When Margaret Harvey, president of Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Indianapolis campus, says she can relate to the struggles of her patients or nursing students, it’s more than just a throwaway phrase.
“I understand when a patient says, ‘I’m really discouraged,’ because I remember being discouraged,” said Dr. Harvey, PhD, MSN, MAT, RN. “Or when they say, ‘I can’t do that,’ because I remember saying the same thing to my physical therapist.”
In the late 1980s, Dr. Harvey was in a car accident, during which she suffered a closed head injury that left her in a coma. When she awoke, she could no longer read.
“They told me I would never walk again or be able to read again,” she said. “I fought my way back.”
The three years she spent in rehab gave her a patient’s perspective, but the experience also made her push those under her care a little bit further than they thought they could go.
“Even if my patients couldn’t do it, there’s some value to trying and failing,” she said. “When you try something and fail, there’s no disgrace. The disgrace comes when you give up and you haven’t even tried.”
Dr. Harvey’s story is marked throughout by moments of triumph over seemingly insurmountable obstacles, something she attributes to her intention to live life without regrets.
Originally prepared to attend nursing school straight out of high school, she second-guessed herself the night before classes were to begin and never attended the college.
It wasn’t until she was married with two children that she finally decided it was time to earn her nursing degree. When her husband would come home from his night shift at 3:30 am, he would often find her still up, creating care plans for patients before her 7 am clinical.
“If I thought about everything I had to do, I would have become overwhelmed and I would have wanted to quit,” Dr. Harvey said. “I tried to make really small goals, and I would reward myself at the end of those goals. I could not, I would not, allow myself to look way far down the road.”
If she was in a very difficult med-surg rotation, she would reward herself after the last four weeks by doing something nice for herself or her family—as simple as going to Chuck E. Cheese’s and letting her two little girls play. As a non-traditional student with many obligations, these tiny goals were the key to success for her.
“I really can understand what my students go through,” she said. “When they tell me that they’re juggling, I can relate because I juggled. If you’re motivated you can do it, and I think I’m a testimony to that.”
Nurses, how do you handle the demands of nursing school, work and other obligations? Tell us in the comments section below.