Planting the Seeds of Caring

By Jenny Nelson, BSN, RN, CCRN-K May 25, 2021

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I had always accepted the adage “the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.”

I had always accepted the adage "the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit." When I planted my garden, I knew I would not have the satisfaction of immediately eating the fruit. I also knew that metaphorically speaking, this phrase was an encouragement to work without the instant gratification of a reward, and an experience in my professional life gave me even more appreciation for this wisdom.

You Don't Always Know When You Plant a Seed

After two weeks of ICU care, an older patient with a large family had come to the end of what medicine could provide. We changed his plan of care from curative to comfort, and he died peacefully on our unit. Weeks later, the family returned with individual thank-you notes and lapel pins that read "Caring People Make a Difference" for the staff. Their note to me was very meaningful, and I wore the pin on my name badge every shift afterward.

Years later, when I was working at a different hospital and still wearing my lapel pin, a newly graduated nurse approached me during her orientation. She asked where I got my pin. As I started explaining, her eyes lit up as she said, "That was my grandpa! You were one of the nurses who took care of him!"

She went on to say that the experience of seeing our team of nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists made her want to be a nurse. She was in high school when we treated her grandfather. In the weeks that I cared for him, I did not intentionally plant a nursing seed in her; I was simply caring for a grandfather with a life, a story and a family.

But all the while, she was watching. She saw more than the medication administration or tasks completed; she saw the art of nursing, compassion and competence in a team. We hugged and cried, and it was the sweetest fruit I had ever tasted. Even on my worst shifts after that, I could take solace in knowing that I had unintentionally planted a seed in someone.

Who Planted My Nursing Seed?

In reflecting on that experience, I asked myself: "Who intentionally or unintentionally invested in me?" Many wonderful people came to mind, but one rose to the top. She was the first nurse I knew when I was a child, because she and her family were my neighbors. She was a single mother of four, and her youngest child was my best friend.

As I grew up, I watched her. I saw her provide for and raise her family while balancing a successful nursing career. Her everyday strength and grace planted the seed in me without her ever knowing. I had the opportunity to express my gratitude while caring for her when she was in hospice. It was an honor to care for her and let her know how much she influenced my life. I hope that it was a moment for her to enjoy one of the fruits of her life.

Intentionally Planting Seeds

I now intentionally look for opportunities to plant seeds. I'm sure many of you do the same. We have it within our power to acknowledge those who have influenced and inspired us.

In caring for others, we are also caring for ourselves. Gratitude is a great way to extinguish burnout, and encouraging someone's progress in their life and career, and appreciating their contributions is very rewarding.

At the end of the day, perhaps it's not about eating the fruit ourselves but giving it to our colleagues.

How do you let the caring people in your life know that they make a difference?