Graduation weekend is the absolute highlight of the school year for me. On May 7, we celebrated with 154 graduates and their families. I know many will be entering the workforce with a passion and zeal for their work and a desire to give back to their communities. Others have been admitted to the following graduate schools: Andrews University, Baylor University, Dallas Baptist University, Georgetown University, Long School of Medicine, Loma Linda School of Medicine, Loma Linda School of Nursing (Doctorate of Nursing Practice), Southwestern Adventist University, Texas Christian University, Texas Women’s University, University of Houston, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas San Antonio Medical School, and Walla Walla University. We are so proud of each one and wish them well as they launch their careers.
What happens beyond graduation is also important to all of us in education. I recently learned of a story about Denny James, a 2013 graduate from our University. Denny is an ICU charge nurse at Lake Granbury Medical Center. As a team leader, Denny demonstrates his willingness to go beyond what is considered normal care to his patients. For this extraordinary care, he was recognized as the 2016 Employee of the Year at Lake Granbury Medical Center.
Denny knew little about nursing when he started at Southwestern Adventist University. He was inspired by his Uncle Robin Houghton, a 1992 nursing graduate, who was making a positive difference in the lives of his patients. Denny, too, desired to do something worthwhile for others and took up nursing as his educational major. While a student, Denny learned that holistic care was important; one must treat not only the health needs of his patients, but the emotional and spiritual needs as well.
Reflecting on one of his clinical experiences, he said, “I remember caring for a patient who was mentally unaware of what was going on around him. Dr. Mitchell (one of his professors) taught us that we protect this patient’s human dignity and that we treat the patient with the utmost respect even though it was doubtful that the patient even knew we were in the room taking care of him.” This impressed Denny and showed him the importance of providing compassionate Christ-like care to patients, even to those that may not realize the care they are receiving.
Today, Denny practices these compassionate skills in his daily work, one such example was his care for a dying elderly patient. He knew the patient’s wife was coming to see him and it was their anniversary. Going above and beyond normal nursing practice, he asked the patient if he could buy some flowers for him so the patient could give them to his wife when she visited. The patient consented and he was able to surprise his wife on their special day with flowers. Though the patient passed away a few days later, his wife said she will never forget Denny’s kindness.
“Denny represents our University and the Department of Nursing very well with his kind and compassionate care,” says Dr. Mitchell. “We saw his potential as a student because of his openness and concern for patients while still maintaining a level of academic excellence.”
In many ways, Denny is a typical Southwestern Adventist University graduate, providing atypical compassionate care for others. Although graduation is the highlight of the academic year for me, seeing how our graduates serve others inspires me to continue not only ensuring quality educational programs, but programs that encourage respect and compassion for the people our graduates will work with in their professions.
This article was originally published in the Cleburne Times Review.