Nurses’ Stories

Liza Leukhardt

Liza Leukhardt RN, BA, MS, is currently a volunteer nurse.

Why did you become a nurse?

I became a nurse when I was almost 40 years old, after experiencing lots of other careers, including teaching, newspaper reporting, and theater costume design. I was one of those people who never knew what they wanted to do when they grew up, although during my adolescence, I had an ongoing fantasy about being a doctor in Africa. When most kids were listening to the Beatles I was driving my mother crazy with African tribal music!

When my daughter was three years old she was diagnosed with leukemia, requiring two long, difficult years of chemo and treatment. My desire to become a nurse grew from both my ability to care for her physically and from an ability to provide comfort to other families with sick and dying children. As soon as I completed nursing school I went to work at Connecticut Hospice, which was the most inspiring and gratifying work of my life. I retired last August after a wonderful 25 year nursing career.

What do you love about nursing?

Most of my work was in hospice care, both inpatient and at home, but I also did some management and education, and ended with five years at a homecare agency doing basic medical nursing. I loved being one of the oldest nurses on the staff! I was delighted to mentor some of the younger nurses and found that my age and experience was a comfort to the older patient population. I thought I would enjoy retirement, but there are days when I really miss my job.

Do you volunteer as a nurse? If so tell us about it. Why is it important to you?

This past January I moved to Ecuador with my now 34 year old daughter (yes, the one who was sick). My daughter and I had taken an exploratory trip last year and fell in love with the beauty of the country. During that trip a devastating earthquake hit the northern coastal area, killing over 600 people. We felt so helpless just being tourists. When an opportunity to return and volunteer for a medical mission presented itself we leaped at the chance. That experience cemented our plan to come and live in Ecuador. It’s absolutely impossible not to fall in love with the Ecuadorian people! They are beautiful, warm and kind, so accepting of us nordeamericanos with all our weird quirks.

Volunteering is an extremely important part of my life. In April I went on a medical mission with a large group, back to the areas which were hit by the earthquake last year. I had been missing my family in the states and feeling a little blue, but being able to work as a nurse again and mentor the Ecuadorian medical students who were a large part of our group totally gave me back my mojo. There is such a joyful connection working in another culture. I often found myself feeling very moved by the dire needs of the communities we were working in, and very gratified at being able to help in even the smallest way. Volunteering feeds my soul.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for nurses?

I think the biggest challenge for nurses these days is the current atmosphere of healthcare being totally financially oriented and politicized in the U.S. Issues such payor source affect home care and hospital staffing, often leading to nurses being understaffed and overworked. When I retired, the homecare agency I worked for was preparing to tighten its belt yet again as new Medicare and Medicaid regulations went into effect. It was part of what influenced my decision to retire sooner rather than later.

What would you like the general public to know about nurses?

I believe the general public already knows that nurses are compassionate and trustworthy. We’re always getting voted the “most trusted profession.” I think that the public is often critical of hospital nurses, unaware of just how much work is going on behind the scenes, and demanding that they be readily available at the touch of a call bell. The general public needs to know that nurses are often understaffed and underpaid. They need to know that every nurse has had to go through rigorous education and testing, and they are constantly being bombarded with the need to learn new procedures, meds, and maintain education requirements. They need to know that we really do all care, that their own outcome as a patient is very closely tied to how gratified we feel as nurses.

What can we all do to elevate the image of nursing?

Recently there was a series of television commercials which portrayed different nurses doing their jobs—a hospice nurse, an ER nurse, a pediatric oncology nurse, etc. They brought a tear to my eye every time as I realized how much heart we all bring to our work. While these were positive images, it seems that social media often is quick to pick up on the negative. Complaints about problem patients, under staffing and the dirtiness of the job often do more to promote the image of a nurse as coarse and uneducated, even though they’re true. National and state nursing associations need to provide support to all nurses, from the highest management to the newest hire. The voice of the nurse needs to be heard in this confusing time in healthcare.

Jill Crook

Jill Crook, RN, BSN works in an Intensive Care Unit, Dialysis Center, as a Circulator in Surgery department, and works in a Post Anesthesia Care Unit.

Why did you become a nurse?

I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. My teacher did a questionnaire when I was in the first grade asking about our aspirations when we got older and I knew then that nursing was the career for me. My mom was a nurse and each night she would tell the stories of her day and how she helped her patients. I guess I thought it was exciting and liked the idea of taking care of others. I also saw this in our everyday life of people calling our house to ask medical advice and stopping her in the store to get advice or counsel. I don’t think I even considered a different career for myself.

What do you love about nursing?

Nursing is a career that I love because it is what I remember from my mom’s stories of helping people. Nursing is daily being a part of a person’s life in the good times and in the bad times. Our job is stressful because you may be in a patient’s room who has just gotten good news and you are rejoicing with them, but in your next patient’s room they may have just received devastating news and they need you to be there to support them through this hard time. Medically we care for the patient, but a lot of the time they want someone who will listen to what they are going through or tell us stories about their life before now. I am reminded of why I love nursing when I hear a patient just knowing who was taking care of them made them feel more at ease.

Do you volunteer as a nurse? If so tell us about it.

I have had the chance to go on two different medical mission trips with Hispaniola Mountain Ministries. My first trip was to Anse-a-Pitres Haiti in 2014. I went with a small group of two doctors, one dentist, and two nurses. Once the people heard that a medical clinic was available they started to gather before daylight in hopes of seeing the doctor. In 2015 I went with my church to Santa Elena Barahona in the Dominican Republic and we provided a medical, vision, and dental clinic to the people. As with Haiti these people gathered early in the morning to see the doctors and get medical attention. It is nothing like we have here in the U.S. meaning we can go to the doctor at any time to get the medical attention we need. These people have to wait until someone comes to them or if they can go to the city to see a doctor. In Haiti and the Dominican Republic the people are so appreciative and loving; they have the sweetest smiles on their face when they see you. This is another reason why I love my job because I am able to help others with their medical needs coupled with helping them with their spiritual needs.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for nurses?

Nursing is important to me because I believe it is what God called me to do. I know he gives each of us gifts and I believe some of my gifts he has given me are having a love for others, being a nurturer, and a good listener. These gifts help me as I work each day. If you don’t love others it becomes just a job and you don’t have the empathy you need to help those who have medical and other needs. Nurturing helps the patients feel comfortable around you and help them to know that they are more than just a number in the hospital. Being a good listener is beneficial with both and patients and the co-workers I work with each day. I want my job as a nurse to be more than just a job, I want to make a difference in the lives of those in whom I come in contact with.

What would you like the general public to know about nurses?

Nursing does have its challenges like nursing burn out, stress, not feeling recognized for the work we do, turnover of nursing staff, and hospitals not being up to national average of nursing pay. Working long hours, weekends away from family, and working holiday along with the high stress of our jobs are causing many nurses to “burn out” and look for other employment opportunities. We also are the ones here day in and day out and feel under recognized for the work we do where a simple thank you would go a long way in feeling appreciated. We spend weeks and months training new staff only for them to find new higher paying jobs creating an endless cycle of nursing turnover where you do not feel the relief from being fully staffed. Finally, nursing pay at smaller local hospitals are not competitive with the national average of pay creating the gap between new hirer pay and pay for those who have worked longer to be shortened.

What can we all do to elevate the image of nursing?

Our local community can help us as nurses by recognizing that we work long hard hours and take time away from our family because we care for others and want to help them. Tell a nurse thank you for their service to the community.

Cindy Scott

Cindy Scott, RN, has been a nurse at CHI St. Alexius Health in The BirthPlace for 41 years. She has witnessed many changes in the department and has grown and adapted as a nurse. She has filled multiple roles during her time as a floor nurse, from doing outpatient education at Well Baby Clinic, to most recently as the maternity/women’s unit primary lactation consultant. Scott is an advocate for education and works with new staff to train them and share her decades of expertise.

Like many nurses, Scott goes above and beyond when assisting and educating new families and her peers. She leads by example and is always willing to assist others.
Throughout her career, Scott has sought out opportunities to learn new techniques and practices so that she can better care for her patients.

In 2016, Scott was recognized by her peers for her outstanding contributions to nursing throughout an active nursing practice.

We are proud to recognize her enduring dedication to the profession of nursing and her selfless service to her patients and colleagues.

She exemplifies her belief that nursing “is an opportunity to impact the health and wellness of the people we serve.”

Debi Mankame

Debi Mankame, MSN, RN, CPON, is a Camp Ronald McDonald volunteer nurse.

While going to school Debi Mankame interned at Miller Children’s Hospital in their Child Life Program and also worked as a co-teacher in a Montessori infant through kindergarten school. After graduating, she began working for Carnival Cruise Line in their Camp Carnival Program. While pondering “what next” while still working for Carnival, she considered everything she had done, and what she loved about each of her jobs. Debi knew working with children was a must–she enjoyed the idea of child life, being a teacher, and caring for others. She realized all of that was nicely tied into nursing so she came home to start a nursing program.

While going through nursing school, a copy of Working Nurse crossed her path. In the magazine was an article written by a Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times volunteer nurse Fran Wiley. Fran’s article was about the joys and rewards of camp nursing. Debi was fascinated, and kept the magazine to remind herself what she wanted to do after finishing nursing school. Debi passed her boards and finished her RN residency at Children’s Hospital Orange County and then finally had time to devote to volunteering. She applied at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times.

At Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, Debi enjoyed seeing families connecting, and watching brave young cancer patients behaving like “normal” kids again. She enjoyed connecting with the amazing young women and men who volunteered their time to allow these families to experience such a life changing event as cancer to have a moment of normalcy.

After her family camp experience, she volunteered at summer camp. Seeing all of the campers being accepted for who they were, not their diagnosis, free to be themselves, Debi wished she could bottle that! After that life changing summer, Debi began requesting a week of her vacation each summer to devote to being at Camp. Upon arriving at Camp she is always greeted with a welcome home and truly feels that is just what camp is – home! Debi says, “Camp is a family that has welcomed me, nurtured me, and really I feel, given me so much more than I have been able to give back.” Debi has also been influential in securing donations of medication for Camp’s Med Shed.

Debi is one of Camp’s nurses honored for her incredible dedication and commitment to Camp in volunteering and her advocacy and help with outreach and recruitment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Cheryl Hodges

Cheryl Hodges is a Registered Nurse and currently working at Hispaniola Mountain Ministries, a non-profit organization ministering in the Dominican Republic.

Why did you become a nurse?

I enjoy caring for people and wanted to make it my career, and it’s turned out well. I’ve been an RN for 23 years.

What do you love about nursing?

I love getting to know people and being a part of their lives. I can touch so many lives in a positive way. I can comfort them when they’re scared. I can encourage them, even on the worst day of their lives, and I love being able to be there for them. I can’t describe it, it’s like God gave me this job to do and trusted me with it, and it’s just amazing to be that person.

Do you volunteer as a nurse? If so tell us about it.

I volunteer as a nurse with Hispaniola Mountain Ministries (HMM). The way I became involved with HMM was that I went on a one week mission trip to the Dominican Republic and one of our projects was providing individuals with access to medical and dental treatments. I saw how different it was there and how fortunate we are to have the ability to receive dental and medical care here–we don’t realize these people in remote areas wait to see someone for treatment, sometimes months, and even years. I enjoy the people, culture and serving God. I felt led to be a part of missions and I’m not sure how it was going to come about and I prayed about it. In October of 2015, I was hired by the director at HMM as an executive assistant. I love working with them. I really wanted to be a part of missions, and now it’s a big part of my life. Currently, I schedule teams to go to the Dominican Republic, get them ready for their trips, answer their questions, ease their nerves and tell them what to expect once they are there.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for nurses?

The biggest challenge is juggling family, job, and having time for yourself. It is hard to balance everything because if you get too busy with work or family, something might fall off. I don’t think the general public understands how vital nurses are to the medical community. If we work in a hospital, let’s say, the doctors aren’t with the patients all the time. They come in and out and rely on us for our assessment skills and knowledge to take care of their patients.

What would you like the general public to know about nurses?

I would like everyone to know that nurses are a strong group of professionals that work really hard, not only to gain their degrees, but use the knowledge they have and hone their skills. The nurses I know are passionate, empathetic, and very knowledgeable.

What can we all do to elevate the image of nursing?

Remember we are human. If we don’t make it to your room right away there is good reason. Sometimes if a patient calls for us, they might not realize we might be busy with another patient. It’s not like we don’t care and it’s not intentional. We love our patients.

Amanda Stewart

Amanda Stewart is a Registered Nurse with her BSN, who is currently attending the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Amanda is a MSN candidate in the Family Nurse Practitioner track at the University.

Why did you become a nurse?

As a young child, Amanda knew she wanted to help people. Her grandmother was in and out of hospitals most of Amanda’s life, so Amanda saw both good and not so good care. She knew what an impact good care can make on the lives of patients.

What do you love about nursing?

Amanda believes there are many careers that allow one to help people, but nursing was the most appealing to her. “The science of the human body is fascinating, and it is constantly evolving. Nurses provide care, support, and serve as an advocate for individuals.” Amanda explained that some of why she loves nursing is that “We see patients at various stages of their life, whether it be welcoming their first born, providing support as a loved one takes their last breath, or any other milestone in between. The opportunities to serve in this field are endless.”

Do you volunteer as a nurse? If so, can you tell us about it?

Amanda has volunteered for several different organizations over the past few years. She worked with a few medical teams providing medical care to underserved villages in North Africa. Most recently, “I was able to serve with a medical team for Hispaniola Mountain Ministries (HMM) in Anse-à-Pitres, an area in southeast Haiti.”

Amanda related that anyone with first-hand knowledge would tell us that the need for the Haitian people is so great. “I found that the people in this particular area were extremely lucky if they were able to eat three times a week. One individual remarked that ‘It is not a matter of waking up and wondering what will I do today. It is a matter of what will I do to survive and get through this day.’”

She said that cholera runs rampant as clean water or water in general is limited in the area. The nearest hospital is two hours away. Over the years, HMM has been able to provide support, supplies and opportunities to the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. “Scott Wilson and the HMM team met us at the airport and began preparing the team upon arrival. Throughout the entire trip Michael Acosta and the HMM staff served with the medical team ensuring we had the necessary supplies.”

“Through HMM, the Good Samaritan School is able to provide an education, two uniforms (including shoes), medical and dental check-ups, one meal a day, and mentoring. It might be easy to get discouraged and feel as though you do not have what you need to care for people when doing international medical trips, but that was not the case when working with HMM.”

“The Haitian people and culture taught me so much in the short amount of time that I was there, and I look forward to returning one day in the future.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

“Providing medical care to the underserved is a life passion of mine.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge for nurses?

Amanda believes that staffing is a huge problem in the nursing field. “There is also an inability to appropriately use resources due to cost considerations and obtaining the necessary approval from insurance companies.”

What would you like the general public to know about nurses? What can we all do to elevate the image of nursing?

“Nursing is significantly more demanding than people realize. However, it is also very rewarding. Consistently providing the highest level of professional care that we can is one way to improve patient outcomes and elevate the image of nursing.”

Howard Booth

“What I love most about being a nurse is being able to realize the instant gratification of helping my patients and families.”

Recently we had the honor of meeting Howard Booth, a nurse with many credentials and certifications to his name. He works as a clinical nurse leader and is certified as a Progressive Care Certified Nurse. Here is what we learned.

Why did you become a nurse?

Howard credits his time as a volunteer at his local hospital as the catalyst for his decision to pursue a career as a registered nurse. The hospital where he worked served people from all walks of life and his experiences were eye opening. “Although I had already come into the assignment with a history of regularly volunteering with disfranchised population groups, the hospital exposed me to the opportunity of helping others in a more focused way,” he said. “In addition to being of low socioeconomic status, the majority of our patients also had low health literacy. I saw that being a nurse meant being efficient at making intimate connections and seamlessly blending both scientific and emotional intelligence.”

What do you love about nursing?

Working in a hospital setting requires me to look at the bigger picture, at the whole patient. This lets us tackle the principle problem that has brought them into the hospital, and equip them with the information, resources and tools they need to take care of themselves once they go home.

How do you volunteer as a nurse?

My volunteering as a nurse comes in the form of participating in quality improvement initiatives on my hospital unit. I have helped design tools for easier communication between physicians and patient’s nurses during rounds as well as quicker ways to recognize the need for and initiate treatment protocols for low blood sugar in our patients.

What is the biggest challenge for nurses?

As healthcare evolves, it is important that nurses embrace our age-old role as patient advocates and ensure that we have a seat at the table. The beauty of our profession is that we are more than bedside care providers. The best way to meet the demands or our ever-evolving role is through education, via degrees and certificates, and by being active in professional organizations.

What would you like the public to know about nursing?

I would like the public to know that nurses are your resource! Whether you encounter us in a school, hospital or clinic you are dealing with a professional who has obtained a structured, rigorous education and license.

What can we do to elevate the image of nursing?

The best thing to do is get to know a nurse! Then educate yourself about our training, education, roles and responsibilities!

Era V. Burgos

“Never be afraid to ask questions – there is no such thing as a stupid question.”

Era Burgos RN BSN CNOR is an operating room RN at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

Why did you become a nurse? My mother was an OR nurse and as a child growing up in the Philippines, I had the privilege of watching surgeries being performed while waiting for my mother to get off work. That sparked my interest in nursing.

What is the most rewarding experience? Most rewarding experience is when I help resuscitate a patient and they survive.

What advice would you give a new nurse? Never be afraid to ask questions – there is no such thing as a stupid question.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing? The image of nurses as sexual stereotypes, being subservient and inferior to physicians, and having inadequate education needs to be changed.

Reagan Alonso

“Find an area of nursing that is interesting and challenging. Develop a career plan and surround yourself with high performers.”

Reagan Alonso, BSN, volunteers three days a week as the head nurse at Volunteers in Medicine, a free health care clinic for the working uninsured in Jacksonville, FL. She currently has over 6,000 volunteer hours.

Why did you become a nurse? Nursing was the kind of work I wanted to perform. As a nurse, I’m a generalist and a specialist in many different areas, and I am able to shape my career around my personal goals so that it makes nursing both interesting and challenging.

What is the most rewarding experience? Nursing has given me the opportunities for mentorship, professional development, travel and understanding cultural diversity. Most rewarding is taking care of critical patients in various locations around the world as a member of surgical/medical brigades.

What advice would you give a new nurse? Aspire to bigger and better things. Find an area of nursing that is interesting and challenging. Develop a career plan and surround yourself with high performers.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing? I would like to see nurses continue to be more unified and supportive of the health care changes and challenges facing this country.

Laura Van Loon

“Go where there is no trail and leave footprints in the snow”

Laura has nursed in a variety of clinical practices and environments for 46 years with one full year off.

She has worked in urban, rural and First Nations communities, including a correctional center, tertiary centers and outpost nursing stations in Canada, plus the hospital in Freeport, Bahamas. In 1975-76, due to an abundance of nurses in Bristol England, Laura stayed home with her newborn baby girl, Lisa. In 1979 (Seth) and 1980 (Adam), two boys joined the Van Loon family in Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan.

Her career led her to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1995. She recalls asking the Nurse Manager during the first day of orientation what organization she could join that involved this new career. The Nurse Manager stood still and thought about it. Then she said, “You will have to join ASPAN (American Society of PeriAnaesthesia Nurses).” Laura remembers quite clearly that she responded, “No, we will have our own Canadian organization.” For a few years Laura remained a member of ASPAN and was so impressed with their journal, Breathline, that she attended ASPAN conferences because of the knowledge she could gain by attending their many workshops and plenaries.

Perhaps that is a memorable moment in her life when she spoke with her Nurse Manager. That one time stands out for Laura as a challenge that steered her to uncharted waters in Canadian nursing history. Laura was elected the Founding Chair and First Provincial President of the PeriAnesthesia Nurses Group of Saskatchewan (PANGS) in 1997 and then the Founding Chair and President of the National Association of PeriAnesthesia Nurses of Canada (NAPANc) in 2002.

Chairing and co-chairing committees such as the National Standards Committee (2003-2015) and releasing three editions of NAPANc Standards for Practice was a time-consuming, fulfilling experience that addressed the various environments and sub-specialties in the perianesthesia field.

With the share of the profit from the first international conference in 2011, NAPANc was able to apply to the Canadian Nurse Association, (CNA) Ottawa, Ontario for consideration in developing a perianesthesia examination that would result in registered nurses in this specialized area writing and obtaining credentialing at the highest level of their nursing practice. Laura was privileged to be on the Certification Committee in preparation of the examination questions. These memorable experiences, including weeks of work by Skype and in person at Ottawa headquarters, receiving authorization as the 20th national nursing specialty group from the CNA and being part of a nursing legacy continued to enhance Laura’s knowledge and feeling of accomplishment.

With the development of the International Collaboration of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ICPAN, Inc.), the Canadian membership, NAPANc, hosted the first ICPAN Conference in Toronto in 2011. Laura was pleased to be on the Conference Committee and has remained a member of further conference groups in Dublin and Copenhagen. Currently, as the Secretary for the ICPAN, Inc. Board of Directors (incorporated 2013) Laura has truly enjoyed the satisfaction and enthusiasm of being present with members and adherents from 22 countries at the various conferences. Recently her thoughts have turned to wondering what her role will be at the 2017 Australian Conference. Presenter? Session chair? Beach bum?

Following early retirement, Laura completed the Parish Nursing Ministry education from InterChurch Health Ministries of Canada (ICHM) and commenced a working position with her church in Saskatoon. At the same time, she continues to work as an Occupational Health Nurse, a traveling phlebotomist and an agency nurse in private, hospital and industrial settings.

Her volunteer work remains in the local, provincial, national and international fields of perianesthesia nursing, the Canadian Club of Saskatoon (President), the Soroptimist International Chapter of Saskatoon (President), InterChurch Health Ministries (Convenor), Board Member of Sunshine Housing, Inc. for Intellectually Disabled adults and Vice-President of Cheshire Homes of Saskatoon for physically disabled young adults.

From 1982-1996, Laura volunteered for Canadian Parents for French, an organization that promotes French Second Language (FSL) learning through French Immersion and Core French. As the President provincially and nationally, she was responsible for helping several parent groups and school boards to investigate, develop and implement French Immersion programs. With the Bronfman Foundation’s support, Laura researched, developed and implemented the template for “Rendez-Vous” at the University of Regina, a week-end conference for grade 7 and 8 French Immersion students from around the province of Saskatchewan. The week-end became a national success and has continued annually in several provinces. Another successful youth program she helped to establish was expanding “Encounters With Canada” program to include one week in a thirteen week cycle for French First Language, French Immersion and Core French high school students at the Terry Fox Center in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Success has been accomplished through growth and sustainability in Canada, and she hopes to establish Grandparents for French to support and encourage the next generation of French Immersion students.

In conclusion she recommends that everyone should support one another, be kind, ask how you can help, volunteer, be the best you can and serve with a glad heart. Always accept challenges and for heavens sake, never say “I’m bored.” The world is an open book and there are many roads to travel, thousands of opportunities in a lifetime that you can accept or reject. You may never know what the ripple effect from your nursing care will be, but let it be the best you can offer!

Erin Burgos

“I love that there are so many routes you can take in this profession, and that the profession is ever-changing.”

Erin Burgos started her residency program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and currently works in the Pediatric ICU.

Why did you become a nurse?
I think my answer for this would be two-fold. I originally chose nursing as a profession because of my own experiences as a patient at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I had severe scoliosis as a child and wore a Boston back brace throughout middle school and it was really hard for me both physically and emotionally. I felt that every time I came to the hospital, my nurses really cared about me. That experience first sparked my interest in nursing and I went on to volunteer at my local hospital in high school and that was where I had my first hands-on experiences with patients. I love nursing because it’s a profession that combines two things I am passionate about- caring for others and science. I love that there are so many routes you can take in this profession, and that the profession is ever-changing.

What is the most rewarding experience?
I think the most rewarding experience as a nurse is leaving the hospital each day knowing that I hopefully helped made an impact on the lives of an individual and his/her family- it’s simple 🙂

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I am a new nurse myself, but a few pieces of job advice I would give soon-to-be graduating nurses would be to keep an open mind with applying to hospitals/residency programs, apply EVERYWHERE and tailor each hospital application to that particular hospital and unit, practice interviewing with a friend, and to seize as many opportunities as you can in nursing school to do unique opportunities that set you apart from other candidates.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I would definitely want the world to know how amazing nurses are – they are leaders, innovators, researchers, inventors, cheerleaders, advocates, teachers, and SO much more. I feel like people don’t know how awesome nurses are to their full capacity!

Denise Richards

“Being the patient’s advocate during a very vulnerable time for them, being part of the team in the surgical suite and critical thinking all appealed to me from the minute I donned scrub attire.”

Denise Richards, RN, BSN is a nurse manager in surgery at the Spectrum Health Blodgett Campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is a volunteer nurse with Operation Smile.

Why did you become a nurse?
My mom was a nurse and a great inspiration to me, but I think I really chose nursing for its versatility. The profession of nursing offers so many career paths, from bedside nursing, to nursing education, to administration. Even “bedside” nursing has options from critical care areas, to my favorite, surgery! Even during my education I loved the OR. Being the patient’s advocate during a very vulnerable time for them, being part of the team in the surgical suite and critical thinking all appealed to me from the minute I donned scrub attire.

What is the most rewarding experience?
In my “every day job” as a nurse manager, I feel privileged to lead a staff of very talented professionals. My goal is to support them, so they are abled to give exceptional patient care. I also remain connected to my clinical roots by circulating in the OR. As a circulator the most rewarding experience happens every time I talk to a patient before surgery, and can reassure them as they go off to sleep that we are going to take great care of them.

Outside of my actual employment at Spectrum Health, I have volunteered on numerous mission experiences. This is a true passion of mine, and as you can imagine very rewarding. I have been to South America, Africa, India and China with the organization Operation Smile. This is an amazing mission that literally restores smiles not only to the patients we treat, but to their families, and whole communities. I also had a mission experience to Haiti, two weeks after the earthquake in 2010, with orthopedic surgeons from my hospital. This was a much more difficult mission in all respects, compared to my Operation Smile missions. Despite the devastation, and in many cases tragic outcomes, it was rewarding to be able to help during this time.

When I return from mission trips, I commonly hear “I don’t know how you do that.” My thought is “why wouldn’t I do this”! I am trained as an OR nurse, and basically do the same thing in these countries as I do at home……with a few less “comforts.” With the support of my husband and family, I think it is amazing I GET to do it!

What advice would you give a new nurse?
As we progress in our careers, it is easy to forget why we made the choice to become a nurse. Always remember the true reason you chose this profession. At some level you wanted to care for people. Don’t get pulled in and frustrated about less desirable shifts, staffing issues, hospital “rules” and requirements. Bring it back to WHY you chose this profession. Much of what seems like just rules is really about doing what is best for your patient. Look beyond what you perceive to be “more work,” and see that it is benefiting your patient. Also, come to terms with the fact health care is a business. We as nurses don’t like to think of it in that way, but the fact of the matter is we all need to be conscious of health care costs and do our part to keep costs down for our patients.
What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
Having a mom who was a nurse, I heard stories about nursing 50 years ago. We have come a long way, as nursing is a much more respected profession now. I feel this is due to changes in nursing education and professional nursing associations. I think nursing needs to shake the image of being a “low tech” and “passive profession.” Nurses collaborate with other members of the health care team, in a way that is anything but passive. There are also certainly high tech areas of nursing, but it is combined with human compassion and relationships. What a great combination!

Meg Bumpstead

“I always speak up and always ask questions and after 25+ years in nursing, I still learn something new most days.”
In 2011, Meg co-founded a company in Australia, Clear Ears, with another nurse to provide improved access for ear wax management by microsuction and curettage. Previously in Australia, microsuction and curettage techniques were only performed by ENT doctors, which meant people had a long wait or could not get access to this procedure at all. Clear Ears is in its 5th year of operations and now has clinics in seven locations in Melbourne, and developed and provides Australia’s first accredited training program for Aural Care to registered nurses, audiologists and medical practitioners.
As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Anesthetics and PACU, Meg provides direct clinical care to patients undergoing anesthesia or recovering from anesthesia and hold a leadership role in coordinating PACU, educating, and mentoring staff. The unit she works in provides surgical services for both emergency and elective procedures across all specialties including maternity and pediatrics in 12 operating theatres and a 20 bay PACU.
Why did you become a nurse?
I come from a family of nurses who would come home often exhausted but always with exciting stories and an obvious love and passion for their work. The positive impact they made every day on other people’s lives inspired me.

What is the most rewarding experience?
The Aid missions to Vanuatu I have participated in stand out as the most rewarding experience. Not only do you get to be a part of a selfless team that makes an incredibly positive impact on the lives of the patients treated, but also the opportunity to teach local nurses new skills so that they may continue to provide specialist care to their community is truly satisfying.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
Nursing can be daunting, exhausting and thankless at times, BUT, I have tried many other jobs and no other job has given me the joy or sense of satisfaction that nursing brings. Always speak up and always ask questions, after 25+ years in nursing, I still learn something new most days.
What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
The perception is that nurses only work under the supervision and orders of doctors. Nurses are educated professionals that often work autonomously, as well as an integral part of the health care team.

Heather Siostmann

“Having a parent and family tell you they are so glad you are their nurse that day is about as good as it gets.”

Heather Soistmann MSN, RN, CPN, CPHON has been a pediatric hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant nurse for most of her career.
Why did you become a nurse?
I was apparently very little when I made that decision, according to my parents. I don’t ever remember talking or thinking about doing anything else. I credit my Aunt Carol, who is a nurse, and has always been an amazing role model for me. My mother was a strong influence due to her love of biology, attention to detail, and caring spirit. My father was influential because he had an amazing way of connecting with people, really caring for them, and was very dedicated to his family and community.

I have been a pediatric hematology/oncology/bone marrow transplant nurse for most of my career. A few years ago, I moved to a children’s hospital’s float team. I made this move when I started as a clinical instructor for undergraduate pediatric students and realized I knew nothing outside of my little hematology/oncology world.

As a member of the float team, I call every morning before work to hear where I will be working. It could be almost any unit in the hospital. To do this, you have to maintain a large skill set, be adaptable, know staff everywhere, and be really good at finding things on every unit in the hospital. I could work eight hours in our emergency department then float to the pediatric intensive care unit, work at one of our five network care sites, or I may be orienting new staff or working with a nursing student on any number of inpatient units.

I earned my bachelor’s in nursing from Loyola University of Chicago, a Master’s in nursing education from Regis University (in Denver, CO), and am currently enrolled in a pediatric nursing research doctorate of philosophy degree program at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I maintain certification as a certified pediatric nurse (CPN) and certified pediatric hematology oncology nurse (CPHON) and provider status in basic life support (BLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS), adult cardiac life support (ACLS), and chemotherapy and biotherapy administration. I am a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, Sigma Theta Tau Alpha Kappa Chapter, and Sigma Theta Tau Nu Chapter. I am also a member of the Southern Nursing Research Society and the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Research (and am a student representative on a committee). Lastly, I am a member of the Association of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurses and Society of Pediatric Nurses.

What is the most rewarding experience?
You are asking a nurse to limit a career of rewarding minutes, hours, days to one experience?! That is impossible! Every day I am trusted with someone’s child is a rewarding day. Perhaps the most honoring times have been during end of life care for children. Though treatments have come a long way during my nursing career in hematology/oncology /BMT, we do not have a 100% cure rate. Having a parent and family tell you they are so glad you are their nurse that day is about as good as it gets. It is a privilege to be able to help a child die with dignity surrounded by their family. Many rewarding experiences are very little things, like having your patient tell you they are happy you are their nurse again, or having a medical provider say, “I am glad you have that patient.”

What advice would you give a new nurse?
Work-Life Balance! You will not make it long if you do not have a way to process all the crazy things you see! If you are having a particularly rough shift – step outside, literally go outside, even if less than five minutes. Seeing stars or feeling the sun on your face or the rain on your scrubs will get you through your next few hours. Our jobs are never ending, so never be lazy, but never feel bad you cannot get to everything – that is why the next shift is showing up – to keep the circus going!

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I am always proud nurses are voted one of the most trusted professions every year. I think the image of nursing is difficult to understand unless you have had personal experiences with yourself or a loved one needing the help of a nurse. As a pediatric nurse, I wish all the little children would be able to understand we are doing things to help make them better, even if it hurts when we do those things.

Mamta Shah

“Take time to hold a patient’s hand and be present. That is what is important in the end.”

Mamta Shah works at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.
Why did you become a nurse?
I became a nurse because I love health promotion and educating patients to maintain or improve their health.

What is the most rewarding experience?
My most memorable experience was in Deesa, India when I was volunteering as a nurse on an Operation Smile mission. My parents came to help translate as we were having issues with pre-surgical NPO status. My Asian parents had always pushed me to become a physician. It was at that moment they realized what it means to be a nurse. Ever since that day, they would call me the “Mother Theresa” of the family. My parents have given me so much in life, but that was the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received. On that mission, my father said, “I grew up in India, but I never was so close to how the poor lived.” One little boy came to him crying, he was afraid to use the bathroom. The child’s father explained, “We live in a barn with animals. My son is afraid of all the people and has never used an indoor bathroom. Could we please go outside to use the bathroom?” I looked up to see the tears streaming down my father’s face as he translated for me.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I would tell a new nurse to be present. As a new nurse, I tried to learn about medications, side effects, illnesses, labs, etc. Take time to hold a patient’s hand and be present. That is what is important in the end.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I think the image of nursing has been changing since I started as a nurse 24 years ago. We are so many things: researchers, educators, problem solvers to name a few. I love that we are more and more respected for our opinions. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of a team.

Amanda Judd

“The most rewarding moments are when patients or families are willing to share their stories.”

Amanda Judd, BA, BSN, MSN-FNP works as a critical care nurse with the Centura Health System in Denver, Colorado, a clinical instructor, a global medical mission volunteer, and is in the process of transitioning to a Family Nurse Practitioner role.
Why did I become a nurse?
As an anthropology student, I found myself working on a case study in the Yucatan at the home of the president of a small village. This project included listening to the stories of the needs and struggles of the people. It came to light that there was no medicine in the town. I immediately realized that if I pursued anthropology further I would have knowledge of people’s challenges, but no real-life skills to help people. It was a catastrophic realization that completely derailed my plans to go on to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology. I finished up my bachelors feeling directionless and lost. As time went by, I found myself inspired by nurses. Nurses are caregivers. Nurses know their patients. A wise clinical instructor once told me that people come to hospitals not to be treated by doctors, but to be cared for by nurses. I knew then that I must become a nurse. Additionally, it became evident to me that when I visited nurse practitioners, they were almost always more holistic than any other providers that I visited. Nurse practitioners treat the patient, not just the disease. So, my ultimate goal was to become a nurse practitioner. The caveat was that I would take as many opportunities that I could to do global health so that I could help people like the ones that I met in Yucatan who had no other options.

What is the most rewarding experience?
Nurses are privy to confidential medical information. This knowledge is part of our job, but it rarely paints the whole picture. The most rewarding moments are when patients or families are willing to share their stories. To me, allowing me into my patient’s lives as a nurse is a sacred privilege that is not always offered, but is a gift when it is given. The human connection is a critical part of why nursing is considered a healing profession and I am honored when people let me be a part of their journey.

What advice would you give to a new nurse?
There will be times of self-doubt and wondering why you are a nurse. We’ve all been there, but do not give up. Keep learning and trying and you will find that nursing is one of the few careers that is satisfying. Whether you’ve been nursing for three months or 30 years, you will always continue to learn and grow.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I would like to never hear another nurse say, “I’m just a nurse.” Nurses should be seen as the educated health care professionals that we are. Physicians, nutritionists, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and many others are our colleagues. We work hard as a team to provide care and deserve the same respect that our colleagues are afforded.

Elise Peterson

“There is no greater reward than educating the next crew of nurses that I am happy will be my colleagues in the near future.”
Elise Peterson, MSN, MPH, BSN, RN, CPN, a nurse for 16 years, is an affiliate faculty teacher at Regis University working with undergraduate nursing students, as well as an independent contract instructor for Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support classes sponsored by the American Heart Association. She also serves as a pediatric nurse reviewer for legal medical cases.
She is an international medical volunteer and has served on many trips overseas. She has acted as a nurse in different settings such as the operating room, recovery room, clinic and intensive care units with adults and pediatric patients. She has served in Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya and India so far.
Why did you become a nurse?
I love science and I love people. I figured what better way to meld the two than enter into the field of health care. Nursing resonated with me because of the endless career opportunities and non-traditional work environments. I knew from an early age that I would not be able to sit behind a desk every day. I needed constant learning stimulation and I liked applied sciences—everything that nursing is!

What is the most rewarding experience?
I have two. 1) Taking care of critically ill pediatric patients and their families in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) environment. There is nothing that can prepare you for the shear critical thinking, knowledge, tasks and skills it takes to function in a PICU setting. The vulnerability, family dynamics and extreme stress that these patients and their families undergo is impressive. Being able to care for them in these conditions is a privilege and an honor. Children have a resiliency that keeps us all going! 2) Teaching nursing students. There is no greater reward than educating the next crew of nurses that I am happy will be my colleagues in the near future. Their drive, curiosity and pliability to learn new things astound me on a daily basis. Students have the ability to keep learning outside of the hospital walls that I am most comfortable in!

What advice would you give a new nurse?
Be open to new experiences, never become complacent and put quality and safety first every single day. Compassion, assertiveness and kindness are key ingredients to functioning as an autonomous nurse. Remember that your patients are someone’s child, mother, father, sister or brother. Treat your patients like you would like a member of your family or best friend to be treated. This small saying has worked wonders for me over the years.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
The general public does not know what we actually do until they need us! The misconceptions about what we actually do, rather than what everyone thinks we do is astounding. I would like to see the image of nursing change to highlight the intelligent, hardworking and sound work force that we are. In the intensive care unit environment the critical thinking, judgement and analytical skills far surpass what any of us can imagine if we have never been in that setting. There are a variety of types of nurses and the specialties are boundless. It truly is a profession that is strong and growing—with the best interest of others at its core.

Bente Buch

“My most rewarding experience is looking my patients in the eye and knowing that they feel I can help them.”

Bente Buch, RN, BSN, M.A., is a recovery nurse at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark and an education consultant.

Please tell us where you work and what you do.
I work at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen Denmark, as a Recovery Nurse and I work in the same region as an Education Consultant. I’m either teaching and/or caring for patients every other week. I’m represented in The Danish Association of Anesthesia, Intensive Care and Recovery Nurses​ (Board of Directors) and International Collaboration of PeriAnaesthesia Nurses (Global Advisory Council)
Why did you become a nurse?
My father died when I was 17 years old. He was a fireman. He was in ICU and he tried to hide that he was severely sick, but as I told him “you can’t hide this from me after all I’m going to be a nurse.” I was impressed and drawn to the profession and the environment at the hospital. At that point, at only 17 years old, I made a promise and my decision was made.
What is the most rewarding experience?
There are so many to choose from, but the most rewarding is looking the patients in the eye and knowing that they feel you can help them. Also, teaching the nurses and increasing their knowledge. To be part of developing an international collaboration and work with PeriAnaesthesia nurses from all over the world and hosting an international conference called the International Conference for PeriAnaesthesia Nurses (ICPAN).
What advice would you give a new nurse?
Be prepared for everything, everywhere, anytime and learn.
What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I would like nursing as a profession, to base knowledge on evidence. And I would like to get rid of the image as low paid workers, i.e. get better paid for the long hours, for working Christmas/holidays, and the great job we do for the patients and their family.

Kara Amano

“Skills and procedures can be learned, but the heart behind what we do cannot be taught.”
Kara Amano, RN, works on the Hematology floor at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif.
Why did you become a nurse?
When I was in high school, I decided to try volunteering at a local children’s hospital. Interacting with the families and patients there and hearing their stories changed my life and inspired me to pursue nursing. During nursing school, my friend’s sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Seeing her family go through the journey to beat cancer inspired me to specialize in oncology nursing.

What is the most rewarding experience?
The most rewarding experience is seeing patients return to visit the floor when they are doing well. There have been several patients that underwent chemotherapy and stem cell transplants on our floor who have come by months later to see us. Often, our patients spend months on our floor, so we get to know them and their families well. It is so rewarding to see them return healthy, cancer free, and thriving.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I would tell any new nurses what an older, more experienced nurse once told me when I was shadowing her during my nursing school rotation. She told me that skills and procedures can be learned, but the heart behind what we do cannot be taught. I would encourage new nurses to always remember to listen to the patients, care for them, and keep in mind that they could be going through the most difficult season of their lives.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
Regarding the image of nursing, I think that it has improved over the years. I would like people to realize that nurses are well educated and function in different roles to provide/coordinate good care of their patients.

Frankie Snyder

“I really do love most aspects of my work, but the knowledge that my care is an important contribution to the success of each patient’s surgery is what I find fulfilling.”

Frankie Synder, BSN, RN, CNOR, is an operating room nurse working at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, WA.

Why did you become a nurse?
I truly feel that nursing in general, and OR nursing in particular, chose me.

My mother had been a surgical nurse in the late 1930s and she often told me fascinating stories about her work. The summer before college, when I needed to find a job, my employment opportunities were basically limited to fast food or a local nursing home. I chose the nursing home and became an aide there. I really enjoyed the work and the staff was very open to teaching me as much as I wanted to learn. I had great fun getting to know, and grew to love, the elderly residents of that facility. I learned many life lessons while caring for them and assisting with their physical needs. I learned a sense of pride for a job well done. And I learned how good I felt when something I did to help another person made that person feel dignified and cared for.

When I left for college that September I had no idea what to major in. Between my mother’s stories and my summer experiences I figured why not give nursing a try? Four years later, I graduated from nursing school – in 1976. Back then, when we took our boards, we had to wait up to 8 weeks for the results to be returned. As “graduate nurses” but not yet fully licensed RNs, our scope of practice was limited so the hospital set up an internship program for us. We chose a few units we wanted to experience and they rotated us every 2 weeks. My second rotation was in the operating room and that was it for me! I knew I was where I wanted to be. I spent the next year being taught how to scrub and circulate in all the surgical subspecialties. Fast forward – I have now been an OR nurse for 40 years! And I’ve never wanted to do anything else.

What is the most rewarding experience?
I really do love most aspects of my work, but the knowledge that my care is an important contribution to the success of each patient’s surgery is what I find fulfilling. I touch my patients and their families at a time when they are most vulnerable and frightened. No more so then when parents hand their precious child over to me. All the reassuring words are said but what really connects is unsaid – the eye contact, the look that lets them know I will care for their child as if she were my own. I work hard to earn that kind of trust. It is always uplifting to me when I swing back through the PACU to drop off a patient and see a previous patient, or a parent, with a more relaxed face – obviously glad their ordeal is over with. This is a very human phenomenon and one that I have witnessed no matter where I have worked in the world. I always feel a sense of satisfaction to have been a part of their successful experience.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I love working with the younger OR nurses. They are so smart and adaptable – and they have grit! Their professional judgment and critical thinking skills are admirable! It seems as if every day there are new challenges and it’s inspiring to watch my young colleagues buckle down and roll with the changes. It gives me real pleasure to know that my chosen profession is in such great hands!

Having said that, I guess there is one piece of advice I can offer: Ours is a career that never gets stale because there’s always something new to learn. I love that! And learning from each other is a huge component of this. As I approach my retirement, I would have to say: learn everything you can from the experience of seasoned nurses before they move on. I have seen huge advancements in technology and practices in caring for surgical patients! During my career I’ve witnessed the transition from open surgeries to laparoscopic techniques, less invasive vascular, cardiac and neurosurgery procedures, and the introduction of computer technologies into the operating room. I’ve also seen some amazing things accomplished through the use of very simple technology. Believe me, we “experienced” nurses have seen it all and have much knowledge to share!

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I feel that the public in general has a high regard for the nursing profession. We care for and care about our patients and their families. It’s what we do and the public knows that. But I am worried that our professional reputation is in danger of slipping a little as the care balance is shifting from spending time with our patients to devoting more time charting and gathering data. More of these types of demands are being added on what seems like a daily basis. This type of technology is not usually very patient friendly and the patients are beginning to notice. In order to get it all done we work very fast – usually efficiently but definitely fast. Patients feel rushed. They notice less eye contact, less personal contact and they don’t feel listened to. Nurses are experiencing more stress and frustration. I hold out hope that a healthy balance can be found.

I do want to say that I have concerns about the image and perception of surgical nursing. I regret that it is not more valued as a career choice within the nursing profession. I feel that there is a lack of understanding among our colleagues as to what we do. I have even heard other nurses say that what we do is not “real nursing.” I find this frustrating but somewhat understandable. As surgical nurses, the work we do is “behind the scenes” – not witnessed or celebrated by others. Our nursing colleagues have no exposure to our work, and as a result they have little understanding of the complexity of our practice. Most nursing schools do not offer students any exposure to the OR. Consequently, new grads do not choose surgical nursing as a career path and it becomes difficult to find and hire trained OR nurses. Even those who benefit from our care, our patients, do not know what that care involves. My interaction with a patient is brief while he is awake pre-surgery. But my skillful attention is focused on only him during the entirety of his surgery. If I do my job well, he will have an uneventful experience – and probably won’t even remember meeting me.
____

I have to say that my career has been quite the ride! I’ve worked in hospitals in the US and Canada and through my work with ReSurge. I’ve been given the opportunity and privilege of experiencing health care systems in several developing countries. We nurses are so fortunate in that we fully know a basic truth: we are all human beings and our needs are exactly the same. As one of my foreign colleagues once said, “We all have blood on the inside.” Yes, we do! And we all want to be happy and healthy. We want the opportunity to be productive and provide for our families. We love our children and want the best life for them. And no matter where you are in the world, there are nurses giving their patients the best care possible.

Sue Fossum

“I would like to see all nurses actively speak up and become advocates about the issues that affect our patients’ well-being, healthcare in general and our profession of nursing.”

Sue Fossum, RN, BSN, CPAN, 42-year career included a bedside nurse, most of her career in PeriAnestheia Care Unit (PACU) and in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a clinical educator, a nursing researcher, an author, traveling worldwide with teams of plastic surgeons for reconstructive surgery on children, a national president for PACU nurses and involvement in creating an international nursing non-profit for PACU nurses.

Why did I become a nurse?
This is a great question! Actually I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was growing up. Loved animals and still do! When I was a junior in high school I worked as a candy striper on the Air Force Base where my family was stationed. Besides the basic water cart responsibility and filing medical records, I was able to shadow some of the nurses and talk with patients. I enjoyed this immensely and chose to go to Los Angeles County/USC School of Nursing. This was a diploma program and I am thankful for being able to attend this school. We were up in the hospital, involved in patient care our first week of school. The entire three years were patient-focused and hands-on training. When I graduated I felt confident to begin my career as an RN. Making the decision to become a nurse instead of a veterinarian was a critical point in my life and I have been blessed with the nursing career I have had. My 42-year career has included being a bedside nurse, most of my career in PeriAnestheia Care Unit (PACU), but also in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a clinical educator, a nursing researcher, an author, traveling worldwide with teams of plastic surgeons for reconstructive surgery on children, a national president for PACU nurses and involvement in creating an international nursing non-profit for PACU nurses.

What is the most rewarding experience?
This is a very difficult question for me to answer. Over the span of my career I have had the honor to be involved in the care of many patients. Working in the NICU provided me with experiences of being present in the delivery room where each time a baby was born, even if a difficult or involved birth, it was a miracle. In PACU I have had many rewarding experiences with patients and their families when patients are at their most vulnerable state. I have experienced being present and involved in the beginning of life and helping the transition at the end of life.

What I can say is that over the last several years I have been involved with a different side of nursing – having the opportunity to be a leader in two different nursing organizations and being able to set a nursing agenda, that of providing a ‘voice’ for our patients and the nursing profession itself. Advocacy – this has become a most rewarding experience for me.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
Never stop learning. Each day provides opportunities to learn and explore something new. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Taking that step will be rewarding and provide opportunities to expand your career. Become involved with nursing units, department and hospital committees. Be active in your nursing specialty organization. We have both the privilege and responsibility to create an environment of caring, healing and safety that patients’ and families deserve. Your ‘voice’ of advocacy is wanted and needed. Take every opportunity that you can to advocate for your patient.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
Each day, in this complex world of healthcare, we work to save lives and improve patient care – we make a difference. We are the experts.

I would like to see all nurses actively speak up and become advocates about the issues that affect our patients’ well being, healthcare in general and our profession of nursing. So many times you hear someone say ‘I am just a nurse’. We are so much more!! We must embrace the opportunities that are before us – be proactive in planning and creating a vision not only for the patients we care for, but for our profession of nursing and healthcare in general. Our thoughts and actions must be strategic, focusing on building relationships, and giving voice to what we have learned and what we do.

Nursing must not be afraid to collaborate with others – those partnerships build opportunities for education and the support of best practices that can save the lives of thousands. When we collaborate, we can change existing attitudes and promote understanding.

I would like our profession to be known for the care and compassion we provide – but we also need people to recognize nursing for the critical thinking skills and knowledge that we bring to the bedside. We are clinicians, researchers, and educators.

We must speak out to insure that our practice is supported and valued. As individual nurses our voice can be heard and be powerful. As nurses we are in a position to influence the future!

Stella Britcher

“My advice to any new graduate registered nurse would be to find an employer who has a graduate nurse residency program to help bridge them from student to nurse.”

Stella Britcher, RN, BSN, CPN, CNIV, is a Paranesthesia Staff Nurse at The Penn State Hershey Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center.

Why did I become a nurse?
Quite simply I became a nurse, “because I love helping people!” I starting by helping to care for my grandmother who lived down the street from me, and I would go to help her after school when I was in middle school. Then I started babysitting for neighborhood children, which progressed during my high school years, working summers “helping to care for children” at our area Head Start Program. After high school graduation, in 1981, I went to the Academy of Medical Arts and Business in Harrisburg, PA and became a Registered Medical Assistant in 1984. I moved to Europe and worked for the United States Army as an anesthesia technician. I moved back to the U.S. to Virginia and enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College in their nursing program, and graduated with my associate degree in nursing in 1994. In 2004 I enrolled at Penn State University to obtain my bachelor of science (BSN) in nursing degree, which I graduated with 10 years later in 2014. All my education towards my BSN was done while I continued to work full time “because I love helping people!”

What is the most rewarding experience?
I feel it is an honor and a privilege I am given on a daily basis to care for the diverse patient populations as a Paranesthesia Staff Nurse at The Penn State Hershey Medical Center, (HMC), a Level 1 Trauma Center. Our patient populations are from Neonatal Intensive Care to Geriatrics, however, one of the most rewarding experiences I have is when I am asked from friends, and staff at HMC to care for them, their family or friends when they need to have a procedure or surgery.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
My advice to any new graduate registered nurse would be to find an employer who has a graduate nurse residency program to help bridge them from student to nurse. HMC has a Graduate Nurse Residencies Program offered twice each year in July and February. This program is designed for the new graduate nurse who is licensed as an RN which is a year-long and facilitates the transition from student nurse to professional nurse using a myriad of educational techniques. The length of the orientation period will vary between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the unit and/or specialty. During this time, an RN preceptor provides support, encouragement, expertise, and shares in the daily reward and challenges of nursing at Penn State Hershey. Once orientation is complete, the residency continues with required monthly seminars, educational opportunities, and activities that provide an atmosphere of camaraderie where participants celebrate their personal growth, skill development, and self-confidence with one another. These four-hour seminars provide the opportunity for residents to build a supportive network with other nurses who are just beginning their career at Penn State Hershey. The residency is a full-time position that transitions into a full-time staff nurse position. Full pay and benefits are effective the first day of hire. Graduate Nurse Residents are expected to remain full-time on one unit for the entire year of the program, as well as actively participate in all generalized and specialty learning opportunities that are offered.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I would like to eliminate the perception that “nurses eat their young.” I would challenge experienced nurses to embrace new staff to mentor, precept, and coach them to be good clinicians and successful members of your care team through mutual respect and trust, and partner with management to ensure their continued success.

Wendell Alderson

“All patients, no matter what, deserve the same level of care.”

Wendell Alderson, RN, is retired, but works part time as a recovery room nurse at Alhambra Surgery Center and Fort Sutter Surgery Center in Sacramento.

Why did I become a nurse?
I was a senior in high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I would like to volunteer at a local convalescent home in the afternoons after school. I went through some brief training and began spending my afternoons there feeding patients, writing letters for them, and taking them to the activities. I watched the nurses caring for the patients and became interested in what I was seeing. I asked several nurses about their jobs and began to think this might be something I would like to do. This was in 1969. Very few men were going into nursing, and my family was not too excited about the idea. My grandmother who was a nurse thought it was great. It was difficult as there really was not much support for me becoming a nurse. I went to our school nurse and asked her about it. She was very helpful getting me on the right track and courses to do my pre-nursing when I entered college. That is why and how I became a nurse.

What is the most rewarding experience?
This is a difficult question to answer. The rewards are many. I have been a bedside nurse my entire career. I enjoy patient care. I love teaching patients and family. I like making my patients comfortable. I enjoy listening to and finding out about my patients and their families. I have lifelong friendships with several patients and their families. I love it when someone walks up to me outside the hospital and recognizes me for being their nurse. Most of all I like the intimacy of the nurse patient relationship. Where else can you be with someone about to go to surgery, have a procedure, hear devastating news about themselves or their loved ones, be there for the joy of a new life, or experience a patient transition from life to death? Every day is different and I love that as well.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
All patients, no matter what, deserve the same level of care. It is difficult at times to care for some patients, but be aware they have a history that brought them to where they are today. You are only seeing them at probably one of the worst times in their life. Be patient. Take care of yourself as well. You cannot save everyone. You can only do your best.

What would you like to see changed about nursing?
I have been a nurse for 40 years. The changes I have witnessed are hard for me to even grasp at times. Nurses as a profession have come so far. Men are accepted into nursing now more than when I began. Nurses are regarded more as part of the team of health care providers than ever before. Change is inevitable. It is difficult sometimes, but change is good. Try to adapt to the ongoing changes in your profession.

Julie Werner

“The most rewarding experiences occur when you are able to advocate for a patient and help them find their voice to participate in their plan of care.”

Julie Werner, BSN, RN, PCCN is currently working as a nurse manager for the Heart and Vascular Progressive Care Unit, which is a 24 bed integrated unit that cares for floor and IMC level patients.

Why did you become a nurse?
When I graduated from high school, I was undecided about my career path. I floundered for a bit and someone mentioned, “I had the personality and smarts to be a nurse.” I do have an extroverted personality and enjoy helping others, so I decided to enroll in a vocational nursing school to see if this could indeed be my career path. With only a few clinical days under my belt, I knew that nursing was my passion and calling. The amount of satisfaction I felt from making a small difference in someone’s day was the spark I’d been missing when exploring other career options. I finished the vocational nurse program and immediately enrolled into a Registered Nursing program. I’ve been learning ever since and never regretted my decision.

What is the most rewarding experience?
I think the most rewarding experiences occur when you are able to advocate for a patient and help them find their voice to participate in their plan of care. Health care is often a passive experience for patients; and, nothing is more rewarding than having an engaged patient and/or family that makes decisions about their treatment, asks questions, and is actively engaged in learning all they can to optimize their health.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I think new nurses should learn two very important things. First, never stop learning. Every day for the rest of your career you should be actively seeking learning opportunities. When you stop trying to grow and learn in your career, job dissatisfaction and stagnation make what once was a passion into a chore. Secondly, stop worrying so much about mastering skills such as starting IV’s, inserting an NG tube, or drawing blood the first few weeks of orientation. All these skills can be mastered with time and repetition; much as they were mastered by all the new nurses orienting before you. Inherent qualities such as kindness, empathy, and caring, cannot be taught; so, if you possess those virtues on day one of orientation, you’ve already achieved an important accomplishment.

What would you like to see change about the image of nursing?
I want nurses to be seen and respected as professionals. I want the public to understand and realize that patients are admitted to the hospital for nursing care. Patients who require hospitalization are not able to visit the doctor, receive a prescribed treatment, and go home and care for themselves. They need 24 hour monitoring and supervision and care provided by the nurse. I won’t be happy until phrases such as; “oh, you’re only the nurse” or “the nurse is the physician’s handmaiden” are never uttered again. The nursing profession is filled with smart, dynamic, innovative, and inspiring individuals who deserve the respect and admiration of all members of the community they serve.

Jan Phillips

“I love that our profession has the art and science of nursing as part of our approach to patient care.”

Jan Phillips, DNP(c), MSN, RN, CENP, is currently working as the Director of Nursing, Acute Care Services and Interim Director of Nursing, Emergency Services & Care Transitions at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Why did you become a nurse?
I became a nurse because I was interested in a profession where science and interpersonal skills were used to help people. I love that our profession has the art and science of nursing as part of our approach to patient care.

What is the most rewarding experience?
It is a privilege to care for patients and families during a vulnerable time in their lives. It is most rewarding to know I provided comfort, assisted in improving outcomes and kept my patients safe during their stay on my unit when I practiced at the bedside. As a nurse leader, I now have the privilege of touching the careers of nurses and I am passionate about fostering the careers of those I work with and being in a position to remove barriers that hinder them from providing the best care to our patients.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
I advise new nurses to understand their role as a full partner in the care of a patient. The perspective of a nurse is paramount to providing high quality patient care outcomes and new nurses need to not only understand this role, but seize it as their patients’ advocate. The other advice I would offer is to be a life-long learner so the curiosity of a new nurse is always present and the ability to ask questions using critical thinking provides an environment of evidence-based practice.

What would you like to see changed about the image of nursing?
I would like nurses to be viewed as full partners on the health care team. This partnership occurs on the unit with patient level care, in the C-Suite at the organizational level, and in the board room at the community and corporate level.

Dorothy Marsh

“The ANA is pushing for nurses to be represented on boards of health-related agencies. This is an excellent way for nurses to introduce themselves and the profession to the leaders in the community.”

Dorothy Marsh, BSN, MSN, RN, worked in many positions including Brookhaven Lab, the VA and a Cleveland hospital, and created many start-ups during her career.

The challenges to nursing include the lack of clinical sites for student nurses to learn the ABC’s of direct patient care under the tutelage of a seasoned nurse. As impressive as simulations may be, they’re not a substitute of a real person experiencing pain, dyspnea or other symptoms. Can a simulated patient really display the symptoms associated with mental illness? We’re in danger of producing nurses who are proficient with computers, but never touch a patient on the arm and say, “How are you doing today?” I think the answer is internships, which some hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic are already providing.

The recent outcry over the nurse with the “doctor’s stethoscope” is a good example of the way social media can be used to elevate the perception of nurses. The ANA is pushing for nurses to be represented on boards of health-related agencies. This is an excellent way for nurses to introduce themselves and the profession to the leaders in the community. Network with groups outside of the nursing profession, such as League of Women Voters, “Leadership” groups in cities associated with the Association of Leadership Professionals (ALP), partisan political group, and college alumni.

It’s the duty of all experienced nurses to mentor and nurture those who come behind. This includes not only day-to-day working relationships on the units, but encouraging younger nurses to be a part of their nursing organizations, both ANA and specialty groups. I’ve certainly tried to do this over the course of my career and have been gratified to see some of my young ones go on to become fine nurses and leaders. The old “each one teach one” carried a bit further.

Over the years, I’ve been politically active, working for Civil Rights in the 60’s, on the Health Policy Committee of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), working on campaigns. I was Girl Scout leader for many years. After my retirement from the VA, I helped start a Free Clinic here in Akron, which has grown incredibly. I retired from being the administrative nurse when I became 75, but continued as a staff nurse for a few years, and as a board member of the larger institution. I continue to volunteer as a member of the Legislative Committee of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics, and I’m a member of the Environmental Caucus of the ONA.

The profession of nursing, described as healing the bodies, minds and hearts of patients and their families, is accurate. But I always like to remind people that “doctors are cure; nurses are care” because that’s what we do. We care for you when you’re born, when you die and everywhere in between. I also like the quote from Val Sainsbury: “Nurses dispense comfort, compassion and caring without even a prescription.”

One of my most rewarding experiences happened a long time ago. I had a patient with a necrotic bowel who needed very extensive surgery and was one of the first patients in the country to go home with a total parenteral nutrition. He was hospitalized for a long time, and during that period, his wife gave birth to a child who did not survive. I was able to get an order to take him out of the hospital to attend his child’s funeral. I worked closely with his wife on how to care for his line and administer the TPN, and tried to help both of them with their grieving. When he finally was discharged, they gave me an inexpensive little bracelet with a heart on it that says “Thank You.” I’ve never worn it, but I keep it in a little box and take it out at drawer-cleaning time. Some might say my acceptance was unethical, but I think it would have been unconscionable to refuse it. I’ve saved all the nice notes from patients and families, the poems, and the drawings. I like getting a hug from former patients when I run into them at the grocery store or some place. And most of all, I like to get together with my old comrades-in-arms from the VA and my young comrades from the ONA.

Sue Berger

“As nurses, we have an obligation above all others on the healthcare team to care for the whole patient.”

A nurse for 39 years, Sue Berger, MSN, Ed.D., ANP-BC is currently working as the Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer and Director of Health Services at Cazenovia College in New York.

One of the biggest challenges facing nurses is securing the resources necessary to provide quality care in the manner that patients deserve. Another challenge is advocating for resources to compensate nurses at a level that attracts and retains them within the profession. This starts with our nursing educators.

To elevate the professional perception of nurses, nurses can strive to achieve excellent outcomes on a daily basis — provide extraordinary care in their day-to-day interactions. It’s important to remain vigilant and positive in the face of those whose efforts are intended to undermine the authority that nurses have achieved. Nurturing interdisciplinary and collaborative relationships will elevate the perception of nurses. Outside the profession, nurses can utilize their transferable skills to advance initiatives within their communities, serve on boards and municipal committees, and get involved in charitable organizations.

I do see myself as a role model for future nurses, but also for current nurses who I hope will remain in the profession. There’s a work ethic in my generation of nurses that has served the profession exceptionally well. I hope I have passed that ethic along in my mentoring of other nurses throughout my career.

I have used my nursing skills to volunteer in a number of ways. Examples include: serving community organizations, working at large-scale events as part of a medical team; participating or leading health promotion campaigns; and serving on a governing board for a college or nursing.

Yes, I believe healing the bodies, minds and hearts of patients and their families statement is accurate. As nurses, we have an obligation above all others on the healthcare team to care for the whole patient. For those whose bodies and minds cannot be healed due to disease, nursing compassion is essential to help patients find peace and dignity at end of life and to help families and loved ones begin the healing process.

Jackie Rodriguez

“Nothing compares to sitting by a patient’s bedside and listening to them and acknowledging their fears, or holding their hand in a time of crisis.”

Jackie Rodriguez, MSN, AGACNP-BC (Adult Gerontological acute care nurse practitioner–board certified) is currently working at Holyoke Medical Center in Massachusetts.

In my 11 years of experience as a registered nurse, I have seen the many changes that have happened in the healthcare field that have impacted nurses in many ways. We have entered an unprecedented era of opportunity and transformation in nursing and efforts made on the national level aimed at reducing costs will be the primary drivers of this transformation. A holistic approach to patient care has always been at the forefront of how we care for our patients, but some of those transformations have unfortunately taken the nurse away from the bedside and added additional work that leaves less time for nurses to spend with patients. However, many of the changes have also been positive. Computerized medical records, medication scanning, hourly rounds and bedside rounds have increased patient safety and satisfaction. The biggest challenge that nurses face today is balancing the added demands based on policy and protocol and the human that is on the other side of the medical record.

Nurses have been voted the most honest and ethical profession for 13 years in a row and with that comes great responsibility. In order to continue to provide the best patient care to the more complex patient population we are seeing, we must invest in educational opportunities that increase knowledge as well as elevates the nursing profession. This can include a certification that validates knowledge and experience as well as improving skills. This can also include continuing education, which improves professional competence as well as opening doors to better job opportunities that may require a higher educational degree. More and more healthcare facilities are seeing the benefits of continuing education and are finding realistic ways to help nurses obtain higher degrees while still being part of the workforce.

I think it’s important to give back when you find yourself in a position to do so. Joining a nursing organization that focuses on giving back to the community and mentoring nurses is a great way to do this. Joining the National Association of Hispanic nurses was a great way for me to give back to my community. Our focus is to promote the leadership of nurses through healthcare awareness, advocacy, collaboration and educational advancement. In addition, we focus on delivering competent quality healthcare through community partnerships and pledging to promote health equity within the Hispanic communities in Western Massachusetts. Our hope is to empower nurses to improve the health and well being of individuals, groups, and communities by the use of action-based, culturally sensitive, evidence-based nursing practices. Our chapter is involved in numerous community activities throughout the year, as well as fundraising for nursing scholarships and mentoring nursing students and nurses new to the field.

As a teen mother, I didn’t have many people to look up to or look to for encouragement. As soon as I made the decision to become a nurse I knew that mentoring would be something that I wanted to be involved in. A large part of my nursing organization focuses on mentorship and how we as seasoned nurses can encourage those who are new to the nursing world, and even those who are not sure if becoming a nurse is a goal they can achieve. I hope that I can serve as a role model to those that may have or have had similar circumstances to mine. My statement to those people would be to never give up on your dreams and never give in to those that discourage your dreams.

As nurses, we are entrusted with caring for people at their most vulnerable. Today’s acutely and critically ill patients require sharply tuned alertness and extraordinarily complex care from a team of highly skilled health professionals. Nurses are seeing patients that are sicker than ever. The holistic approach to patient care must go to the next level and include scientific and evidence based knowledge in order for nursing to keep up with the increasing trends in healthcare. However, I still believe that even with all the scientific knowledge we have, nothing compares to sitting by a patient’s bedside and listening to them and acknowledging their fears, or holding their hand in a time of crisis. These are the things that we as nurses are known for, and although with our professional elevation, we at times shy away from these things that remain at the heart of who we are and why we are the most trusted profession.

I have always found that my most memorable experiences have been during a patient’s end of life. It was always an opportunity to get a glimpse into someone’s life and who they were by the love and admiration families had for them. I would hear stories that would make them laugh and cry; and sometimes I would be invited in to share those moments. On the other hand there were those patients that didn’t have families or anyone to come and spend those last precious moments with them. But I was there, and I would always say a prayer for them and let them know that they were not alone. My new journey as a nurse practitioner has taken me to that next level of practice. And although my practice has taken me a little farther from the patients bedside, at the end of the day I’m still a nurse and that experience has been and will always be invaluable to my practice as a nurse practitioner.

Patience Igwe

“The most rewarding experience as a nurse is the ability to smile to a patient and they smile in return.”

Patience Igwe is currently working as a RN for a specialist Long Term Acute Care Hospital.

My journey to nursing is an interesting one born out of the desire to know. People say that everyone has a story. Below is my story to nursing. My name is Patience Igwe. I am a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and recently completed MSN in Nursing Administration. I reside in Columbus, Ohio, the Buckeye State. I have been a medical-surgical nurse with majority of my nursing experience in the Long Term Care Nursing Facilities for about eight years. Currently, I work as a registered nurse (RN) for a specialist Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH). Prior to becoming a nurse, I had close family members die and had very little understanding of their disease conditions. As a mother myself, I wanted to be quite knowledgeable in health conditions so I can better take care of myself, family members and now the patients that I care for at work. The experience has been challenging, but rewarding.

There are many challenges facing the nursing profession. In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing nurses is the patient-to-nurse ratio especially in the Long Term Care Facilities (nursing homes). In most nursing homes, the ratio is between 20-30 patients depending on whether you are in the long term care or skilled nursing unit. Hospitals have gotten better. The patient-to-nurse ratio in the hospitals is about five patients to one nurse in the general nursing floors and about 2-3 patients to one nurse in intensive care units. Even in these cases, the level of patient acuity can be overwhelming even with the relatively smaller numbers. Other challenges include dynamic nursing environmental changes such as technology, tight government regulations, the fear of law suits and inadequate mentoring programs.

Though nurses face a lot of challenges in the work place, a lot has been done to improve the image of nursing ranging from salary, credentialing, autonomy level, scheduling and nursing uniforms, among others. I am one of the nurses who is happy that nurses are no longer required to wear white-only scrubs and a white hat. The advancement of nursing education up to masters, PhD and Advanced Nurse Practitioners levels are some of the ways stakeholders have tried to improve the image of nursing. Salaries have also increased over the years, making the profession attractive and respectable. In my opinion, the influx of men into the profession is largely due to salary improvement. Prior to salary improvement, it used to be only a woman’s job because the pay was nothing to be proud of. Most hospitals have embarked on programs to encourage their nurses to advance their nursing education from being Licensed Practice Nurses to higher levels of nursing education such as BSN, MSN, APN, among others. Nurses are taking advantage of these programs and my place of work has such program in place.

Mentoring of new nurses is very important if a company wants to maintain high retention level of its new nurse hires. I experienced the problems associated with lack or poor mentoring of brand new nurse out of school. The challenges are overwhelming and can be intimidating. Mentoring requires more experienced nurses training new hires. The mentors are nurses with more experiences, patient and like to teach. The mentors should minimize their level of judgment and realize that these new nurses are fresh and want to learn. As a novice, the least thing a new nurse wants to feel is the sense of stupidity from a trainer/mentor especially as people have different ways of learning. I also like to model to a new nurse. For instance, if a new nurse observes that I practice hand washing and use my protective equipments per protocol, he or she will be encouraged to do so. This way, the nurse becomes a better nurse.

Volunteering in areas of need in society is good for everyone, not just for nurses. As a nurse, I find time to volunteer as much as I can. I volunteer in some soup kitchens, in my church and deliver Meals-on-Wheels. Volunteering helps us to step out of our comfort zones to help others in need. It is a great feeling.

Yes, nursing is about healing the body, minds and hearts of patients and their families. Having gone through formal nursing education and gained nursing care experience, this description of nursing as a profession is very true. A simple illustration is that a sick or ill patient is not a happy person. May be there are a few able bodied persons out there who want to depend on somebody else to take complete care of them in all aspects of life. If not, I believe that a healthy, active and independent person is a happy person. A person who has been used to being in control of his or her life will, obviously, not be happy when he or she has to completely depend on somebody else. That is why a lot of patients go into depression. This becomes an important part of nursing to be able to tune-in to patients’ feelings, engage them into communicating their feelings and doing even the simplest thing as rubbing their cold feet to put a smile on their faces. Sometimes, the high patient-nurse ratio and all the demands of nursing make it difficult for us to do those simple things that can put a smile on a patient’s face. We still have to try.

The most rewarding experience as a nurse is the ability to smile to a patient and they smile in return. I know that most patients are not happy when they are in the hospitals or nursing homes. Which sick person will be? It is difficult to be happy when you think of all the thousand things you could be doing outside and here you are stuck in the hospital bed. That is why it is important to show gratitude and help a sick person know that even though we cannot control all things that happen to us, nurses can help put a smile to their not-so-happy faces and place a soft touch to their achy bodies.

This is my story. What is yours? Let us share.

Glenn Buck

“All it takes is one patient, one family member, or a fellow staff member to make us smile and remember why we do this rewarding job.”

Glenn Buck, RN, is currently an ER travel nurse working in Seattle at Swedish Cherry Hill.

The biggest challenge I see in the nursing profession is probably the shortage which affects not only the nursing staff, but also the operating ability of the facilities, the ability of the physician’s to give complete care to the patients and of course the care given to the patient’s themselves. When units are working short staffed, the care given to each individual patient is diminished and not due to the dedication or skills of the nurse, but just because of the sheer number of patient’s that they are required to take care of. It is also more difficult as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and health problems become more complex requiring higher levels of care. The longer nurses work short staffed and are working harder, the shorter amount of time nurses will spend in high stress areas of nursing, therefore leaving less experienced nurses to take care of the sickest most complex patients. This will eventually deplete the amount of nurses overall as many more will leave the profession earlier than they had originally planned. It’s also possible that facilities could be sued more as our society is becoming more and more adept and willing to take anyone or any business to litigation if they feel they’ve been wronged. As nurses work short staffed, even the most skilled and experienced nurses are more prone to make mistakes. This opens the nurse, the physician and the facility up for litigation. Facilities need to treat nurses better, pay us better and staff the units more safely, and if this is the culture that is fostered, I foresee more people entering the nursing profession. Another thing that I think hinders the ability of nurses to take care of their patients is the idea that we are more customer service driven with surveys and handling tasks that are more concerned with patient satisfaction. Many times, it is impossible to make patients and their families happy with their care even though the care has been up to the standard of care. This goes along with the shortage of nurses within the profession.

As far as things that nurses and others can do to elevate the perception of professionalism of nurse’s would be to teach physicians that we are invaluable in the care of the patient’s that physicians are also taking care of. So many nurses feel slighted, unappreciated, disrespected by physicians that treat them like less than a person and often times in front of a patient. This defeats the culture of professionalism both of the nurse and actually the physician and makes the patient feel that the care they are receiving is substandard. Most of the time, physicians are just ordering tests to investigate and then diagnose. Nurses are the professionals that carry out and monitor those interventions and then sometimes suggest a different course of action that may be more beneficial to the patient. Good physicians will take this under advisement, maybe change the direction they are taking towards caring for the patient, or educate the nurse in a professional manner why the original path was taken. Another way maybe that I think is doing a disservice to nurses’ professionalism in the eyes of the public is this idea that a Bachelor RN is a better nurse or better prepared than either an Associate degree nurse or an LPN. I am probably going to upset a lot of nurses, but I disagree with this opinion. In most programs there really isn’t any more intensive clinical instruction for bachelor-prepared nurses. Ethics and leadership are the main focus. In my humble opinion, neither leadership nor ethics can be taught. Requiring nurses to have a BSN and using marketing to the public that touts that all of their nurses are bachelor-prepared nurses gives the public the false perception that any nurse that has less education are somehow less qualified to take care of them. As far as I am concerned, as we continue to work on the job and learn from fellow colleagues, physicians and continuing education is far more valuable than any learning from textbooks. This is by no means a comprehensive list of things that could be done.

I really don’t see myself as a mentor to other nurses. I do, however, aim to help other nurses as much as possible, as well as learn from other nurses every day while taking care of patients. I am always striving to learn more to be able to better take care of my patients. I think that giving back to our local community and to the world at large is the best way to help other’s having a better quality of life through more healthy living. Telling my story about volunteering to other nurses can get them excited about doing something that may have more meaning in their lives. This allows an increased number of people without the ability to have access to good healthcare, to at least be seen by a healthcare professional, get education and hopefully live a healthier life.

I have used my skills in a volunteering capacity. I have been on two volunteer medical missions. I went with an organization called One Nurse At A Time to Belize for a short five day mission taking care of members of three different villages. I performed triage on many patients with many different complaints. I was able to make judgments based on my clinical assessment whether or not patients needed to be seen by a physician or if they could be sent to the pharmacy and get over the counter medication that we brought that was donated by the members of the mission and by other organizations. I was able to, with direction of a physician, suture a 15 year old boy who came in with a machete injury to his hand for harvesting bananas. I recently returned from a two week mission in Guatemala with my 17 year old son, Nicholas with a Seattle based organization called Guatemala Village Health. This organization was started by two physicians in 2007 and they have been taking volunteers, nurses, physicians, physician assistants, dental hygienists and dental assistants at least twice a year since then. They have Guatemalan nationals running programs when they are not there. They have started educational programs in fluoride, composting toilets, planting gardens and healthy eating as well as maternal and baby health. It was very rewarding to see the progress they have achieved, as well as humbling to see how much is still left to be done. The conditions are never good, but it is humbling and rewarding to give of your clinical and compassionate skills to those that do appreciate everything that you do for them. The other overseas work I have done was work for Partners In Health as an Ebola Clinician in Port Loko, Sierra Leone for a month. Traveling overseas and seeing the conditions that people live in every day definitely opens up your eyes to the world around you. I find that returning home from a mission is almost harder than going on the mission. Unless others have gone to similar places and done similar things it’s difficult for friends and family to really understand what you have encountered and the impact that volunteering has on one’s psyche. It recharges you, it changes you and when you return, it’s not long before you are thinking about when and where you can go on your next mission. I recommend that every nurse go on at least one mission. There are many, many opportunities and organizations that travel to many different locations. One Nurse At A Time has a database of organizations, locations, amount of time and cost of missions. A reason that nurses may hesitate to go on a mission is that the cost can be somewhat prohibitive at times. There are many ways that money can be raised to pay for a mission. Many organizations have scholarships available and they just need to be applied for. I have heard of nurses doing a letter writing campaign or talking to local physicians and/or businesses to sponsor them. I did a GoFund me campaign that funded part of my trip. Please don’t let the cost of a trip deter you from going. There are many ways to make it happen.

Going along with the mantra of nursing healing the bodies, hearts and minds of those we take care of and their families, it can definitely be seen in all areas of nursing and particularly in volunteering. When you give of yourself outside of your normal FTE, those lives that you touch and those people that you hold their hand or give them a hug and a smile are so very grateful that you have taken the time out of your own life to help them live a healthier life. I believe that despite the long hours, the missed bathroom breaks, the missed food, the missed time with our family, nurses enter this profession to give of themselves and help to make other’s lives healthier, happier and more fulfilling. All it takes is one patient, one family member, a fellow staff member to make us smile and remember why we do this rewarding job. Volunteering takes this to a whole new level. I challenge nurses who are feeling burnt out, unappreciated and ready to leave the profession or even switch their focus, to go on a mission. They will come back renewed and with a vigor that they can transfer to their patient’s, the families and their fellow staff. To further expand on the above mantra, I feel that as nurses we are the ones who see people at their worst. We are charged with fostering trust in such a short amount of time and in such an intimate way that we must take care of the heart and minds of everyone we come into contact with. I feel that you can heal the body, but unless you touch their heart and mind, they are not whole. Education of patients and their loved ones is a huge part of our everyday life as nurses. It is important that we leave a patient in a better state, physically, mentally and emotionally than they arrived.

Charmayne Halley

“A patient may forget a nurse’s name, but they will never forget how that nurse made them feel.”

Charmayne Halley, LPN, is currently working as a Charge Nurse at Levindale Hebrew Home and Hospital.

One of the biggest challenges facing nursing today, I feel, is a lack of respect as a professional. Physicians, other health care workers, administrators, and even advance practice nurses do not give nurses the respect they truly deserve. As a result, nurses view their voices as limited in health care.

In order to elevate the professional perception of nursing, our voices MUST be heard. Nurses have one of the most powerful voices in the country and as a professional body, be able to demand and see change for our patients and ourselves. We can all come together and work to change our profession that is strong, vocal, with conviction, and able to provoke change for the future.

I have a role to play as a Nurse, and it includes teaching my peers survival skills, guidance, critique, encourage, and create a safe environment where I feel free to be honest.

I used my nursing skills to volunteer while I was in nursing school, but I am working toward volunteering in my community.

A patient may forget a nurse’s name but they will never forget how that nurse made them feel. This provides purpose and meaning in a nurse’s life. Nurses should take a holistic approach to nursing and to their patients. Wholeness or health is a balance of body, mind, spirit, emotions that is unique to every individual. Healing does not always mean a perfect functioning body, a totally clear mind, or being completely happy. A characteristic of a great nurse is the presence with which the nurse moves through all aspects of life, especially with their patients. Nurses must first look at themselves to fully practice holistic healing. Holistic nursing has been called the heart and science of nursing. Doctors and nurses are practicing and embracing, and healing the person as a whole as their goal, so I do believe that nursing is healing the body, mind and heart of the patient today.

Emily Scott

“Nurses have the ability to change people’s lives for the better every day.”

Emily Scott is a labor and delivery nurse in Washington.

I chose nursing because I wanted the ability to change people’s lives for the better every day. I have a previous degree in Peace Studies because I’m a “save the world” type; after finishing that degree I was volunteering in a slum in Kenya when a non-profit group of nurses arrived to offer three days of free medical care to the whole community. I was floored by how desperate people were for basic care, and by how much of a difference those nurses made in only a few days. I knew that nursing would be a fulfilling career for me because I would be able to see the immediate positive effects of my work on a daily basis.

The most rewarding experience of being a nurse has been traveling all over the world and experiencing new cultures while on medical missions. I love my day job as a labor and delivery nurse in Washington, but what lights me up and keeps me passionate about being a nurse is working in the developing world. I have held the hands of Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, delivered undiagnosed twins in Tanzania, and sutured a machete wound in Belize. In addition to the clinical work, I have found common humanity and lifelong friendship with people who live on the other side of the world in completely different circumstances from those in which I was raised. It is humbling to witness how people in much of the world do so much with so little, and it helps me to prioritize what really matters most, both at work and in my life overall.

The most surprising benefit of nursing has been flexibility. Nurses work in a huge variety of areas: every part of the hospital, clinics of all kinds, teaching, humanitarian nursing – you name it. There are so many opportunities to specialize in an area that you’re passionate about. And if you don’t like it, you can try something else! Nurses are also lucky to have flexible options for scheduling, in general; mine allows me to travel more than I could if I worked a regular 9 to 5.

I completed my first disaster response mission, treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. It was one of my proudest moments to be asked to participate in the response to the outbreak with a major non-governmental organization that I greatly admire. I hope this will lead to more opportunities to deploy to disasters, and to continue to hone my skills and expertise as a humanitarian nurse.

I participate in as many international medical missions as I can, usually one or two each year, and I volunteer with One Nurse At A Time. I actually consider my volunteer work to be more at the core of my career than what pays the bills, though my wonderful day job is what makes the rest of it possible.

I would tell someone considering a career in nursing to seek out some nurses that you know, and ask to shadow them for a day at their jobs. Make sure you know what you’re in for before you invest a lot of time and money pursuing it; so much of what nurses do isn’t what we see portrayed on medical shows on TV. I shadowed a friend before I applied to nursing school, and by the end of the day I was hooked. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much responsibility and expertise nurses actually have, and I couldn’t wait to get started myself.

Michael Furline

“The greatest reward for me in nursing is to help an individual in their recovery process medically, emotionally and physically.”

Michael Furline BSN, RN, MBA, is currently working as the Chief Nursing Officer at Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems.

One of the biggest challenges facing the nursing profession, in my opinion, is the variety of ways you can enter the profession in terms of schooling and the lack of a standardized curriculum. There are several paths one can pursue to become a nurse, such as becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN); bachelors or associates degree. Additionally, there is not a universal curriculum of skills and/or philosophy that is taught by every program.

I believe nurses can elevate the professional perception of nurses through a commitment to continued education and lifelong learning; attending seminars, webinars and learning events to further their skills and knowledge to enhance the care they provide.

I see myself as both as a mentor and a role model to future nurses, specifically to males as the field of nursing is predominantly a female field. I also enjoy seeing new graduates grow and develop in there nursing careers as I once was in their shoes of being a novice nurse.

While I have not volunteered as much as I would like to, I find myself volunteering my skills and knowledge to friends and family. Whenever there is a medical question, I’m usually consulted for advice.

I would agree that the profession of nursing is described as healing the bodies, minds and hearts of patients and their families. I am blessed to be in a profession and career that has the ability to touch so many people lives and impact in a positive manner. The greatest reward for me in nursing is to help an individual in their recovery process medically, emotionally and physically.

Earlene Tate

“Nursing allows you to teach, advocate, heal, mentor and counsel.”

Earlene Tate BSN, RN, is currently working as a weekend supervisor at a nonprofit organization of Catholic Charities.

As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a nurse. If someone were to ask me, “Why should I pursue a career in nursing?” I would ask them to take a seat because my list is quite lengthy. Nursing is rewarding for the reason that you can help and care for individuals in their most vulnerable times. Nursing is full of learning and different experiences. Nursing allows you to teach, advocate, heal, mentor and counsel. The nursing profession is so versatile in that there are so many things you can do as a nurse. Nursing provides opportunities for advancement. Nursing allows you to make a difference in the lives of people and within the communities. I see myself as a mentor to other nurses and as a role model to future nurses because I am currently working on my Master’s degree at Stevenson University and will graduate in 2016. My desire is to also obtain a doctorate degree in Nursing within the next four years. I am constantly mentoring to my co-workers about continuing their education in nursing and encouraging the nursing assistants to go to nursing school. I am frequently offering my assistance to others if in need of assistance with school work or on which route to take in their career paths. I am always giving words of encouragement to press forward and advising them if they want something bad enough, then let nothing stop you. No matter what obstacles come your way, what stumbling blocks are in front of you, step over them or walk around them and keep pressing forward until your dream become your reality. I believe that I am a role model to future nurses because I am told by other nurses that it’s because of me that they are going back to school. I was told that I was their inspiration and that is what nursing is all about, caring and inspiring others.

As a nurse, even when you are not at work, you are still a nurse. My family and friends constantly call and ask me questions about their health and inquire about what they need to do. I am honored that they trust me enough to ask me and that they trust my judgment. I do utilize my nursing skills to volunteer within my neighborhood, at church and at various health fairs within several local communities.

To elevate the professional perception of nurses and others both inside and outside the field of medicine is bring back the professional attire and the attitude of caring, compassion, commitment and concern that dates back to Florence Nightingale’s time when nursing focused on important nursing concerns such as hand washing and bedside nursing. Today, most nursing institutions are so focused on the money they generate instead of the quality of care that is provided by nurses. Nurses need to stand out and speak on what the image of nursing is and what it is not instead of relying on the media presentation of what nursing is. Most times when patients interact with staff, they may assume that they are interacting with nurses when they may have just spoke with a medical or nursing assistant. For this reason, nurses need to visibly wear a name badge that states their credentials and inform patients what their role is in the care of the patient. Our professional attire says a lot about us, our personality, our strengths, our knowledge and caring ability. Continuing education, dressing appropriately and conducting ourselves professionally will elevate the nursing profession and the way others see nurses as an important part of the healthcare team.

Nursing is a profession that can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. The biggest challenge facing the nursing profession is the lack of respect from patients, co-workers, administrators and even doctors. Nurses are dedicated, committed, and work very long hours, and are not given the respect they deserve for being an important part of the health care industry. Despite this, being a nurse each day for me has established strong feelings of accomplishments and self-worth that spreads rapidly throughout my body and soul that no average “good deed” has ever accomplished. Nursing exceeds that average deed by far. After each challenge that I have faced, I am left with a positive attitude of purpose, in knowing that I am needed in someone’s life. Knowing this each morning, I am motivated to be the best nurse I can be and it helps me to survive the awaited day ahead of me with a smile.

The nursing profession described as healing the bodies, minds and hearts of patients and their families is an accurate description. I believe Maya Angelou said it best “As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Nurses can’t necessarily remember every patient that passes through their lives. However, nurses do enjoy the time spent caring for their patients and helping their families. As a Registered Nurse, caring words and understanding is what I want my patients to remember about me and the nursing profession.

Linda Sarna

“Nursing is such a diverse and fabulous career with multiple clinical settings and opportunities to specialize.”

Linda Sarna, PhD, RN, FAAN, AOCN, is the Interim Dean at the UCLA School of Nursing, and the Lulu Wolf-Hassenplug Endowed Chair in Nursing.

How did you get involved in a career in nursing?

Initially, my college major was geology. However, after my first field trip breaking up rocks I realized that I would much prefer dealing with people. I had taken the science courses that were prerequisites for the nursing program at UCLA so the switch was not too challenging. Once in the program, I found that I loved what nurses did and had a particular affinity for patients suffering from cancer. I felt that my nursing care could make a difference.

How did you become interested in Oncology and Tobacco Control?

As an oncology nurse, one of my earliest memories was taking care of a young man with end stage lung cancer and it had a profound impact on me. My Master’s Thesis focused on the hopes of terminally ill patients, and I encountered many patients with lung cancer, including women, which was a surprise to me. It would be a decade before lung cancer became the leading cause of cancer death among women. After my doctoral dissertation which focused on older people with lung cancer, I focused my research on the quality of life and symptoms of women with lung cancer. Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among American men and women, and worldwide, still receives inadequate attention in the nursing literature. This early work identified the influence of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke on cancer-related symptoms, comorbidity, and quality of life. As a result, I focused more directly on tobacco use and to the role that nurses could play in treating tobacco dependence, especially in the oncology setting.

Although over 30% of cancer deaths are due to tobacco use, there was little attention to preventing tobacco use or helping people quit smoking when I was in nursing school. Even though it was recognized as the leading cause of preventable death in the world, accounting for more deaths than HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, there was limited nursing research in the area. Evidenced-based interventions and effective policies to reduce tobacco-related disease were identified in 1996, but the implementation is lacking in the US and in many countries in the world. The ultimate goal of my work is to reduce tobacco-related diseases and suffering, especially tobacco-related cancers worldwide, and to enhance the critical but underdeveloped and unrecognized role that nurses can play in tobacco control (prevention, treatment, and reduction of exposure to second-hand smoke). I have had the opportunity to be involved in this work nationally and internationally in Asia, specifically China, and Eastern Europe. In collaboration with the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC), I have been involved in studies in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Hungary to help prepare nurses to help smokers quit. I have had the great fortune to have worked on policy and position statements on tobacco control for nursing organizations, including the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). This work endorsed by the American Nurses Association and the ISNCC, among others, and has helped to shape the profession.

Smoking among nurses is an important barrier to effective nursing intervention for tobacco dependence among patients. As the Principal Investigator for Tobacco Free Nurses (TFN, www.tobaccofreenurses.org), which provided the first ever US program focused on smoking as an issue for the nursing profession, we tested the use of an online program to support quit efforts. TFN was selected as an exemplar by the WHO as the type of program that health professionals could initiate to address factors influencing tobacco control.

I have many publications, including books and book chapters in this area. I was a co-editor of a monograph, produced in collaboration with the World Health Organization, which integrates policy and research efforts of nurses in response to the United Nation’s Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the second ever UN meeting focused on a public health issue. The monograph addresses policy implications that support nurses’ ability to address NCDs in clinical practice, and it provides direction for spearheading and monitoring changes in practice.

What has been the most memorable experience of your Nursing Career?

There are so many. I will list the top three. I think that the ultimate experience which continues to be ongoing is my work my colleague, Dr. Stella Bialous, Associate Professor at UCSF, on the Tobacco Free Nurses initiative which began in 2003 www.tobaccofreenurses.org

Also right up there was the opportunity to analyze data from the Nurses’ Health Study, the largest prospective study of factors influencing women’s health. Going to Harvard was very exciting and our study revealed the extraordinary impact of smoking on female nurses’ survival and quality of life.

Lastly, I would include my opportunity to lead UCLA’s efforts to implement a tobacco-free policy on campus http://healthy.ucla.edu/pod/breathe_well This policy impacted over 37,000 people and I was very excited that as a nurse, I was able to educate my UCLA colleagues about the health dangers about tobacco use as well as the benefits of quitting.

What is the greatest difference between the clinical and administrative side of nursing? How was that transition for you?

In academics, my focus is on preparing new nurses to be caring and competent. The rewards come from students achieving their goals as compared to patients. As an administrator, my focus is on promoting and supporting my faculty rather than my own scholarship. I have many competing priorities but the students and faculty come first.

What are two or three Changes would you like to see in how Nurses are trained today?

1. Every nurse should receive adequate education during their nursing program so that they will feel confident and comfortable in helping patients quit smoking and in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. This should be part of basic nursing education but we found that many nurses as well as graduates in other professions are not adequately prepared.
2. Every School of Nursing should address the health behaviors of student nurses, especially smoking. Healthcare professionals who smoke are less likely to intervene with smokers. I don’t want to lose any more nurses to tobacco-related illness so it is imperative that we support student nurses’ quit efforts.
3. Every nurse should receive their education on a tobacco-free campus. This policy will denormalize tobacco use making it easier for smokers to quit and preventing uptake by the next generations. Nurse educators are in a perfect position to lead this effort.

What advice do you give for students thinking about pursuing a career in nursing?

Nursing is such a diverse and fabulous career with multiple clinical settings and opportunities to specialize. If you do specialize, pick a field that you love and join a nursing organization in that area. For me, oncology nursing and the Oncology Nursing Society have provided so may opportunities to be involved in meaningful work with wonderful people in a variety of disciplines. I would definitely encourage any person entering nursing to seriously consider going on with their education and become an academic. We desperately need PhD prepared faculty to educate future nurses.

Cindy Novak

“My most rewarding experience is the ability to educate and support not only the patients, but their families.”

Cindy Novak, RN, is currently working as a traveling case manager for Protocol.

I chose nursing because it is what I was meant to do with my life.

There are far too many rewarding experiences of being a nurse to narrow it down to any one experience. I suppose the total of all the experiences I have had would be the ability to educate, and support not only the patients, but their families, related to diseases, their processes and management.

The most surprising benefit of nursing is the multitude of nursing fields related to the ever increasing diversity of a nurse’s role in patient care.

For someone considering a career in nursing I would say to keep your mind open accept that when you finish your educational requirements to get your license you are still not done learning. Healthcare is an ever changing growing world that will never be boring. You will never reach a point where you know it all… if you think you have then you need to consider an alternative career.

Jay Andric Reyes

“I have learned that nurses can make a big difference through “the small things” they do at work on a daily basis.”

Jay Reyes, BSN, RN, RAC-CT, C-NE, is currently working as an RN Assessment Coordinator for a skilled nursing facility.

I entered nursing school mainly because of the job security it offers. When my mother migrated here in the U.S., she had learned that there is high demand for nurses with lucrative benefits and compensation. She had encouraged me to try nursing school. After a couple of years in clinical rotations, I fell in love with this profession. I have learned that nurses can make a big difference through “the small things” they do at work on a daily basis. When I made someone’s pain a little less painful, I felt a fulfillment of my purpose.

The most rewarding experience of being a nurse is the ability to influence people to become better healthcare consumers. When I see my patients understand their medical conditions, and how to properly manage and control their diseases, I know I have served my purpose as a nurse.

More than the financial security and multiple career options for nurses, the most remarkable benefit of being a nurse is the self-fulfillment and the happiness it continuously brings to my life. Through this profession, I became a much more mature being with compassion and high regards to life. It is more than a blessing to be able to wake up each day earning a living, while making a difference in someone’s life, making someone’s suffering a little more endurable, or someone’s fear a little less frightening.

The best advice I could give to someone who is considering joining this unique profession is to brace yourself and enjoy your journey. Nursing can be a very lucrative and respected profession; however, it comes at a price. You have to be ready to give up some of your holidays or vacations, or even an 8-hour sleep. Healthcare needs do not follow banking hours; nursing services are required 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

Bryn Miller

“So many opportunities, so little time.”

Bryn Miller, RPN, BSN, MBA, JD, is currently working at BlueShield of California.

I knew that I wanted to be a nurse when I was 5 years old. My mother had been ill for some time and I had an opportunity to see nurses caring for her and the other patients for almost a year by then. I asked one of the nurses whom I particularly admired what I had to do to become a nurse and she told me that “You have to be willing to work hard and you have to make good grades in school.” I told myself I could do that! … and 14 years later, at age 19, I graduated from the first ASN program in California and became a Registered Professional Nurse. Later I returned to school and completed my BSN, MBA and Juris Doctorate.

It seems that I did not choose nursing, it chose me. Simply put: it was what God intended me to do, it was my calling, my “vocation,” my passion and has been for all of my life. My life as a nurse has been so rich, so full, so varied. It would be difficult for me to pick just one experience and “brand” it the most rewarding experience of being a nurse. I have been a community health nurse in Alaska living among the Inuit. I have been an ER and surgical nurse working in a busy trauma unit in LA County. I have worked in both jails and prisons. I have been a consultant doing start-ups and turn-arounds. I have delivered babies, managed a NICU, and Pediatric unit in Orange County, California. I did new business development for Upjohn Pharmaceutical traveling throughout the US, Canada, Germany and Japan. For years my passion has been Behavioral Health. Most recently I have found great satisfaction in managing a Utilization Review Department for BlueShield of California. “So many opportunities, so little time,” is what my friends, family, co-workers and students have heard me say over the years, about nursing as a profession.

One of the most enjoyable benefits of the nursing profession is the variety of specialties available to choose from. Additionally nursing opens up a whole array of other options and opportunities like being a Nurse Attorney or Legal Nurse Consultant; being a teacher or professor; becoming a medical IT guru or traveling all over the world to deliver care or to develop healthcare systems. Did you say military? Yes indeed! The options for nurses in the military, especially the Air Force, Navy and Army are vast. With nursing, if you can imagine it, you can become it, if you are willing to do the work and get the grades, just as my mentor told me so many years ago.

If I were talking to someone considering nursing, as I often do, I would say you will be entering one of the most exciting, dynamic professions available to women and men. You will be respected by your patients and their families, you will be well paid and you will never run out of options. By all means, if you have a “heart” for nursing, follow that path. You will not be sorry. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud” ~ Maya Angelo

That is after all what nurses are: rainbows in their patient’s cloud.

Althea Layne

“Nursing is a very caring profession that requires a whole lot of patience and poise.”

Althea Layne, RN, BSN, MBA, is currently working for a non-profit company as an Assistant Director of Nursing.

I chose nursing because nursing is a very caring profession that requires a whole lot of patience and poise. I knew I had both of those qualities in me to get the job done and I just love the art of medicine and seeing the results of individuals being made whole again. It is awesome.

The most rewarding experience of being a nurse is being able to manage patients with complex medical problems and experiencing positive clinical outcomes. An example was when a patient was admitted with a severe CVA (Cerebral Vascular Accident), also known as a stroke, and was not able to walk, eat, talk, incontinent, and giving up. Nursing that patient to optimum health with rehabilitation and excellent nursing care enabled the patient to be discharged home ambulatory, talking, eating regular foods, in great spirits, and was able to return to work. That was a very rewarding experience for me and an added bonus was being awarded Employee of the Year in 2010 in the entire company.

The most surprising benefit of nursing is all the career opportunities available, flexibility and financial security.

I would say to someone considering a career in nursing is just do it! I share my nursing journey with potential nursing students and fill them in on how nursing has changed my life.

Sherry Kwater

“Direct patient care has always been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse.”

Sherry Kwater, BSN, MSM brings more than 30 years of healthcare executive leadership to her role and is Chief Nursing Officer for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

I grew up as the third child in a family of four children and from the very beginning I liked the role of care giver. I was never afraid to step up when someone was hurt or upset. I was also influenced by my mother. She thought nursing was the greatest career because it is a combination of caring and science. I must agree that nursing is both an art and science and I was drawn to it immediately. When I entered nursing school, my first instructor was incredibly knowledgeable and influenced my career direction by showing me the multiple pathways I could embark upon as a nurse.

Direct patient care has always been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse. I liked having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. As an administrator, I like the opportunity to assist my fellow nurses in growing their experiences and careers. I have reached the point in my personal career where my objective is to find new growth opportunities for the nurses around me, while creating extraordinary experiences for our patients.

Nursing is such a versatile career choice. Nurses are involved in patient care, academia, business, management, sales, insurance, and consulting. Having a strong clinical background opens many doors for career development.

I would highly recommend nursing as a career choice if you enjoy caring for people. At the core of nursing is the desire to care for those that are sick or unable to care for themselves. There will be a constant demand for these roles in the future. I advise nurses to get a strong base knowledge of clinical care and develop solid critical thinking skills. Nurses should advance their education and focus on life-long learning. With clinical experience and advanced education nurses can open the door to a multitude of career options.

Sandy Chiem

“Being a nurse gives me the ability to serve selflessly yet at the same time form meaningful relationships with perfect strangers.”

Sandy Chiem, BSN, is currently a traumatic brain injury rehabilitation nurse.

My parents came to the United States back in the 1980s as Vietnamese refugees, in pursuit of the American Dream. As a family, we didn’t have much growing up and struggled at times to make ends meet. My parents wanted us to get an education and live the life that they never had. They pushed for me to go to medical school to become a doctor and subsequently travel abroad to do humanitarian work. But after a brief hospitalization when I was 12, I started to consider nursing as a profession. As immigrants, nursing and medicine seemed all the same to my parents, but eventually they supported my decision after seeing how much joy it brought me. During my first semester of college, after much self-reflection, I realized that nursing was my true calling. I have always believed that our lives are defined by the relationships we have and what we mean to the people we care about most. Being a nurse gives me the ability to serve selflessly yet at the same time form meaningful relationships with perfect strangers. There is a sense of fulfillment you get from helping others and from knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life. I wanted to live my life with meaning, purpose, and passion. Nursing does all of that for me. While there are tough days, I would never consider doing anything else. Nursing isn’t just my profession, it is who I am.

I have always believed that the beauty in being human and living life is that we have the ability to learn each and every day from the people we interact with, whether it be for only an hour, a day, or two/three years. This is why being a nurse is so incredibly rewarding, because everyone has a story to share. It is because of this belief that I continually challenge myself to explore the world and what it has to offer me. People often say that as nurses, we make such a huge difference in our patient’s lives. The truth though is that as much as we make a difference, our patients’ impact our lives as well, and often in very profound ways. I have learned so much about life, love, and resilience through the eyes of the people that I care for. They help me understand the world in ways that I never thought I could, force me to keep an open mind at all times, and to embrace life with open arms. The fact that my life has been changed in so many beautiful ways has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse.

The most surprising benefit of nursing has been realizing how much I have grown as a person since becoming a nurse. With each new patient I meet and with every family I support, I learn something new about myself. Nursing has made me a more kind, loving, and patient person. I have had to learn how to empathize through the toughest and most personally challenging moments. I’ve learned through nursing that sometimes people say things that they don’t necessarily mean, and that I must live life with a forgiving heart. As humans we all cope with stress and tragedy differently. I’ve had to learn that not everyone feels the way that I do, thinks the way that I do, or acts the way that I do. I’ve had to just sit there while mothers/fathers blame me for why their son/daughter isn’t getting better, somehow keep it together, and understand where they are coming from. It is still a work in progress, and by no means am I a perfect person. I’ve primarily worked as traumatic brain injury rehabilitation nurse. I never thought I would end up in such a specialty, but it has surprisingly brought me so much happiness. I form really special relationships with my patients, and get to experience all of the most important milestones and setbacks of their recovery right alongside them. I also do international humanitarian work, which I am incredibly passionate about. This past year I volunteered in Zambia and Guatemala. I can say without a doubt that I have matured and grown immensely as a friend, a daughter, a sister, and as a woman since becoming a nurse.

I would tell anyone that is considering a career in nursing to make sure that they are doing it for the right reasons. It is far from an easy profession. It can be mentally and physically draining because you have to be incredibly selfless, and there are days where you will want to go home and just be alone. Having a profession you enjoy and are passionate about will help you through those days where you feel like giving up. Never settle. Do what makes you happy. Life is too short to be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy. Live passionately, freely, and genuinely. Nursing is an incredibly rewarding profession, and it will bring so much fulfillment and meaning to your life should you decide to pursue it. Because in the end, personal wealth is not a measure of how much money you have or how many material items you own, but rather it is a measure of your happiness, the love you have for yourself and others, your dreams and passions, and the difference you make in the lives of others.

Alana Barron

“I am thankful and appreciative for the ability to help people in their most critical health moments.”

Alana Barron RN, BSN, PHN, has worked as a critical care nurse for over 14 years and is currently a resource nurse.

My desire to pursue nursing was one that was established as a young girl. My mother and father always instilled to my sisters and I, the need to share and give back to others. Whether it was feeding the homeless at various shelters, or donating clothing to those less fortunate, they always taught us that being a blessing to others also became a blessing to us. This practice of giving and helping others is something that my family still does and it has long been instilled to me to make it a natural part of my everyday life. I think my first influence and exposure to nursing was by my mother, who was an Oncology nurse in my younger years. However, my true solidification came when I entered high school and realized that I took great satisfaction and joy in helping those in need. My core desire and values, along with my parent’s guidance, then helped direct me into the field of nursing.

The most rewarding facet of being a nurse for me has been the ability to take the skills and experience I have learned over the years, to give back through the acts of volunteering and medical missions. Having had the opportunity to serve and utilize my skills in a volunteer capacity in six different countries is not only rewarding to me personally, but also allows me to help those that are less fortunate, who might otherwise not be able to receive the medical treatment they so desperately need. I am being blessed when I have the opportunity to serve and smile on the face of a young child that I had the wonderful chance to encounter is priceless.

The most surprising benefit of nursing to me has been the feeling of total fulfillment, which comes through the act of serving. I chose a nursing career because I wanted to help people. However, over the years I have also realized how much this choice of career has touched and blessed me along the way. I am thankful and appreciative for the ability to help people in their most critical health moments.

If someone was considering a career in nursing, I would recommend for them to make sure they are clear as to why they are considering nursing as a profession. It’s important to understand that a nurse is someone who devotes his or her life to caring for other people’s physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional health. Nurses do this not only by taking care of their patients, but also by taking care of their co-workers. Nursing can be a very rewarding, fulfilling and lucrative profession, which allows for many opportunities for growth and advancement. However, nursing candidates should also be aware that despite unparalleled dedication to the job, being a nurse can also be very demanding, tiring and stressful, sometimes leading to career burnout. I would also share, that in my experience, reward and fulfillment has far outweighed the downsides and I would recommend this profession to anyone that has a dedicated, caring heart and a willingness to serve.

JP Denham

“Nursing is fulfilling, often difficult, always meaningful, and like no other I know.”

JP Denham, RN BSN CEN, is currently an ER nurse and is working on a master’s degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner.

I had been working in the field of IT for nearly 10 years and my wife and I were new parents of twins. I had a bit of a career crisis in that I found myself getting bored and had been looking for something more fulfilling, as well as more flexible so I could spend more time with my wife and children. My wife had already been a nurse for approximately 15 years at that time and the more I considered alternatives to IT, the more I kept coming back to the idea of becoming a nurse. We had both worked in gospel-oriented mission projects and had a budding dream of working in the mission field together as we raised our kids. Becoming a nurse felt like the most logical and fulfilling opportunity and avenue. So, in 2006 I quit my job at Microsoft, took my prerequisite classes, applied to nursing school, and eventually became an ER nurse in 2009.

In comparison to the IT work that felt increasingly mundane to me, being an RN has been very fulfilling and has had a deep impact on me. Supporting my patients during their darkest lows in the ER is incredible. It doesn’t feel at all like a job, but a deep calling to service. I’ve been able to advance in my field, have worked in several different ER’s and in missions, work currently as a charge nurse, and am now working on a Master’s degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Moving into advanced practice is the avenue through which I plan to work independently in a rural area of a developing country – likely in Central America.

Having many other unique opportunities open up has been one of the most enjoyable benefits of becoming a nurse. I’ve had two opportunities to work in various areas of Guatemala in the last two years, which have been some of the most incredible experiences of my life. I love how flexible, rewarding, fulfilling, and meaningful my work is, and that I’m able to provide a technical, tangible, and caring service to those I have responsibility for.

When I first entered nursing school, the director of the program explained that nursing would not just be something I do, but would be something I become. She said it would change me to the core. I remember that while I was glad to be entering the field of nursing, I did not agree with her because I did not yet fully understand. It turns out she was right – nursing has had a tremendous effect on how I see the world, suffering, the human condition, and life in general. When I have opportunities to talk with friends considering the field, I simply share my experiences and advise that they carefully consider this path. It is fulfilling, often difficult, always meaningful, and like no other I know.

Rosemary Welde

“Nursing is a profession that is never boring.”

Rosemary Welde, RN, MBA has spent over 25 years as an operating room nurse at Stanford and has been a medical volunteer with ReSurge International for over 30 years.

When I considered nursing as a career 45 years ago, women primarily were teachers, secretaries or nurses. There weren’t a lot of options open to women. Today, there are many career options for women. The great thing about this profession is that you learn many skills that assist you in other aspects of your life. As a nurse, you have the opportunity to “make a difference” in a person’s life and assist them in getting healthier, coping with a chronic illness, or dealing with a terminal disease. You also have the opportunity to learn about new technologies and “cutting edge” modalities that can change a person’s life. Nursing is a profession that is never boring. Every day is different and offers new opportunities and challenges. There are many areas open to nurses: clinical path, education, and management. Also, you can work in a hospital, clinic, public health, or industry. I am not familiar with any other profession where there are so many roads and opportunities.

For me, I think the most rewarding experience being a nurse has been the opportunity to mentor so many others over the years. Also, the opportunity to have seen so many technological advances in health care and the impact on society. I also have had the opportunity of many different jobs in my career and have been through all the various paths and have learned from each of them. I also have had the opportunity to “see the world” by doing over 30 International missions.

The most surprising benefit of nursing, realistically, in good and bad economic times, there are always job opportunities. I have had many friends and acquaintances who have been “laid off” or encouraged to “retire early” due to supply and demand in their field.

I always tell people that they need to “follow their passion” and everything will work out. If you want to “make a difference,” have a zest for constant learning opportunities, are organized, flexible, and are a “people person,” nursing would be a great career choice. Also, you can live anywhere in the world, and could find a place to work.

Justin L. Taylor

“The ability to use my skills and knowledge to help those all over the world is a blessing and more than I could’ve ever imagined in a career.”

Justin L. Taylor RN, BSN works in a cardiovascular ICU with open-heart patients.

I will be honest I didn’t choose nursing I think nursing chose me. Being a nurse isn’t usually a top of the list career choice as a male high school senior and to be honest I wanted to be a weatherman. After failed attempts in a college search for a meteorology major my mother suggested nursing and I admit I was against the idea. She worked as an activities director in nursing homes for years and I grew up volunteering frequently with the elderly. She suggested that with an interest in science and working with people that nursing may just be a fit. Not long after her suggestion a friend of mine toured a school of nursing and she encouraged me to take a look and since then I’ve never turned back. I never could’ve predicted where a career in nursing would take me.

The most rewarding experience as a nurse is just being a nurse and finding a passion in healthcare. I find it so fascinating that nurses tend to find or be lead to their own niche. Never could I have dreamed where nursing would take me. I’ve just finished my third year as an RN and since graduation I continue to grow on a daily basis through experience. Healthcare is ever changing and universal. I began my nursing career on a cardiac step down unit and I now work in a cardiovascular ICU caring primarily for patients that undergo open heart surgery. With my accrued time off I travel with an organization called Medical Missions Outreach (MMO) serving in free clinics and helping share the gospel. While attending Ashland University I traveled on my first Medical Mission trip to the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. My passion to travel and help those in need has only grown since that first adventure. In 25 years I have traveled to every continent but Antarctica. Since becoming an RN I’ve served through clinics in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Peru, Chile, Kenya, Romania, Brazil and this September will be traveling to Cape Verde with MMO. There is no way to describe the pure joy of being able to love what I do. The ability to use my skills and knowledge to help those all over the world is a blessing and more than I could’ve ever imagined in a career.

I believe that the most surprising benefit of nursing for me is helping me to appreciate life. My journey as a nurse and on the mission field has made me thankful for so many things. I’m thankful for an education, technology, our freedom, family, friends and countless other simplicities that many of us take for granted. I’ve learned that medicine and technology can do only so much when caring for a patient. A nurse faces life and death on a daily basis. I’ve seen the power of laughter and holding a hand. I believe that prayer has a place in healthcare. I’ve realized as a nurse I’m only human. We all make mistakes; we all can smile, cry and bleed red no matter our skin color or language spoken. Our healthcare system though often in need of improvement is far more efficient than the likes of many I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to many more years of learning and growing as a nurse and going where this life takes me.

To anyone interested in a career in nursing I say follow your heart. They are your shoes and you know how to fill them best. Do what you are going to enjoy in life. I admit there are tough days as a nurse, but the countless joys in this career for me far outweigh any bad day. Life is too short to be doing something that you don’t want to be doing. Find your passion and if nursing seems like a great fit follow it. You may be surprised at where your shoes take you.

Tina Cerruti

“I have enjoyed the challenges and rewards of every one of my nursing positions and consider my decision to become a nurse one of the best decisions of my life.”

Tina Cerruti, RN, is a staff nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at Kaiser Sacramento Medical Center.

I initially chose nursing as a career because I loved the science of the human body and how each intricate part contributes to the function of the whole. I soon came to appreciate the tremendous rewards in helping people with illness or injury to understand what is happening and in providing the care needed to help them move toward a higher level of wellness.

The most rewarding experience of my career has been the volunteer work that I do as a member of ReSurge International surgical teams. Providing life changing surgery for children who have no other access to the care they need is a tremendous joy.

The most surprising benefit of choosing nursing as a career has been the amazing people I have met and worked with. By and large I think that the people who choose a career in the medical field are thoughtful, generous and caring people.

Whenever I talk with someone who is considering a career in nursing, I tell them that nursing is a much more diverse career path than most people realize. Nurses have lots of options in work settings and roles to choose from: everything from busy emergency rooms to clinics, home health agencies, and outpatient surgery centers to name a few. Nurses can work in an operating room assisting with open heart surgery or run a rural health clinic. A nurse also has many advanced career paths to choose from such as hospital administration, teaching, research, Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Practitioner, and Clinical Nurse Specialist. I have enjoyed the challenges and rewards of every one of my nursing positions and consider my decision to become a nurse one of the best decisions of my life.

Tiffany Wenter

“There is a place for every nurse in healthcare and it’s all about finding your passion.”

Tiffany Wenter, BSN, RN, is currently the Director of Health Policy for the Ohio Nurses Association. She has the opportunity to travel the state and meet with nurses from across Ohio and share her passion for policy, ONA, and educate them on what’s happening in Ohio’s Statehouse.

I chose nursing because I wanted something new and exciting in my life. I had been teaching in the public school setting for six years and I was looking at a new career that would better suit my personality and desires in life. I knew that I was making a difference as an educator, but for selfish reasons, I wanted to see the immediate impact I was making in someone’s life and receive the instant gratification of helping someone in need. Life is funny sometimes. Looking back at my high school graduation portfolio while I was cleaning out my basement, I reread a letter I had written that stated I wanted to be an educator or a nurse. And I never would have guessed how much educating I’d actually be doing as a nurse and for that, I’m truly grateful that I took a roundabout way of finding nursing.

I became the new Director of Health Policy for the Ohio Nurses Association before I even graduated from nursing school, so my experience as a bedside nurse is limited to my three years at Mount Carmel College of Nursing. However, I am blessed to have found my passion prior to graduation. The most rewarding aspect of being a nurse in my role is that I have the opportunity to advocate for the nursing profession on a daily basis; whether it is with the Ohio Board of Nursing, among other nursing groups, or with our state legislators. I also find it rewarding to have the opportunity to travel the state and meet with nurses from across Ohio and share my passion for policy, ONA, and educate them on what’s happening in Ohio’s Statehouse.

The most surprising benefit of nursing, for me, has been how much I have learned about the human spirit. While in nursing school, I gained much more than clinical experience. I learned that everyone’s individual life experiences have something to teach me. I probably gained much more from my patients than they gained from me.

If someone was considering a career in nursing, I would tell them that you will never choose another career that could offer as much reward as nursing. Yes, nursing takes a kind heart, extreme dedication, and many stressful moments, but seeing the smiles from patients and receiving kind words from family members far outweigh the hard times. There is a place for every nurse in healthcare and it’s all about finding your passion.

Sarah Strohminger

“The rewards of nursing outweigh the hardships.”

Sarah Strohminger, BSN, RN, is employed on a cardiac step-down unit at a hospital in Ohio. She is active on the Ohio Nurses Association Health Policy Council and Board of Directors, as well as the local Mohican District. Sarah is currently enrolled at Indiana Wesleyan University in the Master’s program with an Education track.

I chose nursing because of my love for service. I have a passion for the individual and love of meeting new people. Each individual is unique and to be a part of their lives’ is rewarding. Learning new things is fun for me and I enjoy getting to spend moments with people to make lasting memories. Nursing is a profession that can help me pursue my life’s goal of service to the needing.

One of the most rewarding experiences during my nursing career is from mentoring a nursing student. It was an awesome experience to help show a nursing student the ropes of nursing. The few shifts we spent together were a learning experience for us both, but I found joy in knowing I was helping this student form their own nursing knowledge. To see the passion for learning in the eyes of a nursing student is rewarding and uplifting. It was powerful to know I had helped advance the nursing profession and assisted the student towards obtaining their nursing degree.

The most surprising benefit in nursing is the amount of professional support from peers and organizations. I am thankful to be a part of a state nursing professional organization and have seen the benefits of having advocates for the nurse and the patient. Many professional nursing organizations want nothing more than to see the nurse excel in practice and education. The opportunities are tremendous and rewarding.

If I was given the opportunity to speak with someone considering nursing, I would say that nursing is a challenge on many levels for every nurse. However, the rewards of nursing outweigh the hardships. Nursing is a broad profession that I feel no other profession provides as many opportunities to pursue the passions and goals in life. Every day is a new experience. The knowledge and skill gained from nursing is powerful. Most importantly, the impact on the patient is rewarding and fulfilling.

Anne Daly

“Whether providing care to a newborn or an elderly patient – a nurse is uniquely positioned (and privileged) to be a source of healing and comfort.”

Anne Daly, FNP, DNP,MPH, recently back from a trip to provide cervical cancer screening services with a group in Nicaragua, shares her inspiration for others considering a career in nursing.

After a year or two of general studies, and exploration into other health related fields, I realized that nursing offered the widest range of possibilities to engage in patient care. I saw that nursing is practiced in many different areas (the home, the community, the outpatient clinic, the hospital) and it touches all walks of life. Whether a nurse is providing care to a newborn or an elderly patient – she is uniquely positioned (and privileged) to be a source of healing and comfort. The range of possibilities is why I chose nursing initially and it remains a reason for why I love the profession – some 30 years later!

The most rewarding experience of being a nurse is the privilege of being in a position to heal in unexpected ways, not necessarily by administering medicine or dressings or traditional treatments, but simply by being present with a patient, as a trusted professional, to hear their story. It took some years to learn how to be comfortable with this position of trust, e.g. to know that I did not have to have all the answers, but simply by being there, and being trusted, I could be therapeutic.

The most surprising benefit of nurse is that it is still fresh, after all this time, and it still remains full of possibilities. And, I learn from patients as much as they learn from me.

To someone considering a career in nursing, I would say that it is a privileged position, and not “just a good job.” It is hard work, but equally rewarding. There are politics and pressures within the institutions in which nursing is practiced, however if the focus remains on the interaction with the patient – then everything stays in the right perspective. And that interaction with the patient (be it an individual, a community, a group) is its own reward.

Deborah Skovron

“We learn that trust and honesty are crucial. We gain the skills necessary to form intimate, human bonds with absolute strangers in a matter of minutes.”

Deborah Skovron, a registered nurse for 40 years, 34 years in the NICU, tells her story and her advice for the men and women who are considering becoming nurses.

I “toughed” it out through nursing school, passed my boards on the first go around, and then embarked on what has been an unimaginably appealing career and life. I have spent the majority of my career in the same university setting; a large, urban hospital that is affiliated with a premier school of medicine and nursing. My career started, as all “new grads” did then, on one of those infamous “med-surg units.” On that unit I was, let’s say “encouraged!” to obtain a strong foot hold on skills essential to sound nursing practices. I learned solid organizational skills. I gained the ability to prioritize patient needs; implementing critical care first and foremost, but always completing care on a comprehensive note. I gained confidence in not only my ability to care for a wide variety of surgical candidates, but also gained confidence in my ability to comfortably and effectively interact with my patients and their families; both in times of healthy and catastrophic outcomes.

After a decade of practicing on the medical surgical unit I felt ready to step up my game. I did a share day in a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and one in a neurosurgical trauma unit. The NICU won out; that was almost 34 years ago. My roles in the NICU have varied over the decades. I’ve been a charge nurse, a preceptor to new hires and new nurses, a senior partner, a coordinator of a parent support group, etc. Our NICU has grown from 26 beds to 50 beds. We are a level 3 NICU affiliated with a high risk obstetrical center. Our team is immense; up to 21 nurses scheduled for each shift. We have 2 teams of physicians that total approximately 8 to 10 each day. Our support teams include respiratory therapists, registered dieticians, occupational and physical therapists, pastoral, and social workers.

So let’s talk about a NICU nurse. Our approach to patient care is comprehensive; sensitive, and intense. Our mantra is “Family Centered Care!” I believe that over time NICU nurses develop a specific, unique capacity, one which enables them to work closely with the parents of a baby who is critically ill, who may not survive. Sure, it’s crucial for us to have mastered specific skill sets and to feel 100% confident in the delivery of care. Yes, it’s imperative to have a strong knowledge base of the pathophysiology of a critically ill newborn. But it is as important to develop the ability to communicate effectively with our patient’s parents in the midst of a crisis; all the while maneuvering through the crisis with parents present at their child’s bedside. We must appear to be in control when perhaps the very opposite is the reality. We begin to realize that words aren’t always necessary (explanations yes, but not words for the sake of conversation). We learn that trust and honesty are crucial. We gain the skills necessary to form intimate, human bonds with absolute strangers in a matter of minutes. We learn that sometimes grief and fear are so pervasive, so intense that a parent can’t remain cordial or reasonable; that they can be threatening and explosive. We eventually learn how to diffuse their fear and distress; generally by expressing empathy and by paying attention to conversation. We eventually gain the skills required to be with a parent at the end of their infant’s life, to be part of a bedside funeral, to be the one to baptize, to be the one to help a mom or a dad bathe and dress their dead infant. We learn the value of these experiences, we hold in high regard the privilege of being part of such a human experience, and we keep the memories of our tiny heroes close to our hearts throughout our lives. And clearly, we each know full well how to CELEBRATE that “discharge to home” day at the end of a six month or more hospitalization; we look forward to updates with photos and notes, and cherish visits from infants as they grow!

I’d like to introduce you to another bonus associated with my career in nursing; a truly unexpected bonus! A little over a decade ago I participated in my first international medical mission. I volunteered in the PACU (post anesthesia recovery unit) in Ecuador, recovering children who had had surgical repairs of congenital anomalies. I just returned about four weeks ago from my 15th mission to Ecuador with the very same foundation. I am now on the Board of Directors of this foundation and throughout the year I help coordinate surgical missions to Ecuador. Volunteering in this nation has become an integral part of my life; I am committed to traveling with this foundation for as long as I’m able. Once again, I am keenly aware of this privilege granted to me; being able to be part of such a dynamic initiative. I feel so enriched, so very joyful to be allowed to work with families in need in this resource poor region. I suppose it goes without saying that I would choose nursing again as a career. I have a lifetime of memories from just simply showing up for work. I have names and faces that have stayed in the forefront of my mind for close to 40 years. My life has been anything but ordinary. I don’t consider nursing as my “job,” it has become who I am. My work is important, putting off until tomorrow is never an option, I can’t have an off day. My job has stayed stimulating, rewarding, and unpredictable for over 40 years; I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I believe that now is an exciting time to enter the field of nursing. A career in nursing presents limitless opportunities for participation in a variety of clinical specialties as well as boundless opportunities for professional advancement. One highly appealing aspect of nursing is that each work day presents new opportunities for learning; as medical science advances so do opportunities for nurses to participate and initiate new treatment modalities. In nursing there exists the potential for profound human contact, intellectual stimulation, a sense of easing the burden of illness, and of course, job security.

Jennifer Emmons

“There is no limit to what a nurse can do.”

Meet Jennifer Emmons who first volunteered at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and then became a nurse. Jennifer tells us about becoming a nurse and her experiences, and what advice she would give to those who are considering nursing as a profession.

I always wanted to work in health care, I just wasn’t exactly sure which route I wanted to take. I contemplated medicine, nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, etc. While I was attending college, I started volunteering at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and met Nurse Carol, a nurse practitioner. I listened to her stories and watched her care for the campers/staff and I realized I wanted to be a nurse practitioner.

I don’t have one experience that trumps another. I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from amazing people including patients, colleagues, and mentors. I feel everyday offers a new and rewarding experience.

The opportunities to work in different settings, but still function in the nursing role have been the most surprising benefit of nursing. I have worked inpatient, outpatient, as a nurse practitioner, educator and I am still excited to see what my future in nursing brings.

For someone considering a career in nursing, I would say if you want to work in health care, and you want to make a difference, look into nursing. Nurses have greater flexibility than most health care professionals. You can work in the emergency room one day, Intensive Care Unit the next and outpatient the following day. Nurses can travel, work abroad or stay local. There is no limit to what a nurse can do.

Liz Kessler

“The most rewarding part of being a nurse is being able to help people.”

Meet Liz Kessler, a nurse and volunteer at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, who tells us about becoming a nurse, her experiences, and advice to others considering a career in nursing.

Twenty-seven years ago I lost a very dear friend to cancer. From that point on I knew I wanted to be involved with kids with cancer. I started volunteering at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and met some incredible kids, as well as nurses and doctors. It was those people who inspired me to pursue a nursing career. Becoming a nurse took longer than I had planned. I actually wound up quitting school to get married and start a family. I then worked at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times for three years before starting a 15-year career in the entertainment business. A couple of years ago, I looked up to realize that I needed a career that was more rewarding – a career where I could make a difference. At that point I quit my job, retook all of my prerequisite classes, and applied to nursing school. Here I am.

The most rewarding part of being a nurse is being able to help people, and the most surprising benefit of nursing is the ability to really do anything. Nursing is so diverse. You can go anywhere and do anything. I like the idea that the possibilities are endless.

To someone considering a career in nursing, I would say “Just Do It.” It’s hard work, but the rewards are worth it. It’s those little things like hearing a patient say “Thank you for being so kind” that make it all worthwhile.

Julie Zannini

“The most rewarding experience of being a nurse is being able to see the difference you make.”

Nurse Julie Zannini, an LPN on a Physical Rehab Unit, tells us of her story about becoming a nurse and her advice to anyone considering a career in nursing.

I decided to become a nurse after I took care of a little boy who had a terminal disease. I babysat him and his sister and brother. He was an amazing little boy whose parents were told when he was 6 months old that he wouldn’t live to see 7. When I met him, he was 10. I believe with everything in me that he lived that long so I could meet him and get to know him. He showed me what compassion was and how other people are meant to be treated. He was an amazing little apostle of God and his influence in my life set me on the course I’m on today. I’ve been a nurse now for 11 years.

The most rewarding experience of being a nurse is being able to see the difference you make. I work on a physical rehab unit and it’s amazing to see how some of these patients come in so weak and frail and leave walking and stronger than they thought they could be. Some of my patients are ones I will never forget and they will never forget their experience as well.

The most surprising benefit of being a nurse, I think, is hearing “thank you”. I know that sounds strange, but having someone you don’t know thank you for the care you have given them or their family members is wonderful. Nurses didn’t always get that. There are times when all we get are complaints. That’s life as a nurse, but the benefits outweigh the bad ones. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.

To someone considering nursing I would say, make sure you really want it. You are coming into contact with people every day who you could be the only one who’s stopped to listen to them or hold their hand. Compassion is KEY! You may not always want to give it, but you need to give it. You could be everything to that one person. Treat each patient as an individual. Not everyone is the same. Nursing is not easy and it’s not for everyone, but it is amazing and so rewarding. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!

Jennifer Tucker

“What has surprised and amazed me over the years is how much a part of my person, the core of my being that nursing truly is.”

Family nurse practitioner Jennifer Tucker, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, tells us of her story about becoming a nurse and her advice for future nurses.

Nursing is a “second” career for me. I had a BA in English and did not want to teach, so naturally I went in to retail management. My husband and I had our children and I settled into a position at the pediatrician’s office as a receptionist. I had briefly considered a career in nursing when in college, however, had no real understanding of the role of an RN. It was at the pediatric office, where the physicians and registered nurses interacted in a very collaborative and collegial manner. I love working with people, wanted something that challenged me intellectually, wanted to make a sustainable and independent income and had every intention of pursuing a career in bedside, hospital nursing. I worked in pediatric bedside nursing and continued on to receive my FNP and will be starting my DNP this fall.

There is no one single act or experience that has been the most rewarding part of being a nurse. It is rewarding every single day. I have found who I am in nursing. What I mean is that I am at my very core, a nurse. I get to do something I love every day. Helping people understand the disease process and to get that partnership with my patient to “buy into” treatment is amazing. I love that “aha” moment with my patients. I love when I can calm someone down. I absolutely adore when my patients ask me when I’m working next because they feel so comfortable with me. I’m making the jump into nurse education and as with everything that is new, I’m frightened, but, I’m loving the challenge that it’s presenting. As far as my mastering of the materials I’m teaching as well as managing the anxious students. It’s not unlike the diagnosing and treating that I’m doing in my daily life. It’s all amazing and I am so grateful that I’m able to work, play and learn in this life.

I knew that I’d like nursing. I was excited and enthusiastic. What has surprised and amazed me over the years is how much a part of my person, the core of my being that nursing truly is. It’s not just what I do but part of how I identify myself. Musicians often introduce themselves as musicians, not just the flute player in a symphony. It is part of who they are, how they see the world and how they interact. It is the same with nursing and me. It has influenced and enhanced every part of my life, how I view the world and how I interact with it. The other great gift that I’ve been given lately was that of the respect of my teenage daughter. I took her on a medical mission to rural Guatemala with me. I thought that as an American teen with so much available to her she needed to be exposed to poverty and beauty that is Guatemala. While there, my job was to support and precept the Advanced Practice Nursing students. My daughter was off doing tasks throughout the clinic. She connected really well with the students that I was working with. Through the week, she began to see me through the student’s eyes, as someone who’s knowledge and experience was something to be valued and respected. For her to be able to see me in my role of educator and care-giver was invaluable. She also fell in love with the country and will be pursuing a career in nursing. I’m thrilled.

If you are considering nursing because the money is good and the hours are flexible, do NOT do it. If you are considering a career in nursing because you want to marry a rich doctor, do NOT do it. You will NOT meet that rich doctor. You will meet poor starving medical students and residents, most of whom you will want to hit with a chart from time to time. If you want to go into nursing because you want to make the difference in just one life, if you want to hold the hand of those in pain and need, if you want a sore back but a full heart, if you want a career that is limitless and always in demand, if you want to BE a nurse, then you will never regret your decision to go to nursing school and beyond. Nursing will make you cry. There is a patient who will break your heart. It is not easy. But, it is who I am and I just adore it!

Karin Cox

“The most surprising thing I have seen during my nursing career has been the expanding opportunities that have evolved for nurses.”

We asked Karin Cox, who has been a nurse her whole life, what advice she would give to those who are considering becoming a nurse.

Why did you choose nursing?

I originally wanted to become a teacher, however when I graduated from high school, the baby boom was over and schools were closing. The job outlook for teachers was poor. I was attending a community college within walking distance of my home when I learned that they had an associate degree RN program. A friend encouraged me to apply and my mother was supportive. My mother had wanted to go into a diploma nursing program after high school. She couldn’t at that time because she was not yet a U.S. citizen. The primary appeal for me was the chance to have a job that would allow me to earn a living and support myself. I didn’t want to be a typical housewife and have to depend on a husband to support me.

What has been the most rewarding part of nursing?

The most rewarding part of nursing for me has been making a difference in people’s lives, both patients and their family members.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The most surprising thing I have seen during my nursing career has been the expanding opportunities that have evolved for nurses. When I started nursing the employment options were primarily hospital nursing, school nursing, or home health nursing. Now I know nurses who are working in Information Technology, are involved in research, own their own business, analyze and advise on policy issues, and are experts on patient safety. These new roles benefit not only individual patients, but society as a whole.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

This is a great time to go into nursing. I think we are getting better at teaching people how to become nurses through the use of classroom technology such as simulators. I think we are better at supporting nurses once they graduate though preceptor and mentoring programs. We understand more about the factors that promote a positive work environment which can improve retention and job satisfaction for nurses.

Bob Gleason

“…there are no limits to your options as a nurse!”

Meet Bob Gleason, RN, MN. We asked him about his career as a nurse and what guidance he’d offer the men and women who are considering nursing as a profession.

Why did you choose nursing?

I’ve always been drawn to helping people and worked as a nurse’s aide in high school at a progressive skilled nursing facility. When I started college I thought I wanted to pursue psychology…but after two years I lost interest and somebody said “Why don’t you just keep on going with the direction you had in high school and become an RN?” The light bulb went off and it dawned on me that as an RN a world of career opportunities would open up for me, and that’s proven to be true; that was best decision I’ve ever made in my professional life.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

Gosh, my experience starting out as student nurse seems like so long ago (OK, it actually was!), but I remember the excitement and fascination I felt entering a medical/surgical unit with all the equipment, patients, doctors and activities and thinking this was where I belong. When I assisted one of the RNs with patient care I remember how great it felt seeing the anxiety drop in that patient’s (person’s) face. I liked walking away at the end of the day thinking – I made a difference.
The answer to this is question though is personal and emotional. In the late 80s and early 90s I was managing a home health agency and we had a super team of high tech RNs providing very sophisticated care to people with AIDS (a couple of these patients were my personal friends). I vividly remember how family members of the patients with AIDS felt so helpless while their loved ones were getting so sick. We (all of us RNs in home health) taught these family members some complex IV procedures (IV Antibiotics, TPN, Central Line management) which gave them power…to contribute, feel involved and useful, and take some action in the face of a terrible situation. Both the patients and the families appreciated our nursing care and teaching and because of our care they were able to remain home through much of their disease trajectory. This was, by far, the best gift nursing ever gave to me.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The most surprising benefit of nursing has certainly been the variety of career roles I’ve been able to take on as a nurse. My career roles have veered from direct patient care, but have ALWAYS required the experience I’ve had in direct hands-on care. Roles I’ve had include clinician, manager, educator, mentor, analyst, information technology strategist, technology product manager, project manager and consultant; settings have included hospitals, home health, outpatient and universities. I can’t express enough how wonderful it is to be in the field of nursing and have the freedom to try all of these roles and experience looking at healthcare from all these different angles. I would guess that there are few other fields/credentials that offer so many options and variety.
In the late 80’s I had the intense privilege to build a home health nursing team that specialized in high tech nursing (in home infusion therapy) that focused on AIDS and Oncology patient care…that seemed to me at the time (and still does) to be such important, meaningful work.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Nursing is a great base on which to build a life-long career path of unlimited opportunities. I know this may sound like a canned advertisement for nursing, but for me it’s real. I’ve been a nurse my whole career, I’m 53 now, and I’ve never felt that I was out of options. I would say “if you become a nurse, keep your mind open and watch for opportunities to try new things. If you feel like you’re stalling out or don’t like your current job in nursing do something about it…..there are no limits to your options as a nurse!”

Emily Sorman

“In order to be successful as a nurse, you have to really have a passion and dedication for this type of work.”

We asked nurse Emily Sorman a few questions and checked in to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession.

Why did you choose nursing?

I decided I wanted to be a nurse when I was a junior in high school. I remember my simplistic thinking at the time being “I want to help sad people.” I didn’t really understand what nursing was back then, but I am fortunate that I chose a career that ended up being a perfect fit for who I would later become. Now as a nurse, I do help sad people feel better, but there is a lot more to it than that. I help treat both emotional and physical problems to achieve or restore health. The combination of science and compassion are what draw me to this field.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

Since becoming a nurse, I feel like every day that I go to work has value. Even on hard days, I know what I’m accomplishing is truly important. I’m helping others improve their health, but all of the patients I’ve met over the years have improved my life, too. Caring for them has made me a more patient, compassionate, and humble human being. This is especially true of the patients I have volunteered with in developing countries. Many have so few material things, but are some of the most determined, giving, and kind-spirited people I have ever met. I aspire to be more like them.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

Nursing can literally take you anywhere. I’m originally from Minneapolis, but I have worked as a nurse in Honolulu, and now Seattle. I’ve traveled to Peru and Ethiopia on volunteer mission trips with the help of One Nurse At A Time. I’ve worked in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, home health, and ambulatory care. People think of nurses working only in hospitals, but there are so many different settings and specialties you can choose.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

If you’re in it for the money, prestige, or job stability, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. In order to be successful as a nurse, you have to really have a passion and dedication for this type of work. You have to have a strong knowledge of science, be able to multitask, and think on your feet. No two days are the same, and you need to be adaptable when things don’t go as planned. You are the patient’s main point of contact, and they are depending on you. You are the patient’s teacher, counselor, advocate, and care manager. You may be insulted, spit on, overworked, and under-appreciated. There may be times you want to give up, and wonder why you decided to become a nurse at all. However, these feelings quickly dissipate when you see the wound that you’ve been treating has healed, or when you hold the hand of a person in their last days who says, “Thank you for being here. You’re a wonderful nurse.” For those who truly want it, this career is an amazing gift.

Susie Pharney

“One of the greatest rewards in life is serving and helping those who are less fortunate than yourself.” – Susie Pharney, RN

Susie Pharney, a registered nurse for four years, three of which she has worked in Emergency Room medicine, is the newest recipient of a travel scholarship from Barco’s Nightingales Foundation. She will be traveling to through One Nurse At A Time to Kenya with Project Helping Hands between Oct. 20 and Nov. 4. Susie tells us…

“I love traveling and have a passion for international medical missions. In the next couple of years I hope to continue to travel to other countries and expand my knowledge of international medicine. I am grateful to Barco’s Nightingales Foundation for its support and look forward to sharing my travels with all of you.”

Join us in wishing Susie safe and rewarding travels – add your voice here.

Tiffany Lai

It’s a honor to bring you the story of Nurse Tiffany Lai, who was sponsored by Barco’s Nightingales Foundation through One Nurse At A Time to travel to Guatemala to provide medical aid as a volunteer…

“I am completely inspired and motivated from this medical journey to continually provide the best care for my patients. I am so thankful for the generosity and kindness that One Nurse At A Time has shown me by helping to support my decision to give back to the underserved communities in
Guatemala.

I volunteered with Concern America within their Global Health Immersion program as a nurse practitioner to the region of Peten in Guatemala. While in Peten, I worked at a clinic in the small community of Las Cruces alongside local health promoters seeing patients in a family primary care setting. Every morning, we walked up to the clinic where we would find 20-30+ patients lined up outside the clinic from the early morning hours waiting to be evaluated for their health problems. It was overwhelming to physically see the immense need for primary care. It was humbling to see the health promoter role in action; due to lack of resources and health providers in the area, health promoters are community members elected to go through limited sufficient training to become the local health provider for their community. Together alongside a promoter, we treated patients for a myriad of health conditions ranging from diabetes, hypertension, farming accidents, hydronephrosis, liver failure, to pre-mature infants with failure to thrive. I also had the opportunity to participate in the teaching for the first course for a new health promoter. It was so incredible to see the training of a new health promoter, and their journey from defining and understanding their newly elected vital role in society, to learning how to take vital signs. One of my favorite experiences was teaching new health promoters how to take a blood pressure. I also had the rare opportunity to participate in the “charlas”, or public health discussions with children within the classroom. This particular day, I participated in the teaching of children on how to prevent worms and parasites, as this is a common complaint of childhood in Peten.

The experience and memories of living and learning from a local health promoter as well as treating patients who do not often have access to health care, is what will stay with me. I feel that this trip has enriched my life, and I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to provide my nursing and provider skills to these communities. I now have an even greater appreciation for different cultures and beliefs as well.

Thank you One Nurse at A Time and Barco’s Nightingales for supporting my journey to Guatemala. This has been an amazing journey that will remain with me for a lifetime.

Best,
Tiffany Lai”

Sasha Stovall

“Nursing has shown me how to appreciate life. Life is precious and everyday is a gift.”

We asked student nurse Sasha Stovall a few questions about her studies and checked in to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Sasha is working toward her Master’s, Entry Clinical Nurse (MECN), at UCLA.

Why did you choose nursing?

My interest in nursing has been a tapestry woven by various experiences in my life. I have always cared about people’s well being and envisioned a career where I could make a positive impact on the lives of others. When the time came to start making concrete plans for my future, I decided I would go into medical school to become a doctor. However, during my hospital volunteering experience, I was surprised to find that it was the nursing staff that truly moved me. I observed that they were often the ones who connected with patients’, families, and friends. They got to know patients not only through medical history, but on a more human level as well. I was intrigued by how nurses serviced each person as a whole and not just the ailment. It was then that I came to see how important the profession of nursing really is, and how it aligned with my own values of making a difference in peoples’ lives. Thus, despite the many side roads that I veered off in my quest for a suitable career, I was eventually guided onto the main road that felt right and meaningful to me, that of being a nurse.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

As a nursing student I have learned so many things on the hospital floor. I’m amazed of how much I have grown in such a short amount of time. During my first clinical rotation, my clinical liaison emphasized focusing on getting familiar with patients and the basic dynamics of patient care. For me that focus gave me a goal to stretch myself and step out of my comfort zone. Initially, I was reluctant to randomly start up conversations with patients, but was pleasantly surprised to receive warmth and openness. Allowing myself to listen and connect with the patients instead of approaching them as learning instruments was a challenge. Obtaining objective information was my focal point. I just wanted to get the information I needed and begin my task. I learned that I gain more from the patients in casual conversation and it established a more meaningful nurse (student)-patient relationship. Taking the time to talk with patients about their personal lives, not only gives me a better insight of their situation, but it strengthens them through their healing process. For me my reward is being able to treat the whole person and not just the disease.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

Nursing has shown me how to appreciate life. Life is precious and everyday is a gift.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Nurses play a vital role in our society. Our main role is to advocate for our patients in addition to position ourselves to act as moral agents. We strive to achieve the best possible quality of life for our patients, whether it’s in Washington, D.C., on Capital Hill or providing aid and care during a disaster in a third world country. Nursing is a wide-open field with limitless extensions and divisions that are continuously developing. It doesn’t matter if you’re caring, outspoken, fun-loving, bossy, traditional, friendly, sensitive, diplomatic, stern, an extrovert, serious, strict, or delicate. All are needed to make the differences in the lives of others.

MarySue V. Heilemann

“I was honored by the trust women put in me, inspired by the ability we had to become partners with the goal of healing from depression, and thrilled to see the results.”

Meet MarySue V. Heilemann, PhD, RN, an Associate Professor at the UCLA School of Nursing.

Why did you choose nursing?

“I thought about so many different majors (including majors from political science to physiology). Ultimately, I chose to be a nurse because I realized nursing gave me: the opportunity to be an advocate for my fellow human beings especially when they were vulnerable; the opportunity to honor human dignity in a very real, everyday way and to work with people, one-on-one with a goal of enhancing their well being, and a way to act on my motive to preserve and protect human rights. I saw it as a chance ultimately to be part of the “solution” overall.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

“First of all, the most rewarding thing has been my patients – both in my clinical work and in my clinical research. Most recently that has involved my work with low income women struggling with depression. After I was trained in cognitive therapy and put my training into action as a nurse therapist in a clinical research pilot study, I was honored by the trust women put in me, inspired by the ability we had to become partners with the goal of healing from depression, and thrilled to see the results. When my patients experienced fewer and fewer symptoms, and when their healing lasted well after treatment ended, it was the most amazing feeling! I felt extreme satisfaction at our hard work together and tremendous pride in the women’s resilience and dedication to their mental health and well being. Knowing that this also affects their children and other loved ones only caused me to respect the work even more. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences not only of my career, but of my life.

“The other source of great reward has been my students. I have the privilege of working with both undergraduates and doctoral students at UCLA. As they each open up to the many learning opportunities before them and engage in the learning, discovering, exploring process right there in the classroom, it has been my honor to be alongside. Whether one-on-one or in groups or when focused on a project or on an individual student’s trajectory of growth, I have found great reward in my work. Teaching is communication, no doubt. And, communication with the goal of “making the world a better place” is extremely fulfilling. Because students who value this goal are drawn to nursing and because nursing students fill my classes, I find my work to be compelling and exciting.

“Finally, I find the work we are doing to help the world have a more accurate understanding of the work of nursing to be very rewarding; our first symposium on the media images of nurses was a huge success and our ongoing plans are fantastic. It is incredible to be working with such visionaries who care so deeply about how nursing is understood around the globe. Because this work will affect the numbers and types of people who support nursing or become nurses, the ethical implications of our work to quell the nursing shortage makes it so worthwhile.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“The fact that I never wonder if my life is worthwhile, if I should have taken a different path in life, or that I never doubt the value of the work I do – this has been a surprisingly refreshing benefit of nursing for me.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“If you want unlimited opportunities for personal growth, go for it! Nursing is a worldwide phenomenon that involves people: professionals and patients, individuals and communities. Nursing is the career that has multiple career opportunities within it. The world is an open door for nurses who are focused on enhancing the health and well being of patients, families and communities. If after soul-searching a person realizes they want to be a nurse, I would say WELCOME TO THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME!”

Maria Pedersen

“One can’t just go into nursing because it pays well or because the hours are flexible.”

We asked Maria Pedersen, R.N., a few questions about her experiences as a nurse. Maria works at Sutter Davis Hospital, Davis, California, and volunteers with ReSurge International and XP Family Support Group.

Why did you choose nursing?

“Growing up in the Netherlands, I wanted to be a teacher and never thought about a career in nursing until I came to the United States at age 20. I was newly married and worked in a nursing home where I received my CNA license. The work was demanding and often I felt overwhelmed by the workload but I loved working with the residents. To this day I still remember some of them. I made friends with two CNA’s who had applied at the local nursing school and they encouraged me to do the same. I enjoyed the nursing prep classes and continued to work, this time in a pediatric unit. I realized then that nurses not only take care of their patients but also do a lot of teaching. I knew then that I had chosen the right profession. I received a fabulous education at Cuesta College where I received my AA degree in Nursing. That was 30 years ago.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

“I feel that every day there are many rewarding experiences, and often it is the little things we do as nurses that are big for our patients. For example, holding a patient’s hand before surgery and making sure they understand that you will be their advocate; telling a patient that their surgery is over and that you will make them as comfortable as possible. This responsibility inspires me every day as a nurse to give the very best care possible. It is an honor to be given this kind of trust.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“My volunteer work as a nurse and educator with ReSurge, on international surgical medical missions, for the last 12 years. I have traveled to many developing countries and worked with incredible surgery teams. The feeling of gratitude I receive on these trips is overwhelming. These trips have changed my outlook on life, professionally as well as personally. They inspire me to make a difference every day for my patients, families and colleagues.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“I would recommend that they find a job in the healthcare field to see if this is really what they want to pursue. One can’t just go into nursing because it pays well or because the hours are flexible. As a nurse one has to really enjoy taking care of people, even under the most challenging times, because there will be many. One has to have passion for people. Just like any career, nursing can be very rewarding if it is the right fit.”

Lindsay Williams

“Nursing has the opportunity to improve lives in a variety of ways, from performing an assessment to the research behind how nurses conduct their assessment and how to improve the process, from the standpoint of the nurse and not from an authoritative standpoint.”

We asked nurse Lindsay Williams a few questions and checked in to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Lindsay is also a 2nd year doctoral student in the UCLA School of Nursing

Why did you choose nursing?

I chose nursing because of its human centered focus, the union of both scientific knowledge and the human interaction, job security, job satisfaction, and the impact I feel nursing has on both the individual and societal level.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

The most rewarding experience is the transition I have made, while still relatively early in my nursing career, to change from clinical practice to doctoral study, and that a strong discipline is developed in both arenas. Furthermore, nursing has the opportunity to improve lives in a variety of ways, from performing an assessment to the research behind how nurses conduct their assessment and how to improve the process, from the standpoint of the nurse and not from an authoritative standpoint.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The appreciation of life and levels of understanding of those seemingly unrelated to you. For example, you can relate to the stories of a diverse array of people, and it improves your understanding of considering and appreciating different perspectives and ways of life.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Although the education and training process may be arduous, it is truly worth it because of the respect you garner at the end of your process. Also, in nursing you have the opportunity to pursue a multitude of different practice areas, from OR to mental health to pediatrics to community health. If your interests change over the course of your career you can transition with the same level of job security and economic resiliency. Lastly, nursing has the transition into higher roles, responsibility and education levels, from a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) to nurse practitioner to nurse scientist and researcher.

Josephine O'Sullivan

Josephine Sullivan, an Operating Room nurse from Louisville, KY, is one of the nurses Barco’s Nightingales Foundation sponsored through One Nurse at a Time. Here is the story of her journey of service.

“This was my third surgical mission with Healing the Children to Ecuador. Ecuador is important to me because, when I was seven, we had an exchange student, Pauline, from Quito live with us. I remember telling her, ”Someday I’ll go to your country.”

Our team consisted of four surgeons, four anesthesiologists, two pediatricians, one nurse anesthetist, two nurse practitioners, two ENT residents, two OR nurses, one nurse administrator, one OR tech, one first assistant and three other young people, who performed a variety of duties.

We worked at two hospitals in four operating rooms. I focused on six orthopedic cases and 40 general surgeries. It was rewarding to return to a facility that I had worked in the previous trip to find I was remembered and welcomed by the staff and translators. The young pediatric surgeon told me I looked like an angel and invited me to visit his office and meet his partners. He also took his young son and me to the park where iguanas live in trees. The hardest thing to endure was the mode of sterilization used in the facility.

I was fortunate enough to have a week in Ecuador after our work was done. I stayed with a friend and was graciously welcomed by her family. We visited her cousin in San Lorenzo, a small village on the coast. We sat on the porch and greeted everyone that passed, we walked in the forest and we walked on the beach. I love beaches. When her nephew learned I was a nurse, he thought I should visit a child in the next village with a rare skin condition.

The condition is Ictiosis, genetic and incurable. Medicines and creams for him are expensive. His father is a fisherman and he has a brother and a sister. His eyes are also in need of surgical attention. The next day I visited the Eye Institute in Portoviejo where they agreed to do his surgery and provide eye drops at no cost. He is six. Hopefully by the time he starts school he will be able to see out of both eyes at the same time.

We also visited another hospital for a potential future surgical mission. It was a very new two-OR department and with a very gracious medical director. I am very hopeful about the possibilities.”

Jorge Lopez

“You learn so much about life from other people and nursing is one of a few jobs where you learn from people every day and where you grow into a more understanding and better human being.”

We asked student nurse Jorge Lopez a few questions about his studies and checked in to see what advice he’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Jorge is working toward his degree in nursing at UCLA.

Why did you choose nursing?

Well, I always felt like I was a nurse before I even knew what nursing was. I’ve always had a natural urge to care for people, help them get better, and to ease their suffering. However, I think the defining moment that really made me want to go into the nursing profession was after my dad’s brain surgery and my experience in the hospital during that time. Up until then, I was split between going into the medical field and nursing. During my times in the hospital with my father, I rarely saw the doctors, and when I did, they were observing my dad through a glass wall and scribbling things on a piece of paper. They didn’t really come into contact with us to make us feel better, but rather told us what was wrong. However, the nurses on the other hand were just godsends! They physically helped my dad feel better, as well as make our whole family feel better, spiritually and emotionally. I feel like nurses are the closest things we have to angels on earth because everyone feels so safe in their hands and they just help make people feel better. That’s when I knew that if I really wanted to help alleviate a patient’s and their family’s suffering directly, nursing was the field I needed to be.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a student nurse?

I’m a second year nursing student so I haven’t had clinicals yet, which I’ve heard is where all the amazing experiences go down–I’m getting fitted for my scrubs this spring though, so fabulous! However, I am in a lot of nursing clubs and just volunteering with them around Los Angeles is rewarding in itself. Whether it be cleaning walls at a homeless shelter or preparing lunch bags for the homeless, it is all rewarding because I am showing people that they are not alone and that others do care for them.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

Not having to take another year of Chemistry, Math, and Physics like the Pre-Med students have to do. Kidding, kind of! The most surprising benefit of nursing is being able to listen to the stories of so many different people–professors, other nursing students, nurses, patients–who have all lived completely different and amazing lives. Some of the professors and nurses that have talked to us in class have been nurses for decades so they’ve accumulated an ocean of knowledge and experiences that they bestow onto us. And the people I’ve talked to who’ve been taken care of by nurses before always say what an amazing job the nurses do and how much they felt cared for. All of this just makes me even more excited and proud to go into this profession. You learn so much about life from other people and nursing is one of a few jobs where you learn from people every day and where you grow into a more understanding and better human being.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Don’t get into the nursing profession for the wrong reasons: money and job security. Do it only if you care for the patients and that you want to make a difference in someone’s life by helping them to get better. If you’re not sure if the nursing profession is the right choice, then volunteer in a hospital first to get a feel for what nurses do.

Joette Lehberger

“If I were to be quoted, I would want to say, ‘Make a difference. I hope I did.’”

We asked Joette Lehberger, RN, who is the Associate Director of Bryant & Stratton College in Richmond, Virginia, and the State Director of Nursing for all Bryant & Stratton colleges in Virginia, a few questions about her experiences as a nurse:

Why did you choose nursing?

“I’ve known since I was four years old that I wanted to be a nurse. I had a neighbor who bought me an amazing toy nursing kit and from that point on, it was pretty much all I ever played with. When I was seven, my mother told me that I took all the clothes out of my closet and put them under my bed, and then converted my closet to a doctor’s office. I always knew nursing was my calling. I simply followed my heart and have been blessed to be able to minister to people’s body mind and spirit in a holistic way.”

“My first experience nursing came when I volunteered as a Candy Striper at age 12. I was one of the originals. I worked in a pediatric unit which was a great love and facilitated my life’s calling. As a nurse I continued to volunteer in the community – mostly by giving time to prepare student nurses to pass their state boards. I am a minister and have been privileged to use my knowledge while ministering bedside to provide a holistic nursing experience.

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

“I think two things: bringing new life into the world and holding the hand of someone as they transition to the other side.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“I would tell them that if you are called to consider a career in nursing you most certainly should with all your heart. If however, you are considering nursing for job security, to feed your family or for fiscal gain, look somewhere else. Nursing is a holistic body-mind-spirit career where a nurse must be engaged, able to critically think and able to advocate for a patient at any time, and in any manner. When we do a job it’s all encompassing. While those in most other professions can take breaks, go out for lunch, or even plan to take time off, it’s more difficult for nurses. If a patient in a life or death situation needs you to advocate for them and minister to them, you have to be there. If a nurse chooses not to go into a patient’s room when needed because they are tired or on a break, it result in a decision that can’t be “changed” if need be.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“For me it was all the different avenues you can pursue as nurse. I started with an associate’s degree and grew from there. My work has included med-surg, home health care, OHB-GYN, women’s health care, education and administration. The opportunities that are afforded to someone with a nursing degree are just phenomenal.

“Every day we as individuals, and especially as nurses, have the opportunity to touch the lives of other people. I call this my Thumbprint Philosophy. No matter what you do or where you go you leave your thumbprint on the lives of others you choose, both positive and negative. As nurses, we often underestimate the power of that thumbprint.

“If I were to be quoted, I would want to say, ‘Make a difference. I hope I did.’”

Dani Gautereaux

“It has been incredible actually working in the hospital, having my own patients and seeing how I can directly help them – now and when I am a nurse.”

Meet student nurse Dani Gautereaux (on the right), who working toward her bachelor of science in nursing at Boston College.

Why did you choose nursing?

“Every time I would go to my doctor I never felt fully taken care of. I felt like I was a person with a problem, and would be seen, treated and quickly moved along in the system. When I started seeing a nurse practitioner, it was completely different; she was amazing. She cared about me as a person and was interested not only in how I felt but in my life as well. She really made a huge impact on me. Also, I’ve had a lot of sickness and death in my family and it’s always been the nurses who came out, talked to the family and were really there for us. When I lost my uncle it hit me hard and the words of comfort from the nurse really helped my family and I begin to heal.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a student nurse?

“It has been incredible actually working in the hospital, having my own patients and seeing how I can directly help them – now and when I am a nurse. On my second day working in the hospital, I was with an elderly patient who was having some trouble. I was able to help him with the difficult situation and really make him feel comfortable. His wife was so appreciative, and it was a moment that helped me recognize why I am becoming a nurse – to help patients and their families.

From a studies perspective there are two things that really stand out to me. First, the science behind nursing has been very interesting to learn. I know that in my career I will be using it firsthand and helping to educate others. Second, the camaraderie among the other students is wonderful and so very important. We live, work, study, relax, and grow together. Perhaps most importantly though, we all know that if and when we need support, it’s always there. This is a huge benefit.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“For me, I think the most surprising thing about being a student nurse is really the amount of work. I knew it would be tough, but I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I would be and how long the process would really take. Having a strong support system – friends and family – is a huge asset. They keep me grounded and remind me that in the long run it will all be worth it, that I am in a place where I am learning what I need to know so I will truly be able to help people.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“I would tell them that they should definitely shadow someone before going into nursing. It’s a huge commitment, and I don’t mean for school, but as a nurse, it’s an emotional, psychological, physical and intellectual commitment. If someone is considering nursing because “it’s easier than being a doctor,” they should think again. Yet once they make a decision to pursue nursing, I’d congratulate them on a making the right decision and encourage them to be aware what they enjoy specifically along the way. Whether it be a penchant toward one nursing specialty, nursing research, a drive to educate future nurses, etc, it really will help shape their future and their lives as well.”

Courtney H. Lyder

“I have had tremendous opportunities to do both research and practice dissemination in many countries. It’s remarkable how much nurses all around the world have in common.”

We asked Courtney H. Lyder, Dean and Professor, UCLA School of Nursing, about his experiences as a nurse:

Why did you choose nursing?

I chose nursing based on the advice of my college advisor when making plans for graduate school. I completed bachelor of arts degrees in both biology and psychology at Beloit College and sought a graduate degree that would allow me to enter a profession that would support my goal of completing a Ph.D. I attended Rush University College of Nursing, earning a bachelor’s of science in nursing.

While at Rush University I met my mentor, a professor who so impressed me with her knowledge of physiology of the skin that I signed up to work with her as a research assistant. This work resulted in the validation of the Braden Pressure Sore Prediction Tool, which is now one of the most widely used tools in the world for identifying early breakdown in the skin. During that time, her guidance led me to complete a master’s of science and a doctor of nursing degree, both in geriatric nursing.

I began my career teaching at St. Xavier University School of Nursing in Chicago, and subsequently served in progressive leadership positions at Yale University and the University of Virginia. During my tenure at the University of Virginia, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in numerous provost committees where I worked with the future chancellor of UCLA, who after having joined the university encouraged me to apply for the position of Dean at the UCLA School of Nursing. I was hired in 2008, becoming the first Black Dean at UCLA and the first-ever minority dean in any school of nursing.

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

The most rewarding part of nursing has actually been educating the next generation of nurses. As a nurse practitioner, I touch one patient, one family at a time. As a professor, I teach 90 students and through their work, have an impact on the lives of every patient they touch. Through my students, my reach in providing quality care has and continues to grow exponentially.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The most surprising benefit is that I have been able to travel the world because of nursing. I have had tremendous opportunities to do both research and practice dissemination in many countries. It’s remarkable how much nurses all around the world have in common.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Nursing is the noblest profession that one can be a part of. Nursing chooses people; people don’t choose nursing. I truly believe that nurses share a common DNA. We are compassionate, patient advocates who are technically skilled and possess a great deal of knowledge around patient care. We show tremendous concern for our patients, their families and the communities in which they reside. This is our common DNA. Nurses are different from other students and professionals … we have a unique world view and strive to make the world a better place.

Clarissa Euyoque-Bojorquez

“My name is Clarissa Euyoque-Bojorquez and I’m married with two children. I’ve been a registered nurse since 1995 and have worked at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo since 1996. Since 1998 I’ve been working in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”

Why did you choose nursing?

“When I was in high school my grandmother was hospitalized for end stage renal disease related to diabetes. I went frequently to visit her in the ICU and saw what the nurses did for her. It was then that I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“I always felt I was a compassionate nurse who gave it my all but when I suddenly became a patient I saw nursing through a whole new perspective. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor 6 years ago and was taken care of by numerous people in the hospital setting. Talk about a reality check. I knew that if I was able to return to nursing I would give even more of myself to each and every patient. That’s what has surprised me the most about being a nurse. We all should have to be a patient, if even for a brief time, to remind all of us in healthcare that those we care for are human just like us.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

“When I decided to be a nurse I never thought of the future and the benefits related to being a professional and being able to in essence be a stay at home mother. My daughters have me every day and when I work it’s at night and for the most part they don’t know I’m gone. It’s a perfect situation for women and men who struggle with being a professional and raising a family.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“I often hear people saying they are considering a nursing career and I think, ‘Get ready!’ Nursing is what I wanted to do 100% but once I was working as a nurse I was scared. Nursing is a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs with a huge responsibility. Patients and their families depend on you as do the Doctors. You have to be on your A game, you have to be positive and never let them see you sweat. If you think your pretty sure you want to be a nurse that is not enough; if you want to be a hero that is not enough. I highly recommend one who is interested in being a nurse first take a nursing aide’s course and work as an aide for a bit. This is a huge eye opener and will give you a taste of what you’re in for. I am appreciative of what my patients’ and their families have taught me throughout the year and everyday I go to work I continue to learn.”

Cheryl Wraa

We asked Cheryl Wraa RN, MSN, Trauma Program Manager, University of California, Davis Medical Center, a few questions about her experiences as a nurse:

Why did you choose nursing?

“When I was in middle school I started volunteering as a “candy striper” at a community hospital. I loved the healing environment and helping others.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“By far it is the incredible people I have met and those I have had the great opportunity to learn from.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

“It has to be working with a team to deliver the best care possible to a patient. Although I believe that working with families during crisis and at end of life is equally rewarding, if not difficult.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“Nursing is a wonderful profession that allows you to be of service to others and make a decent wage at the same time. It is also a very diverse profession where you can experience lifelong learning.”

Brenda Miller

“There are so many role models that keep me motivated to do more and give back to nursing.”

We asked nurse Brenda Miller a few questions and checked in to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession.

Why did you choose nursing?

Coming from a family of 10 brothers and sisters, I found myself wanting to help when one of my brothers or sisters were injured. By 15, I approached my mother and told her I wanted to be a nurse. She recommended becoming a candy striper to see if nursing is what I wanted to do. With over 500 hours of volunteer hours as a candy striper, I had no doubt that nursing was what I wanted. My heart was dedicated from age 15 to help the sick and injured. I had this inept desire to help patients and their families, to be part of a health care team. I did not know what area of nursing I wanted to pursue; I just wanted to take care of people. This personal satisfaction and passion for nursing continues through today. I never wanted to pursue another career–that never crossed my mind. I had wonderful mentors when I was a candy striper that encouraged me to fulfill my dream.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

When I entered this profession I was only 20 years old, not old enough to witness a patient signing a consent for surgery. Teamwork did not exist. The experience nurses did not foster teamwork, and in my case, they resented a nurse who was too young to witness a patient signing a consent form. I said to myself I did not want to be an experience nurse not supporting new nurses. To see nursing transition into a collaborative field has been most rewarding. To see teamwork exist among staff, to see nurse-doctor relationship flourishing, experience nurses supporting the novice nurses, research entering the clinical arena, nursing leaders promoting evidence-based nursing, at the bedside, and to have nurse specialists supporting nursing units are all wonderful to see and be a part.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The most surprising benefit in nursing is to see the number of doctoral prepared nurses and to be in a doctoral program myself is just a dream come true. I am very surprise to see nurses in many areas outside of the hospital setting such as authors/publishers, advocates in health care legislation that affect nurses, promoting health care delivery systems, national speakers, and business owners. There are so many role models that keep me motivated to do more and give back to nursing. Retirement is not a word in my vocabulary.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Pursue your dream to become a nurse. Be steadfast; complete those prerequisite courses because those classes are only a small part of a great career. As a professional nurse, advance education and career growth are unlimiting and rewarding. The career opportunities for nurses seem to grow more each year. Do not get discouraged. Stay focused, keep short and long term goals, and don’t lose sight of your dream. There are so many opportunities as a career nurse–from acute care to community work, from an educator to researcher, pursuing nursing with the government either local, national or international level, flexibility to travel without the worries of obtaining employment, variety with work schedules that could include working day shift or night shift, 8,-10, and 12 hour options, full-time or part-time work, and most of all to be there for your family.

Amanda Tomlinson

“Working with children, I am blessed daily to be around such special and fascinating little miracles,” Tomlinson said.

An RN with Children’s Hospital Home Health Care, Amanda Tomlinson enjoys working with a diverse staff that all share the same goal: to help sick children. Tomlinson began her career at the University of South Alabama Women’s and Children’s Hospital and continues to maintain her skills and knowledge through continuing education at Children’s Hospital.

Tomlinson remembers one baby boy who was diagnosed with a rare tumor of the neck and fetal hydrops. His parents were told that he had a 98 percent fatality rate when he was born in October, but after an intense procedure and living on a ventilator for a while, the boy was brought home almost six months later. He no longer requires supplemental oxygen and is recovering at home with his family despite some pretty tough odds.

Tomlinson chooses to work at Children’s Hospital because she feels her passions match the mission of the hospital. “Because of the specialize care available the educational efforts and involvement in the community, I am honored as a nurse knowing I can attempt to, in some small way, contribute to such an outstanding organization,” she added.

Excerpted from the Summer 2088 edition of It’s All About Children newsletter by the East Tennessee Hospital.

Megan Guardiano

“Nursing is a continuous challenge that requires the highest skills, but is balanced with the aspect of caring.”

We asked student nurse Megan Guardiano a few questions about her studies and checked in to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Megan is a sophomore student in the Generic/Prelicensure undergraduate program at UCLA working toward her degree in nursing.

Why did you choose nursing?

My call to nursing began with my family, and was nurtured by my experiences as a hospital volunteer. My mother is an RN and has practiced for 36 years and counting. She was my first inspiration as she always told me, “nursing is a passion.” I decided to immerse myself in the health care setting through volunteering at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Mattel Children’s Hospital in the Pediatrics department. There, my interactions with patients, their families, and nurses were invaluable to my understanding that nursing naturally coincides with my aspiration to care and give of myself to others. The essence of nursing is to treat each patient with human dignity by giving the best quality care. No other profession identifies with my desires to defend the vulnerable, to heal, to educate, and to understand people on a personal level as nursing does.

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a student nurse?

As a second year nursing student, my experiences within the UCLA School of Nursing continue to inspire me to be passionate about the profession I have chosen. I am especially active in the professional organization, Men in Nursing at UCLA, which provides me with the opportunities to develop professionalism, communication, leadership, and to learn more about nursing. I serve as Campus Outreach Chair to advocate for our mission of supporting men and minorities in nursing, in order to deconstruct the stereotypes that limit nursing from being understood as a unique and challenging profession. I am grateful to be able to work with my fellow nursing classmates and nurse professionals to promote advocacy for nurses, ultimately in the interest for the best patient care.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

The most surprising benefit of nursing is its diversity and versatility. As a nurse, you are not limited to what you learn as an undergraduate, which in fact prepares you to be able to pursue different options as a nurse, whether that is among nursing specialties or graduate school. You are able to incorporate a unique skill set towards any aspiration. Nursing is beneficial in its nature as a learning profession – the learning continues beyond the classroom and throughout the health care field, especially as you learn more about other people and yourself through service.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

To anyone considering a career in nursing, I would encourage him or her to learn more about the profession through other people in the nursing field, as well as through personal experience in health care settings. Nursing is a continuous challenge that requires the highest skills, but is balanced with the aspect of caring. Together with the health care team, the nurse collaborates to provide holistic treatment through a unique, personal nurse-patient relationship. Nursing is an honorable profession. As a nurse, you will become a health care professional, a patient advocate, a healer.

Joana Duran

“The opportunities are endless!”

We asked Joana Duran a nurse and Alumni Board Member at UCLA a few questions about what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Her responses follow.

Why did you choose nursing?

I really wanted to have a career where I could help people, and I was fascinated by physiology and how the body works. Overall, nursing interested me from an intellectual perspective as well as an emotional one.
What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?
My specialty is in Pediatric Oncology, and the most rewarding part of it is the honor of walking with a family from diagnosis through treatment, whether the end result is recovery or the child passes on. Working through the different stages that a family goes through, getting to know them, and helping them adjust along the way, that is my biggest honor.

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

We are at an exciting time when the public, policy makers, and industries view nurses as decision makers. We are using our training in the roles of hospital administrators, public health program officials, and members of commissions and boards in the government, non-profit, and corporate settings. Our opinions are valued, because we bring a depth of knowledge and experience to the table. We are helping to shape the future of our communities and healthcare delivery systems. In essence, we are using our training and expertise to help drive the direction of the future, and that is a pleasant surprise.

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

The opportunities are endless! We are at an exciting time for nurses. You can work at the bedside, in academics, policy reform, administration, the private sector, corporate world, research, etc. There is a place for everyone in the nursing profession, and let their passion dictate the path they want to take in nursing.

Linda S. Franck

We asked Linda S. Franck, RN, PhD, FRCPCH, FAAN, a few questions about her experiences as a nurse. Linda is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Health Care Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco.

Why did you choose nursing?
“I was a freshman in college taking courses towards something in the health care field (but I didn’t know exactly what). Then I met a couple of amazing nurses-one a nurse practitioner and the other a nurse educator. I knew then that I wanted to be like them. Once I transferred into the BSN program at the University of San Francisco, I knew I had found my path and I never looked back.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?
“It is hard to choose just one. There is absolutely nothing better than those moments when your presence and expertise directly help a patient or family through a difficult health crisis. But then again you can also feel that same sense of reward when you discover something through your research that can improve health or healthcare delivery in a big way. The sense of reward is equally strong when you see how your work with a group of students has contributed to their becoming outstanding nurses and making a positive difference in the lives of many more people than you could have helped on your own.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?
“How many different career opportunities one can have with a nursing degree. There are so many options. Nursing education and nursing practice give you an incredible skill set that is in demand in a variety of traditional and non-traditional fields. You can literally go anywhere and do anything with a degree in nursing.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?
“Go for it! You will work hard, learn a lot about yourself and others, and have a very stimulating and rewarding career.”

We Want To Hear Your Story…
Nurses’ stories are rarely heralded. Their struggles and successes are an everyday occurrence; their unconditional commitment expected. And yet, their triumphs are real – in the hearts and minds of the people they’ve cared for and in the quiet moments of connection when skill and kindness are extended in the comfort of another.

Wanda Chestnut

Driven By Women’s Health and Human Rights…One Nurse’s Story

“I am truly grateful to be able to travel to places with deep needs where I can make a difference,” – Wanda Chestnut

Wanda’s story…

My first position was as a staff nurse in critical care and community settings in the Philadelphia area. Later, I worked as a Nurse Consultant at the United States Marshalls Service headquartered in Crystal City, Virginia, where I provided case management to over 57,000 Federal Prisoners throughout the United States. I then joined the HIV/AIDS Bureau Division of Community HIV/AIDS Programs (DCHAP) as a Public Health Analyst. During Hurricane Katrina, I was deployed to Baton Rouge for 30 days to assist in the hurricane relief efforts. During the deployment she served as the Executive Assistant for the Secretary’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) Commander Rear Admiral (RADM) Craig Vanderwagen.

I have more than 15 years of experience in HIV/AIDS work. During those years, I focused on the HIV/AIDS population, both in the United States and Africa. I have served as an educator for clinical research projects, one of which focused on the management and treatment of HIV infection, and provided care to members of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and their dependents.

I participated in three medical missions to Ghana through my church, in 2004, 2005 and 2006. In December 2012 I traveled to Hargesia, Somaliland, for two weeks to volunteer and complete my Doctoral internship at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. I plan to return to Edna this year. I’ve always been interested in women’s health and human rights. My upcoming trip is an awesome opportunity to go to a county with such deep need. It is amazing. I am truly grateful.

Wanda Chestnut is a committed lifelong learner who graduated from Widner University in Chester, Pennsylvania. Wanda earned her Master’s degree Drexel University, Philadelphia and her Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale. She currently holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s of Science in nursing, a certificate in Global Health, and a Doctorate of Health Science. Wanda completed her thesis on female genital mutilation (FGM) at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Somaliland in December, 2012.

Marlene "Molly" Attell

We asked Marlene “Molly” Attell RN MS CNOR, a few questions about her experiences as a nurse. Molly works at Kaiser Santa Clara in Santa Clara, Calif., and has been an RN for 32 years, all of it in perioperative service.

Why did you choose nursing?
“As a child, I always had a sunny outlook and a lot of compassion for people and animals. I chose nursing because I wanted to work in a profession where I could help people, one that I could be proud of and a profession where I could mentor others coming up behind me. As a mother of two sons, I found that nursing had the added bonus of having some flexibility in days worked and shifts so that I could continue to be involved with my sons’ lives when they were young and needed me most.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?
“It is hard to choose just one. There is absolutely nothing better than those moments when your presence and expertise directly help a patient or family through a difficult health crisis. But then again you can also feel that same sense of reward when you discover something through your research that can improve health or healthcare delivery in a big way. The sense of reward is equally strong when you see how your work with a group of students has contributed to their becoming outstanding nurses and making a positive difference in the lives of many more people than you could have helped on your own.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?
“The opportunity to join various surgical teams traveling all over the world helping to repair children and adults with a variety of things, from burns to cleft lips and palates. I have met wonderful people and visited many cultures and made great friends all over the world. I find a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I have been part of a team that made a difference in lives who will never know me.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?
“I would tell them that nursing may be one of the best, if not the best, choices they could ever make for a career. In nursing, there are so many possibilities, from working in hospitals to schools to industry, or in education. The choices are limitless. I would remind them that they will experience a great deal of rewards and pride knowing that they make a difference in people’s lives every day.

Molly tells us that she first knew nursing was where she wanted to work when her mother’s best friend who was an operating room supervisor took her into an operating room, at age 12, to watch a surgery. She loved being a perioperative nurse her whole career and has been proud to have the opportunity to work as a clinical nurse educator in perioperative services. It has fulfilled her dream to pay forward to her staff and interns the good mentoring she received in order to keep operating room standards current and high to keep patients safe. She is happily married and has two grown sons. In her spare time, her husband and she travel, hike, and work as volunteers for various wildlife groups around the world.

Theresa Brown

We asked Theresa Brown, BSN, RN, OCN, a few questions about her experiences as a nurse. Theresa is a clinical nurse who writes a monthly opinion column for the New York Times called “Bedside.” Her debut column made a very human argument in support of the Affordable Care Act. That same week she appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold that law. A prior New York Times column on health care reform earned her an invitation to the White House, where President Obama quoted her in defense of the ACA.

Why did you choose nursing?
“Many people want to know why I, a person with a PhD in Literature and three years of teaching English at Tufts University, would decide to become a nurse. I call it the million dollar question because a lot of people think I’m crazy (and even tell me that). The truth is, I’m not crazy, but I did have a huge change in my professional priorities after having kids. Once I became a mom I felt more and more attracted to jobs that in many ways seemed the opposite of academia: physically active, personally intimate, and hard to predict. I call it being in the soup of life, and my kids showed me how rewarding such work can be. Nurse Midwives provided my care when I was pregnant with twins and I got into nursing via midwifery. In nursing school I found out how important clinical nurses are, and how much patient contact they have, and dedicated myself to bedside nursing.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?
“The patients, the patients, the patients. I learn so much about life from my patients and I also learn a lot from them about how to be good nurse. Whether I’m answering detailed questions about the treatment regimen following a stem cell transplant, or celebrating with a patient who just got married, my patients show me how important the nurse is to their well-being and success in the health care system. All the work I do I do for them.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?
“I have so much clinical confidence now and a strong sense of how bodies work. It shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve developed these very practical skills, but coming from an academic environment where knowledge was much more subjective, I’m very happy that nursing has taught me how the heart works, why we need oxygen to live, and the tragic debilitations of pain. Oh, and my newest skill–the satisfaction of sticking a needle in patients so that we can get blood out for lab tests, and/or intravenously give them whatever drug they need to get better.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?
“Nursing is the greatest job in the world, but a hard job, made much harder than it needs to be by having to work long hours without breaks, and often without the institutional respect or support we need to do our jobs as well as we would like. So, become a nurse! But be prepared to be resilient. As I say in my book, Critical Care, the job is so hard that sometimes the love you feel for it is the only thing that keeps you coming back day after day. However, that love is real, too, and so incredibly rewarding”.

Brown was a regular contributor to the New York Times blog “Well” for three years and also writes for CNN.com, American Journal of Nursing and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She has received numerous awards from Schools of Nursing and speaks nationally on topics relating to nursing and health care. Nurses say that her book, “Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between” (HarperStudio, 2010), shows what hospital work is really like; it has been adopted as a textbook by Schools of Nursing across the nation. Brown has a PhD in English from the University of Chicago and taught for three years at Tufts University. Her children inspired her to become a nurse, leaving academia behind. It is a career change she has never regretted.

Beth Langlais

Meet Beth Langlais an accomplished nurse with clinical experience working in diverse populations in Maternal Child Health. A graduate of Seattle Pacific University, she is has worked at Swedish Edmonds Hospital in Labor & Delivery for seven years and has served as lead preceptor for new staff members. In June 2012, Beth will complete her Masters degree in nursing with an emphasis in global health from University of Washington, School of Nursing.

Q. What type of volunteer work do you participate in as a nurse?

A. I have been a part of several medical missions both at home and abroad. I volunteered in New York City in a medical clinic serving the homeless, have worked with Girls on the Run of Puget Sound, which focuses on healthy living for local youth, and presently volunteer with the Aurora Mobile Clinic startup, a medical clinic that serves the homeless of Seattle. In addition, I spent 10 weeks in a Medical clinic in Costa Rico, completed a medical mission to Haiti with Global Health Outreach.

Q. What’s next for you?

In August, I will travel with a team of nurses, Nurses for Edna, to volunteer at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hegesia, Somaliland. While completing my Master of Nursing degree I was shocked to learn about the state of healthcare for women in developing nations. Women are dying every day. It has become my life’s goal to improve the health of women around the globe and without the support of One Nurse At A Time and Barco’s Nightingales Foundation I would not be able to participate in serving and partnering with women Somaliland. Their support means we can start making sustainable change in women’s health now. It is a dream come true for me.

Elizabeth Scala

We asked nurse Elizabeth Scala a few questions to see what advice she’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession.

Why did you choose nursing?

How I actually got into nursing is a funny story that my mom likes to remind me of all of the time. My senior year of college I was moving into an apartment with two nursing majors. One of them even had a nurse professor at our school for a mother! So needless to say as we were unpacking our stuff, I was standing there telling them I “didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.” They all put their heads together, and the four of them (my two roommates-to-be, my mother, and her mother, the nursing professor) decided I should apply to the accelerated nursing program at my college. So for me, it wasn’t so much a “choice” but I am grateful I listened to their guidance every day of my life!

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a nurse?

My most rewarding experience has to have been – and continues to be really – my education. Nursing is so, so cool. You can keep going back to learn more! You can take certifications, workshops, seminars, and trainings. You can go to conferences. You can meet new and exciting people. You can collaborate and network with professionals outside of your own institution. I absolutely LOVE to learn. And I am rewarded every day by the fact that my profession teaches me something new every single day of my life!

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

I’d say the diversity. I just love the fact that you don’t have to be a “nurse” nurse that everyone thinks of when they hear the word nurse. You know, when you hear the word nurse and immediately think of hospital. That isn’t the case! I interview nurses on my radio show and just in the past three episodes alone I have found nurses doing things I had never even imagined! One woman uses archetypes and tarot cards in her alternative nursing practice. Another woman developed a holistic curriculum at the school of nursing she is a professor at. This past week the man I interviewed developed a technological program that allows nurses to work with patients in other states – just by tracking various indicators and using the data to proactively advocate for healthy behaviors. I am completely thrilled that there is so much diversity in nursing. It is one profession that can never get boring! You can move from career to career – all the while still being a nurse, still helping people as you go!

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

Take care of yourself! My number one piece of advice is plain and simple: take care of you first and foremost. You will NOT be effective in what you do if you are stressed, tired, and sick. I know from experience. Take care of your own health first. The healthier and happier you are the better equipped you will be to care for your patients and clients. Make time and space for yourself and your health. Love yourself. Learn to say “No” from time-to-time. Put your own needs and priorities first. The better you can care for yourself and fill yourself up, the better care provider you will be.

We Want To Hear Your Story…
We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts and stories with us … as an individual who has chosen the nursing profession or as someone who has been touched by the kindness of a nurse. To submit your story for consideration or to refer a nurse we should profile, please send the information to us at stories@barcosnightingales.org.

Sue Averil

“Hard work, for sure, but so worthwhile.”

A few thoughts from Sue Averil, founder of One Nurse At A Time.

“Each time I come home from a mission, I heard, “How can I do what you’re doing?” and “I have a friend who is a nurse and wants to volunteer, will you talk with her?” and “Can I go with you next time?” The idea grew of creating a central organization for nurses to find volunteer opportunities, community, support and direction, financial assistance and encouragement in helping others here at home and abroad. We believe sharing the remarkable stories of nurses gives the public another vantage point to view the value of nursing.

Through One Nurse At A Time, I have had the pleasure of mentoring four first mission nurses on our inaugural Jo’s Nurses with Guatemala Village Health. Jo was a dear friend and long time supporter of our work. To honor her memory by launching the volunteer careers of these four nurses was profoundly moving. Hard work, for sure, but so worthwhile.

Sarah David

Caring For Populations In Need…A Nurse’s Story

“Amazing things can happen when ambitious women join forces and work towards something they believe in,” – Sarah David

Sarah recently shared her story with us…we hope you’ll pass it along.

Throughout my life, I have volunteered in several different settings fulfilling various tasks and taking on new roles. From soup kitchen server for the homeless, to leading sexual health group sessions for Liberian female adolescents, to conducting home health visits for new mothers, I found my passion: providing nursing care for populations in need.

I currently live in New York City and work in the Emergency Department in the Bronx. This challenging work atmosphere has taught me to multi-task, prioritize and think critically on my feet. I love working in a fast paced environment that serves the needs of a diverse population, consisting largely of non-English speaking patients, undocumented individuals, and families living at or below the poverty line.

When I can, I volunteer to bring medical education and care to those in need throughout the world. I served in the Dominican Republic teaching English in the rural town of Montecristi and to Freetown, Sierra Leone where I focused on maternal health in the city’s maternity hospital. In August, I will travel with a team of nurses, Nurses for Edna, to volunteer at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hegesia, Somaliland. I feel it is a privilege and an honor to be involved with this first partnership with The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital and I fully expect it will be the beginning of a long term relationship. All the nurses involved in this project are really strong women. It’s an honor to work alongside such passionate nurses. One Nurse At A Time and Nurses for Edna have shown me what amazing things can happen when ambitious women join forces and work towards something they believe in. I thank Barco’s Nightingales Foundation so much for their generous support.

This is my passion, and I hope work long-term in sustainable, humanitarian programs, at the global level.

Sarah David was born and raised in California. She earned her first degree was in Early Childhood Development from San Jose University, and after a year in teaching preschool she moved to New York City to attend to attend New York University where she completed her degree in nursing. She is committed to lifelong learning; her long term education goals include obtaining a Master’s in Public Health and a doctorate degree in nursing.

Adam W.

We asked student nurse Adam W. a few questions about his studies and checked in to see what advice he’d offer those who are considering nursing as a profession. Adam is working toward his bachelor of science in nursing at Moorpark College and California State University Channel Islands.

Why did you choose nursing?

“I wanted to work in a profession where I could make a difference, where I could feel confident that I had the ability to succeed, and where there was a certain amount of job security.”

What has been the most rewarding experience of being a student nurse?

“So far, it’s been discovering the opportunities that lie ahead…the choices of where to specialize, the opportunity to work with seniors or children; to work in hospitals, clinics, or medical offices, and to specialize in a wide range of areas.”

What has been the most surprising benefit of nursing?

“For me, I think the most surprising thing about being a student nurse is getting to know professionals in our field. They are so incredibly helpful and motivating. It makes me look forward to working alongside them and to having the opportunity to mentor students in the future as they have mentored me.”

What would you say to someone considering a career in nursing?

“I would tell them to be absolutely certain before embracing the profession. Studying to become a nurse is incredibly difficult and challenging, and requires long hours and a true commitment. From what I’ve seen, this doesn’t change once you become a working nurse. I also think that they need to fully understand what’s involved in being a nurse…it’s not just the work that’s shown on television or in movies…it’s often hard and unpleasant. But, knowing that you are helping people makes it all worth it.”

Wendell Alderson

“All patients, no matter what, deserve the same level of care.”

Wendell Alderson, RN, is retired, but works part time as a recovery room nurse at Alhambra Surgery Center and Fort Sutter Surgery Center in Sacramento.

Why did I become a nurse?
I was a senior in high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I would like to volunteer at a local convalescent home in the afternoons after school. I went through some brief training and began spending my afternoons there feeding patients, writing letters for them, and taking them to the activities. I watched the nurses caring for the patients and became interested in what I was seeing. I asked several nurses about their jobs and began to think this might be something I would like to do. This was in 1969. Very few men were going into nursing, and my family was not too excited about the idea. My grandmother who was a nurse thought it was great. It was difficult as there really was not much support for me becoming a nurse. I went to our school nurse and asked her about it. She was very helpful getting me on the right track and courses to do my pre-nursing when I entered college. That is why and how I became a nurse.

What is the most rewarding experience?
This is a difficult question to answer. The rewards are many. I have been a bedside nurse my entire career. I enjoy patient care. I love teaching patients and family. I like making my patients comfortable. I enjoy listening to and finding out about my patients and their families. I have lifelong friendships with several patients and their families. I love it when someone walks up to me outside the hospital and recognizes me for being their nurse. Most of all I like the intimacy of the nurse patient relationship. Where else can you be with someone about to go to surgery, have a procedure, hear devastating news about themselves or their loved ones, be there for the joy of a new life, or experience a patient transition from life to death? Every day is different and I love that as well.

What advice would you give a new nurse?
All patients, no matter what, deserve the same level of care. It is difficult at times to care for some patients, but be aware they have a history that brought them to where they are today. You are only seeing them at probably one of the worst times in their life. Be patient. Take care of yourself as well. You cannot save everyone. You can only do your best.

What would you like to see changed about nursing?
I have been a nurse for 40 years. The changes I have witnessed are hard for me to even grasp at times. Nurses as a profession have come so far. Men are accepted into nursing now more than when I began. Nurses are regarded more as part of the team of health care providers than ever before. Change is inevitable. It is difficult sometimes, but change is good. Try to adapt to the ongoing changes in your profession.

Erin Dungan, RN

“At times the magnitude of the needs is overwhelming, but those few that you are able to help really does make a difference.”

Erin Dungan, RN
Jackson, MS

I am very blessed to have found a career in emergency medicine that I absolutely love. The adrenaline in caring for critical patients is a passion and dream that I am so thankful to be living. However, nursing in an area where health care is as available as picking up a phone easily lead be to becoming burned out.

I am so very fortunate to have had my heart and eyes opened to the needs of Haiti through GoHMM. A renewed sense of purpose comes in seeing patients walk half a day for Advil and vitamins, then seeing them being so grateful for receiving them. The medicine we were able to dispense will only last for a few days, but the love, comfort, and hope it gave allowed the patients to see the love of God. While the Haitians are living in dire and unfathomable circumstances caring for and loving these amazing people means so much to them. At times the magnitude of the needs is overwhelming, but those few that you are able to help really does make a difference. I have found that even though I am going to help them I am the one being changed.

HMM has been a huge blessing in my life. I am so grateful to have been a small part of it’s amazing vision. I very much look forward to the opportunity to return.

Sally Porter, RN

“They really do have absolutely nothing – no doctors, no pharmacies, not even basic first aid.”

Sally Porter, RN
Louisville, Miss.

Going to serve the people of Haiti was such a rewarding experience for me. Being a nurse, you see people’s needs every day at work, but seeing the needs of the Haitian people really put that into perspective for me. The Haitian people need EVERYTHING with regard to healthcare; they really do have absolutely nothing – no doctors, no pharmacies, not even basic first aid. My time in Haiti helped me remember how blessed we all have been by the Lord just to simply live in a place like the United States, and how blessed we all are to be living in His grace and mercy. I had such a wonderful first experience serving the people of Haiti, and I can’t wait to go back and serve again!

Kimberly Law Changing Women's Healhcare Globally...

“I believe you can’t do short term solutions for long term goals.” – Kimberly Law, nurse

… Here is Kimberly’s story…

I provide reproductive health care at the Kelowna Women’s Services Clinic as and Options for Sexual Health, and am training for the Penticton Regional Hospital’s Sexual Assault Response Team. I recently traveled to Liverpool, United Kingdom, to obtain a professional certificate in Emergency Obstetrical Care and Newborn Care, as well as a Diploma in Tropical Nursing. This was a first step in toward my long standing goal of contributing to global healthcare. There seems to be a women’s health theme running through most everything I do, eh?

I started to volunteer while in nursing school. I was active in the Community Health Initiative by Northern University and College Students (CHINUCS), a student run organization that developed outreach programs for marginalized populations in Prince George. I also travelled with International Student Volunteers to Thailand, and worked in an animal rehabilitation and community education center.

I will be traveling with on a medical mission with Nurses for Edna to Somaliland. I see this first trip to Somaliland as one of personal growth. I want this project to be long term. I’m passionate about women’s health and global health. The way I see it, what we need to do first, is see what they are doing there and what they need done. I believe you can’t do short term solutions for long term goals and I see this medical mission of Nurses for Edna to be a long term project.

Kimberly Law is a graduate of the University of Northern British Columbia, who began her nursing career at Penticton Regional Hospital in the areas of obstetrics and pediatrics. She completed her Nursing Specialty in Perinatal Nursing through the British Columbia Institute of Technology, as well as certificates in Contraception Management and Sexually Transmitted Infections Management. These certificates allowed Kimberly to obtain certified practice in reproductive health.

Jennifer Grabot-Gomez, RN, MSN/ED,CHPN

We had the good fortune to have a Native America Veteran admitted to our LTC/ Hospice unit. Joe had gastric cancer and had been deemed appropriate for Hospice. Joe was a Taino Native, from Puerto Rico and had served in the Army. The Taino people were originally a Dominican Republic Tribe. When Christopher Columbus arrived on the island the tribe spread out to all areas of the Caribbean including Puerto Rico.

Joe, his elderly sister Sara and Sara’s adult daughter Sophia were the family that presented to our unit. We learned that Sara had always been the care taker for Joe, bailing him out of difficult situations and being the loving presence in his life. Sara also was in the early stages of Dementia. Sophia was the DPOA and caretaker of both and though caring was often overwhelmed by both her mothers illness and the impending loss of her uncle.

One of the first things the family made clear to us that the Taino rituals and beliefs were very important to Joe. In fact, Joe was one of the elders of his tribe and experts of what he called the “Taino way”. Although Taino, as well Sara was Christian and Sophia was a Santera, a practitioner of Santeria. Knowing this information we knew we had a very complex set of needs to assess and address. As an interdisciplinary team we had very little previous experience with Native Americans. Our Goal was to get competent in the symbols and rituals and use the patient and family as our guides to tell us and teach us more about their needs. Some of the things that were important were a prayer altar that included an Eagle feather, stones, herbs, a prayer pouch and animal bones, fur and other artifacts, the use of sage for blessings and prayers and a pipe ceremony. Joe had also shared that his spirit animal was a hawk-a live symbol that he believed played an important role in teaching him and showing him things he needed to learn and understand in this life. Fortunately our team was very supportive and our Compassion (CIA) in action Volunteer Coordinator; Terry Harrison had a good understanding of Native American Healing, Rituals and Spirituality. Joe DeSota, our V.A. Native American Affairs Representative, sought out National VA Native American Resources and even a Chief; we reached in Arkansas by cell phone to help guide our learning and facilitation of care for this patient. We began with the Sage ritual. In this ritual, the person uses sage to help them meditate and pray. We insured patients’ safety by the use of a smoking apron and observation at a respectable distance to give him some degree of privacy and safety. Fortunately each of our rooms has a garden access and it allowed a somewhat natural environment. As time progressed Joe grew to trust us and shared much about his life and the tenets of his beliefs. In the next few weeks Joe had become anxious and worried as he knew his time was drawing near. He and his family talked at great lengths to Wendy Schmeltzer, MSW, to the Nurses, Doctors, Chaplains and Volunteers. One day he asked when would be his last day. We talked for a long time and many of the team members helped him express his fears.

Amazingly enough we were able to arrange a Pipe Ceremony for Joe with a group of Lakota Sioux. The group was eight or so men in traditional garb and face paint that came to dance, pray and bless Joe and all the participants. We were conscious that this event may not have been acceptable to all of the Hospice residents; interestingly enough Joe had invited several residents and their families and many of the staff and the housekeeper, Pablo a fellow Puerto Rican. There were at least twenty people in attendance.

We got Joe up, out of bed. And draped him in his native blankets and got him in a wheelchair and wheeled him out to the garden. He was surrounded by his family and friends, invited hospice residents and their families and staff.

It was an amazing event held near sunset in the garden. There was tribal chanting, dancing and prayers. The drumming and chanting intensified. The sun was setting and was just above the horizon. There was a breeze, the smell of burning sage and everyone was really present and together in the moment. Right at this time with out contrivance or preparation a lone hawk- Joe’s spirit animal flew through the ceremony and garden. It left a lasting impression on all present. More importantly for Joe, it brought him peace.

Death came soon after the ceremony, within a week or so. On the day of his death- family, healers, music and comforting symbols were present. He died late at night with his sister and niece present.

A week or so after his death we received a beautiful heartfelt letter from his family telling us how touched they were at the respect and attention they had received from all the staff in the unit and that it made such a difference in the life and death of Joe and to them. They said their memory of the kindness; respect and attention would be with them forever. Of many things that happened with Joe, his family, and their cultural needs it was an amazing opportunity for a team to learn and work together to provide care that was culturally competent.

The collaboration of the team with the patient and family in the context of the Veterans Administration was a perfect setting for providing a respectful end for a man who had given his best for his country.

Joe, we thank you for your service and we hope we repaid in part our gratitude for your service to our country. May you rest in peace!

An opportunity to respect ritual and culture- The Taino way
Jennifer Grabot-Gomez, RN
Veterans Affairs -GLA-Sepulveda

Kim Garrity, RN, CCRN

One thing I learned is that while I am fortunate with all that I have, other people are still struggling in one way or another all over this world. My missions with Operation Smile solidify my belief that a true task of our humanity is reaching out to others who are less fortunate. We have a responsibility to do this. During my medical missions, I experience true contentment – the joy of giving and the thrill of seeing a new smile created. I carry each mission with me buried in my memory.

My recent mission to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was truly another amazing experience. Coming from 13 different countries, we had a truly diverse team. All eagerly participated in cultural exchange and even more impressive was our exceptional camaraderie throughout the mission. Some of the patients who didn’t receive surgery during this mission will probably be remembered by us forever..one of which was the tiniest malnourished 6 month old I had ever seen who weighed just 3 kilograms. Operation Smile doesn’t do surgery on children that would have a difficulty with anesthesia if they are not considered, “healthy”, for safety reasons.

The amazing thing about the group of volunteers on these missions is that their care and compassion doesn’t stop at the hospital where the kids are screened. This tiny patient was deemed not a candidate for surgery because how malnourished and sickly she was. Our group of volunteers pooled their money and with the help of the locals were able to find a hospital where she could be admitted and treated, all at our personal expense.

It felt good knowing there are still people in the world who not only want to help others, but who instinctively help others. People whose first thought isn’t that dinner is more important, or the about the cars they drive, people whose first thought and immediate reaction is to help someone else, regardless of race, culture or the ability to communicate. You see a smile is universal and crosses all boundaries and that is the mission of Operation Smile.

By the end of the two weeks in Ethiopia we visited this 6 month old who received antibiotics, nutritional supplements and looked amazing. The hollowness of her cheeks were less pronounced, she was active, smiling and on her way to wholeness. The doctors told us she probably would have died shortly had we not intervened. Operation Smile will return to Ethiopia in the spring and this beautiful child will have a great chance to get the surgery and new smile she needs.

Dr. Bill Magee, co-founder of Operation Smile, has often said that no greater bonds of friendship are forged than in the service of others. And when Operation Smile volunteers come together in the name of helping a child, these bonds are formed for life. These are the reasons I leave my family and friends behind, traveling thousands of miles and work long hard days. It all about love, wanting to see another human being, grow, develop and change their lives. When I leave these countries and come home it is truly my life that is changed, and that is the reason why I keep going back, year after year.

Dawn Yost

The following biography of Dawn Yost does not do justice to the contribution and gifts that she has given to literally hundred of others. She has volunteered approximately 9 months of her time since she began volunteering with ReSurge in 1994. As you can also see she serves on the ReSurge Nursing Council as well as on their Board of Directors. Quite an amazing career. What impressed me the most was the humility and warmth of Dawn. And it is was with great honor, my wife Frida and I presented the first Barco’s Nightingales Nurses Award of Excellence to Dawn on November 6, 2010. To read about the presentation, visit our Blog section.

Dawn Yost, R.N.: Since 1994, Dawn, a registered nurse, has devoted two-weeks every year to providing operating room nursing care on surgical team trips. She is also the current chair of the ReSurge nursing committee, helping to guide nursing policy for the organization. Dawn earned her bachelor degree in nursing from West Virginia University. She also holds a bachelor degree in dental hygiene form the same university. Dawn is currently the per-operative services manager of nursing operations and the sterile processing department at West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospitals. She is a member of many nursing/dental hygiene associations; Dawn is an active member of the Association of Operating Room Nurses and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. She is currently the president-elect of the board for the Competency and Credentialing Institute. She joined the ReSurge board in April 2010.

Ingrid M. Crocco, RN, BSN CNIII

It’s cool this morning – back home I would call it ‘sweater weather’ – here it is ‘shawl weather’.

After two days of traveling we are on the move once again. We board a mini van for a short ride to what usually is a clinic to greet and screen our patients. I was expecting a building but what was arranged was so much better – an outdoor pavilion hugging the sides of a mountain.Our patients are waiting for us, wrapped in their colorful shawls, lined up for a warm welcome – Nameste. I walk through the crowds gazing into their eyes as I move between them – one of the most memorable moments of any trip. First impressions on both sides being made. As I continue, my heart saddens – all of these patients have horrific burns! It was why we are here after all, but the reality of it is almost more than I can bear. Can we really do anything to help them?

After some formal introductions and meetings with our host surgeons, the mayor and the Administrator of Health for this region, my colleagues and I break off into our areas of expertise. Screening has officially been begun. The stories’ describing the tragic accidents stuns all of us. One in particular will stay with me forever.

At first glance there is no obvious sign of burns or scaring. Just sadness in her downcast eyes, too ashamed to look at me. Her father describes a bright and beautiful girl who at the age of 8 jumped over a candle being used for lighting their small home. Her clothing caught on fire instantly, leaving her burned – the insides of her legs are fused together from the knees up to the perineum – ‘melted together’ her father says. She has been unable to walk for four years and although she tries to attend school, she is several years behind. While the father continues to talk, this beautiful twelve year old continues to look downward. She is ashamed and scared. Scared that we will say we can help her – scared that we will say we can’t. I just want to hug her!

This evening the Operating Room schedule is being discussed and I am thrilled that her case is on the docket. The team has some concerns with this case
-blood loss during surgery (it would take us several hours to obtain some if we need it)
-pain control after surgery (limited narcotics available)
-how much of the scarring can be released
-our supplies (how much can we allocate for this case)
-and will our efforts really make that much of a difference for her

We all agree that we must wait for a final decision until we visit the hospital in the morning and see what we have brought with us in the form of instruments and supplies and the lay out of the facility.

I have her on my mind as I try to fall asleep – please let this happen for her.
Well …..The hospital is actually a converted home with two Operating Rooms in place of a living room and dining room and the recovery room is where I imagine the den might have been. Outside and up the metal stairs are three rooms that will be the wards.

I am amazed at the transformation that has just been made. We took some rooms and actually made them into functioning OR’s. As a team we are going over all the different scenarios and it seems as though we are ready to begin!

On the fourth day I see the case I have been waiting for – we all have.The morning patients have been settled upstairs and now we are all set for the most anticipated surgery. Last night we were all briefed on our roles. All of our questions were answered and all of our concerns were discussed.

She comes in with her father – she is crying and the father is visibly anxious hoping he has made the right decision for his daughter. When she is asleep, I escort him out – there is no translator so a hug is all I can give him to let him know I care deeply and will take good care of his little girl. He understands.

It has been an hour and the surgeons realize that although the contracture goes all the way up, the burn has not altered her in any other way. The surgeons are so relieved – this is working out better than we hoped. Another hour has gone by and the legs are successfully separated and skin grafted. The dressings are taking almost as long as the surgery but we must be careful that the grafts don’t sheer and die. The high fives and relief is amazing – some have become quiet, others are laughing and hugging. It’s hard to describe the emotions in this room! This twelve year old may be able to walk again and have a normal childhood – playing, running, laughing – never mind being able to grow up as a beautiful woman, marry, and have a family. I know we have to wait and see how she does post operatively, but the first part is done!
It has been two weeks and we are preparing to leave for the airport. Our host surgeons ask if we will stop by the ‘hospital’ to say good bye to some of the patients who are still there. Of course we agree – we have plenty of time. Driving up I see several patients lined up on either side of the driveway. What an awesome sight! I walk to the end and see her sitting in a chair. All of us are smiling – none bigger than hers! She no longer is looking down; she is looking us straight in the eyes. Her father is looking at us with tears in his eyes – tears of happiness.

As the host surgeon explains that he has a special surprise for us, she gets up off her chair and walks for the first time in four years!! Slowly she walks toward the surgeons and gives them hugs and then continues to walk towards each of us. I don’t want to let go –people will see the tears running down my face. Looking around I guess I really don’t have to worry – there isn’t a dry eye in the place.

People often ask why – why do you do this – travel half way around the world, work long days, use your vacation time, leave your family – why?
I smile and say from my heart – I believe I make a difference.
Photo: Ingrid with local Dehradun nurse, Anita
Photo by: John Urban/urbanphotoco.com

Kristi Finley, RN

When the phone would stop ringing for a few minutes and I was caught up with my multitude of duties in my job as the recovery room ward clerk, I would find myself watching with fascination the incredibly varied activities of my coworkers…the nurses. I wasn’t actually interested in becoming a nurse myself, in fact I was on track for a degree in Business Administration and was working part time as a ward clerk to help pay my college expenses. Yet there was something about the work the nurses were doing that intrigued me. The way they seemed to instinctively know what the patient needed and how to go about addressing those needs. I watched in amazement at how they could gently coax a fresh post-op patient to get up off of the gurney and into a chair or skillfully distract a child while a dressing was changed.
They could simultaneously comfort a crying baby, calm the anxious parents and report any status changes to the doctor. It was all so fascinating to see but it wasn’t the path I had chosen. I was headed to the glamour, travel and excitement of the business world.
It was my mother who had chosen to become a nurse. I knew my mother loved her profession and the work she did as an ICU nurse and then as a recovery room nurse but I never considered becoming a nurse myself. Although my mother doesn’t admit it, I think she intentionally planted the seed for my eventual change in career plans by helping me to get the job as a ward clerk in the recovery room where she worked so that I could get first hand exposure to the medical field. She knew me well enough to know that I would thrive in that environment and she believed that I possessed what it takes to become a good nurse and be an asset to the profession.
When I finished my undergraduate work and was getting into the heart of my business degree with classes in economics, business strategies and business models I was rapidly losing interest and started thinking about possible alternatives. It didn’t take me long to realize that what I really wanted was to become a nurse and be able to do all the amazing things I had observed my coworkers doing during my days as a ward clerk. It would mean more undergraduate courses several more years of school than I had planned on and more importantly, getting accepted to a nursing school… but it felt right and I was determined.
It was a long and difficult road but it was the absolutely the right decision. I was accepted to a great nursing school and now have my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I have followed my mother’s footsteps from critical care nursing to the recovery room. After working at several different hospitals, I now work in the exact same recovery room where I started out as a ward clerk and my interest in nursing was kindled twelve years ago. Now I work as an RN alongside my mother and have the privilege, thrill and honor of being the person, the nurse, that does all those amazing things that I used to sit and watch others do.

Nurse Betty

I have a unique position in the healthcare field–I have the privilege of staffing volunteer nurses on surgical teams that travel to the developing world to help poor children who have no other access to medical care. I have seen firsthand the compassion, the humanity, and the clinical professionalism that Interplast volunteer nurses bring to the care of patients who have so little.
On my first trip to Bamako, Mali four years ago, Betty Kolbeck, recovery room nurse, was a member of the Interplast medical team. Betty is the type of person we all want as a best friend–always positive, hysterically funny, with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. As a veteran of Interplast, Betty was at ease in the rudimentary hospital setting. Over the years, she had learned the tricks of caring for patients without all the high-tech support typically found in U.S.-based hospitals. All post-op patients were treated with warmth and understanding. I watched Betty with admiration as she remained upbeat and smiling, no matter how heart-breaking the case. That is until the day her patients were threatened by an insidious intruder.
Apparently one of the burn patients had developed a case of pseudomonis, a bacterial infection that can cause great harm to its victims, and is highly contagious. One of the local assistants who had been helping care for the patient came into the recovery room still wearing the outfit she had donned to treat the infection. Betty jumped up instantly and ordered the worker out of the room. Gone was the smile and the sweet demeanor. She was all business–her first priority remained the welfare of her patients. After making sure that all surfaces had been cleaned of possible contamination, Betty returned to her normal, happy self. Gone was any trace of the fierce guardian protecting her young. I understood then that even the most easygoing nurses have hidden resources that make them truly great. Betty became my hero that day.
– Beverly Kent
Photo is of Beverly Kent and Nicole Friedland from Interplast with Michael Donner in front of the picture of Nurse Betty.

Stephanie Woodman, RN

Cow bells, flashlights, generators are as “high tech” as we get at Chidamoyo Christian Hospital in the bush in Zimbabwe. Every surgical and delivery experience is an adventure. I volunteer as an Operating Room, RN at this small outpost where miracles happen routinely.

The woman who is laboring calls us with a large cow bell as she is pushing and ready to deliver, but the cows are going by in the path near her room and I think that it is their bells ringing. Finally I jump up and run to the clinic as I realize that it is the bell that Precious, the labor patient is ringing from her bed. No frills delivering babies here. The patients literally deliver and then empty their own bed pan and wad their skirts to use as a pad and walk to the clinic bed and start to nurse. Sound like your Labor and Delivery Unit?

Next, we are in the OR…no electricity. Which means, no electro-cautery, no suction, no electronic monitoring, and no lights. Of course it is nighttime and the generator has no petrol. We wear LL Bean headlights and it is HOT too. I am soaked through my surgical gown. It is my new weight loss program.

There are times when we have petrol and can use the generator through. We charge 2 chickens and a bag of peanuts for an X ray. The barter system works well. We also have accepted headlights, spare parts, and vegetables for payment for the hospital bill.

It gives me so much pleasure to serve others. What other profession can be filled with such an outpour of love?

Erin Marlin, RN

Knowing that I can make a difference in people’s lives fulfills my heart and it helps me to make real my vision in life to make the world a better place. There is nothing more satisfying and rewarding than seeing the smile created by the simple work of volunteering.

My first volunteer trip was to Ho Chi Minh City. It was an emotional rush that began with Clinic Day when we screened all the patients that came to us in hopes for a new beginning. To us, the criteria was simple. It included health status of the patient along with complexity of the case. To the locals, however, the criteria was much more than that. All the children were dressed in their best in hopes of being chosen for surgery. Looking around at all the faces full of hope confirmed the reason why I decided to volunteer for this trip.

With help from the translators, I sat with some children and their families to learn their stories, and what incredible stories they had. Some children were there for deformities they were born with, while others came for contracture release of the hand, neck, or leg due to horrible burn accidents not treated properly.

I remember most vividly a teenage boy who had a severe burn of his hand. While recovering after surgery, his mother sat at his bedside feeding him porridge. There he lay on a hard bed, without a mattress, barefoot with soiled clothes. She was speaking in Vietnamese, quickly looking at me and then her son, back and forth. While I was waiting patiently for our translator to tell me what was being said, I noticed tears in the interpreter’s eyes. My mind was racing with thoughts and questions of what the mother was talking about. Was she unhappy with the surgery? Was she expecting more to be done? Was she hoping for a faster recovery?

After what seemed like an eternity, it was explained to me. All of my thoughts were way off. The mother was telling our translator how grateful she was for us. She told our team that she had never seen anyone with “round eyes” before. She viewed us as angels that were sent to help her and her family. Because of our help, by releasing the burn contracture from her son’s hand, he was going to be able to go to work again in the rice fields, which is the family’s only source of income.

I am so blessed to have a career that gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Who would have ever thought that I could travel around the world utilizing my skills as a nurse. Some of the proudest moments in my life are on my medical missions. Not only do I gain a whole new perspective on the world, but I also continuously walk away with a new perspective on myself. These are the memories that I will cherish forever and that leave me feeling that there is nothing I can’t do and that I still have so much more to give.

Erin Marlin, RN