This is the time of year when I enjoy getting out into my garden and getting my hands a bit dirty. Soon it will become too hot and humid for it to be enjoyable, but I will always be amazed by the miracle that occurs when I put a dry, dead-appearing seed into the ground. I wait eagerly, checking daily for that first little peek of green. Even when I know it will be days and days before it happens – I can’t help myself. Out to my tiny garden I go to look for the little sprouts. Then it happens! Lo and behold, a brand new plant life. When I look upon this burgeoning garden, all I see are tiny two-leafed green threads. There is very little that would promise the hearty meals to come. If I did not label my rows, I often would not even be able to discern what kind of plant is growing, but in a few weeks time, each plant’s nature begins to emerge. In these early days I watch carefully, water frequently and cover these little baby plants when the air threatens to freeze in the night. It is a labor of hope and love.
In my life as a nurse I have had a number of roles and responsibilities. I have nursed tiny premature babies from incubator to car seat. I have walked with families through a devastating diagnosis and shared the life their child cut short by genetics out of anyone’s control. Now, I find myself growing new nurses. It is a role that I relish and cherish. No longer do I experience the rush of adrenaline in an urgent life and death sort of way. Instead, it is more like my time in the garden. But instead of the gardener, I am the dirt. It is only when I remember my role as dirt that I can truly successfully help in the effort to raise nurses.
We are all gardeners of our own lives and careers. When students come to us, they have realized that they carry a seed, a desire to do something beyond themselves. With recognition of this seed comes the need to find the right medium to move from thread-like sprout to productive plant.
EMU is a lovely garden. It is well cared for, lovingly tended, and thoughtfully fertilized. We know that the dirt is important in our gardens, but we often don’t consider the whole of what it provides. Each season, dirt receives seeds. Seeds are sometimes carefully covered and tended, sometimes land accidentally in the dirt, and sometimes fall into insufficient dirt. For a seed to germinate and grow, the dirt must have nutrients available. It must be able to hold water around the new seed in a way that causes that seed to burst open and push for the light. The dirt must allow itself to be moved by the new roots and shoots that spring from the seed.
As I reflect on what that means for me, a teacher, I realize it is a very humble job. I do not get to choose my students. They decide whether or not to be planted in the garden I occupy. It does not matter how much I know or how fancy my pedagogy, the real work belongs to the students. If I lack the proper tools, encouragement, and knowledge, my students certainly will not grow. I cannot force those tools and knowledge on to the students, but my ability to hold space, lead gently, allow warmth to penetrate, and create room for growth is essential. It is a privilege and a joy to watch students sprout. Like dirt with seeds, I have an up close view of the beauty and struggle of growth.
I am dirt. My work is to be good dirt.
In what ways can we all be good dirt? As nurses, we watch our patients emerge and grow into health. We equip ourselves with critical thinking and compassion. We nourish, hold water to quench thirsts, assess for safety, and give space for good growth. We promote and allow healing. As nurses who are teachers, we follow a similar path with our students.
Growth cannot happen without good dirt, and I like to think that here in the EMU Nursing department, there is a lot of good dirt.
-Dr. Audrey Myers, Assistant Professor EMU Nursing