse when she visited an elderly woman in her home. The wheelchair bound woman had an autograph book on a table which she kindly asked Mitchell to sign. After performing a routine examination of the woman and preparing to leave, Mitchell was encouraged again by her patient to write something in the autograph book. Mitchell took a moment to think of something thoughtful to write, wrote in the book, and left for the day. Then it hit her.

“When I went out the front door I knew what the rest of the evening was going to be like for her. She gets in bed, pulls the covers all the way up, and reads from a stack of autograph books. This is her life for the rest of her life,” said Mitchell who play-acted the roles of both herself and the woman in a heartfelt and memorable way.

She recalled another instance when a patient with a terminal illness finally told her that she was no longer going to be taking her treatment. When Mitchell asked her why, the woman explained, “I gave up on the treatment months ago. The only reason I kept taking the treatment was (you). What I need more than anything today is not what’s in your hands—it’s what’s in your heart.”

The nurses who do the work for a steady paycheck are barely scratching the surface of the true rewards of the profession, said Mitchell.

“How many times have you been the treatment that the patient really needs—the medication that they are dying for?” she asked rhetorically. “If you’re coming to the profession for job satisfaction, you leave at the end of the day feeling good. You make an unbelievable difference every single day.”

Because nurses play such a critical role in the recovery process for patients, it’s vital that they also look out for their own health and well-being, as well as that of their colleagues.

Selinza Mitchell with Cedar Crest Nursing Students

“Every day you’re knocking down walls and you’re so intent on taking care of the world, you don’t take care of yourself,” said Mitchell. “But if you don’t take care of yourself, who’s going to take care of your patients?”

The program, which was sponsored by the Cedar Crest College Cultural Programs Committee and co-hosted by the nursing department and Student Nurses Association (SNA), was an eye-opener for attendees.

“The engaging way Selinza Mitchell delivered the message to our students, about the incredibly important role they play in the lives of patients, was extraordinary,” said Mae Ann Pasquale, assistant professor of nursing. “The presentation touched so many of us and made us laugh and even cry. It also made me recognize that I have an amazing opportunity through my role as a nursing professor to influence the lives of so many.”