Several weeks ago, we had a party to celebrate our friend Carmen, who you know from the Ultimate Weekly Planner. Carmen (who also happens to be my husband’s brother’s wife’s sister!) just graduated from nursing school.

Carmen’s husband Reuben asked me to give a short talk at her party about how a community of family and friends and church can help a person reach their goal.

As a nurse myself, I thought, Why look farther than nursing school? Nurses are taught to help hurting people reach their goal. What is the goal of a patient in the hospital? Getting to the level of recovery that allows them to leave the hospital and, hopefully, never come back.

So I drew on my experience in heart surgery to suggest that there are four things we can do to help someone in our community, especially someone in distress, or someone in nursing school, which is about the same!

1. Listen

When a patient was referred for heart surgery, the nurse was the first to go visit them. Usually the first question we asked was, “What brought you here?”

There are two reasons we did that. First, although we usually had some information on the patient’s condition, we wanted to hear their perception of it. Second, we wanted them to hear themselves say it. There is almost nothing worse than taking someone to heart surgery if they do not understand what is going on or why they need surgery.

There were likely many times during nursing school that Carmen asked herself, “Why am I here?” One of the best ways to support someone in their journey is to ask them just this question. They need to hear themselves say it.

2. Ask specific, pointed questions.

Possibly the most asked nursing question is, “Are you having any pain right now?” “Can you describe the pain to me?” “Can you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10?” Most people go through a few 10’s in the course of a big journey. Some verbalize constantly, even if the pain is a 3. But others will not share unless you ask.

Life contains much pain. But sometimes we forget to ask people about that pain.

3. Be an advocate and talk to the one who can help.

In heart surgery, pain was a big deal, because if it could not be controlled, it required immediate surgery. So we had to call the doctor to find out what we should do. Morphine? Nitroglycerin? Surgery?

In the same way, taking someone’s case to God in prayer is sometimes the best thing to do.

4. Last of all, when the person can leave the hospital, we celebrate with them.

The longer they were in the hospital, the better the celebration! That is why we celebrated Carmen’s graduation.

People love when we help them celebrate achievements!

Carmen, I know you will be a great nurse. I know you will listen and ask good questions and be an advocate for your patients. I know you will celebrate with them when they get to go home. Congratulations!