Jayme Nelson

“For now we see as through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face. Now we know in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known.” —1 Corinthians 13:12

When I was a first year student at Luther College in 1983, I took an aptitude test at Career Planning. I remember walking out of the Centennial Union thinking about the results. While I don’t recall the exact specifics, the gist of the results was that my gifts did not lie in working with people, but with data or numbers or computers. Twenty-three years later I have devoted my life to working with people, both with students and patients. In the 19 years since I’ve graduated from Luther College, I have been a nurse on a busy hospital floor; an operating- room nurse who was taught to assist with cardiac surgery; a transplant nurse specializing in liver, heart, and lung transplantation; a medical paralegal working for a large medical defense firm; and a nurse practitioner in a free clinic serving mainly undocumented immigrants and the working poor. I currently teach at Luther College where my responsibilities include teaching senior nursing students and an ethics course.

All those years ago, I felt very much that I was “seeing through a glass darkly.” I struggled to find “the” thing that I could do to make a living. The one thing that I’ve known since I was young was that I wanted to do something that made a difference in this world. It’s hard to live between the tension of right now and the not yet. It’s easy to be philosophical until one has to face the decision of what am I going to actually “do”! I found that my ability to know what my life held for me vocationally was known to me only in part. Certainly, I had no idea that I would be teaching at my alma mater almost 20 years after I graduated.

In my teaching, I try to weave in teachings about conscience and intuition. Each and every career step gave me some intuitive feelings of “fit”. Sometimes I listened to that inner compass. Sometimes I didn’t. Without fail, those career decisions that were “less than good” occurred when I overrode that internal sense of “good fit” and made career decisions for external reasons, whether it was money, prestige, or power. In each and every good vocational fit, I had an overwhelming intuitive feeling that this was the right thing to do for me. Sometimes those who loved me saw these decisions as simply crazy. Take a one-year teaching job for one-third of my salary with no guarantee of employment after one year? Yet this job was the one that I felt most called to do—most in sync with my desire to make a difference. And this position has given me the most satisfaction of all.

Twenty-one years after I decided to become a nurse and six years after I decided to teach, I feel like I know God’s plan for my life only “in part.” Sometimes I don’t really even know what my profession really is (nurse? teacher?), but I do know what I’m supposed to do in this world, and that is to make some kind of difference. The differences I make are small and simple. I try to make a difference, to inspire integrity and compassion, in my roles as nurse, teacher, nurse practitioner, and friend.

Jayme Nelson