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A New Nurse on Life

A New Nurse on Life

Asking What Life is About 

By Emmett Pennington-Guthrie 

Nurses live their lives surrounded by people who are often having “the worst day of their life,” as Audrey Tampake, a senior nursing student, put it. [1] 

This, combined with the possibility of being around death and illness daily, makes the subject of life and its meaning particularly relevant for nurses. 

Consider too that nurses, in particular, spend significant amounts of time connecting with patients, and so are more likely to be psychologically impacted by death than other healthcare providers who spend less time with patients. [2] 

As the conclusion of one study in the European Journal of Palliative Care stated, “With its role in preserving the dignity of, and its commitment to, patients, the nursing profession, besides requiring solid medical training, is fundamentally a humane one.” [3] 

Because of the nature of the nursing profession, it’s important that nurses have a positive outlook on life so that they’re better able to empathize with patients and provide effective care. 

Tampake described that as a nursing student, she has spent hundreds of hours in hospitals and other areas practicing nursing, and this time has influenced her view of life. 

“Someone who’s never been in the hospital before probably has a different understanding of life, and I think that working in the hospital, you learn to appreciate smaller things… You appreciate the smaller things in life because they can make a big difference,” Tampake said. [4] 

Tampake described seeing the difference that things like bathing patients or brushing their teeth can create, saying that even though these are the things that often get overlooked, they “make them feel so much more comfortable,” which is something she appreciates. [5] 

Walla Walla University nursing scrubs. Nurses are especially well suited to comment on life because they deal with every aspect of it daily. Photo by Emmett Pennington-Guthrie

Since entering nursing school, Tampake feels she has a deeper view of what really matters in life. 

“There are people in the hospital who are going through really hard times, whether that’s something that is happening to them they never expected, or something like a chronic condition. I think that it has sort of widened my understanding of things, because I feel like before… I didn’t know there were people out there who have to take 20 medications before they go to school, and it makes you appreciate your life and what you have,” Tampake reflected. [6] 

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What Tampake said is most important in life now is “family and friends, and spending time with the people you love and doing whatever you love.” [7] 

This was something Tampake believed before starting nursing. Now, she describes that she knows more clearly what’s truly important in life. 

Seeing patients in the hospital with family and friends has been a very positive thing for Tampake, especially seeing how it helps patients mentally to see the people they love. 

The nursing perspective on life is impacted largely by the way in which the end of it can be so easily seen. Through this lens, the important parts of life—being around loved ones and doing things you enjoy, as Tampake pointed out—are easier to see clearly. 


  1. Interview with Audrey Tampake, 2/24/22. 
  1. Gama, G., Barbosa, F., & Vieira, M. (2018, July). Meaning of life in nurses caring for patients at the end of life. Spirituality. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Audrey Tampake, 2/24/22. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
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