Honoring Nurses Who Make a Difference
About Honor a Nurse
Founded in 1993, Honor a Nurse was created by the American Nurses Foundation as a public way to celebrate individual nurses. Anyone can nominate a nurse, clinician, friend, colleague, mentor or teacher who has made a difference in the practice of nursing and make a donation on behalf of the honoree. Each honoree is recognized here on the Honor a Nurse website and is sent a card recognizing his or her contribution to the profession.
My cousins, Susan and Bob, suffered from Cystic Fibrosis but managed to stay incredibly positive, despite the constant battle for their lives. They were twins who laughed, joked, and were inseparable until the day one of them took their last breath. I grew up with my cousins, so they were more like brother and sister to me. My whole life, I thought breathing treatments, vests, and hospital stays were normal, not realizing these were life-saving measures for my cousins. My dad and uncle each donated a part of their lung for Susan’s transplant, but unfortunately, she passed away three years later at the age of 16.
As usual, Susan did not waste a single minute of those three years, always laughing and joking while keeping up the fight. Bob passed away at age 19, while waiting for a lung transplant. My cousins were amazing, but no child should have to suffer and battle as they did their entire lives. Thanks to my cousins, I knew that I was meant to be a nurse. I recently graduated nursing school. I plan to work in a children’s hospital and become active with Cystic Fibrosis research. My cousins have inspired me to make a difference in the lives of others. My hope and prayer is to help children with Cystic Fibrosis experience a more normal life.
- Nikita Clark
If not for my daughter, Jordan, I never would have even gone to nursing school. At only 15 years old, Jordan had the burning desire to go to college. Having been home-schooled, she had already completed the course work for high school and was ready for the next big step-COLLEGE! Being so young and unable to drive, I figured she’d need my help. So after much persuasion, I agreed to go back to school myself so that we could experience this adventure together.
Two years flew by so quickly. We argued a lot, cried a little, and even had a few laughs along the way. We proudly graduated together with our Associate’s Degree in Nursing. However, once the time came to prepare our nursing application and take the test, all of a sudden my little girl changes her mind. I could not believe that after everything we went through together and after all I had done for her, she no longer wanted to go to nursing school. Jordan had decided instead to become a trauma surgeon, opting to forgo nursing school and to apply to a university for her Bachelor’s Degree. I was devastated that she did not want to continue on the path we had planned. I soon realized though, that maybe I didn’t go to school for her, so much as she went for me. Despite my resistance to going back to school, I had fallen in love with the human body and I knew I wanted to work with children. I had developed a passion for nursing that I would have never known if it hadn’t been for my daughter!
- Jami Yarbrough
I never even considered being a nurse until my 5 year old was diagnosed with medulloblastoma. During our frequent hospital visits, I was inspired by the way we were treated by so many caring nurses. My daughter went through chemotherapy for a year and was cancer-free for 6 months. Unfortunately, the cancer returned, but this time it was throughout her brain and down her spine. Doctors only gave her 2 months to live, but she survived for 4 months. At only 7 years old, she made the decision to stay home instead of at the hospital. So for those 4 months, my family and I did everything we were taught by the nurses. We cared for her until she went to be with the Lord.
That experience, together with the exposure to all of those incredible nurses, motivated me to become a nurse myself. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. With a newborn and 2 toddlers at home, I was concerned with the challenge of going to LPN School, but my family supported me. I have been a nurse now for 15 years and love it. I work in a skilled nursing home with the elderly, whom I consider my extended family. Hearing them say, “Where have you been?” after just a single day off means the world to me. I am so grateful to be a nurse.
- Kathy Gill
Nursing is not simply a job or career choice, but rather a calling. With a passion for writing, I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, and I worked as a newspaper reporter. I loved it. Believing my life was right on track, I soon got married and began my family. However, twenty weeks into my first pregnancy, my son was diagnosed with a rare and fatal bone disorder called campomelic dysplasia. Just after the awful experience of losing my son, I developed a pulmonary embolism.
I spent 12 days in the hospital, while the nurses helped me cope both physically and emotionally. I had multiple visits with the perinatologist before and after I lost my son, and I found inspiration in the nurses that I met there. Unfortunately, Graves’ disease led to an eventual thyroidectomy, and three months later, I had an emergency appendectomy. To say I was in the hospital and doctors’ offices quite often is a colossal understatement. I became fascinated with the world of medicine and the art of nursing. The calling soon became clear. Those years of poor health allowed me to develop an extensive knowledge of medicine. Through my own experiences as a patient, with nurses whom I came to love, I learned the art of nursing. I wanted to be the nurse that smiles and brightens the day of someone going through a life crisis. I believe nursing entails caring for a patient’s physical and emotional needs, while being their advocate during difficult times. Nursing is about compassion, empathy and complete respect for all patients. I still remember the nurses that cared for me in my times of need. I knew I wanted to be that resource for others, caring for them and making sure they do not feel alone. Sometimes the most difficult and challenging life experiences can lead to a positive and rewarding calling. I now have 3 beautiful children and I am proud to call myself a Nurse!!
- Jennider Emmons
Reminiscing on the bond between my father and I and the experiences we’ve shared, I realize he was a nurse long before he officially became one. My father, a returning veteran, was in transition with his career when my mother became pregnant. Nine months later, my father delivered me at home. The experience impacted him so profoundly that he decided to become a nurse.
Like many kids, I believed my father was a hero, but as an adult I have come to know it’s true. My father was a critical care nurse, a captain in the Army, and a volunteer fireman. One evening, when my mother and I went to visit him at work, a patient strolled over to us. He asked my father if we were his family, and my father said yes. The man looked me in the eye and said, “Your father saved my life.” It was such a powerful experience that it has stayed with me all these years.
So many of our childhood experiences shape who we are, our perceptions and our responses to life situations. Not surprisingly, these same experiences shape our career choices. Following in my father’s footsteps, I entered nursing school with the most amazing support system. My father was always available for late night calls while I was pulling all-night study sessions. Then as I entered into my own career as a critical care nurse, he continued his guidance and support. Watching my father in action, I learned to put compassion and humility first, just as he put his patients first. I still pick up the phone to this day and rely on my father for advice. I am blessed to call him my father, and honored to share in this wonderful profession with him.
- Elizabeth Newbery
Growing up in a small community, my sister was my best friend, my inspiration, and my mentor. Even though she was 9 years older, we did everything together. After graduating high school in 1964, she entered nursing school. This was a time of “old school” nursing, living in barracks near the hospital, and those starched white uniforms and caps. I remember thinking how beautiful my sister was, like a compassionate, caring angel. After a wonderful nursing career spanning 21 years, my sister was diagnosed with sclerosing cholangitis. She ultimately developed liver cancer, and after several operations, she was put on the liver transplant list. Unfortunately the cancer spread, and my sister passed away a year later.
Up until that time, I had served 8 years as an Air Force medic and worked several other non-medical jobs. Some people ask if nursing is a calling. I have no doubt that the Lord spoke to me then and there, telling me to take my sister’s place. I started as a nursing assistant in an ER, while both working and going to school full time. It was certainly difficult, but worth every sleepless night and every tub of coffee that I had to drink to keep going. After graduation, I went straight into the critical career field at the hospital where I worked. I have now enjoyed my own 21-year nursing career, thanks to the inspiration of my wonderful sister. I have truly found my calling in the honorable and fulfilling career of Nursing!
- Gary Phillips
I remember a particular night when one of my patients, stricken with dementia, was testing every ounce of my nursing strength. Her requests ranged from moving the blanket an inch, then an inch the other way, to asking for a sip of water, then to change the channel, followed by another sip of water -- you get the idea. Then it dawned on me that the patient was not being needy, she was just lonely. I pulled a chair up next to her bed, softly took her hand, and asked if it was alright if I just sat with her for a bit. She pulled my hand to her cheek and sat quietly, the first time that she was still all night. I sat with her until duties for other patients pulled me away.
She didn’t actually sleep through the night, but those few moments of quiet and the softness of her cheek are forever etched in my memory. In that short time, I remembered why I had become a nurse: to help people, to comfort them in their darkest hours, to truly NURSE them. Whenever I get too caught up in working as a nurse and forget to just be a nurse, I try to think of that wonderful but lonely lady. That memory renews my spirit and reminds me of the love I have for nursing.
- Danielle Byler
Four years ago, my life changed forever. My family and I were enjoying a beautiful August day together. My children were swimming in the pool, while my husband and I were discussing our upcoming anniversary. We couldn’t believe how happy we still were after eight years. Suddenly, my husband began acting odd and complained of a terrible headache. His words no longer made sense. Knowing something was terribly wrong, I called 911 and he was rushed to the emergency room. I happened to be wearing one of my husband’s old hospital scrub tops, so the medical personnel were racing by me, unaware that I was his wife. It wasn’t until I broke down in tears that an ER nurse came rushing over. Realizing that I also needed help, she brought me into a private waiting area and stayed by my side, offering comfort until my family arrived.
I will never forget that nurse who rushed to my side while my life was changing so dramatically. My husband went in for emergency surgery, and spent the next thirty days in the ICU. The nurses were incredibly caring and gentle with him, all the while making sure that I was doing okay as well. I took great comfort in knowing that the nurses genuinely cared about my family, and they wanted to see us through this difficult time. Today my husband is doing extremely well. We call the nurses’ station every year on August 13th to thank them for being there for us when we needed them. I am currently preparing to graduate from nursing school. I want to be a nurse so that I may care for patients and their families, just as some incredible nurses did for my husband and our family.
- Erin Travers
Although I had been a nurse for nearly 3 decades, I had been out of the profession for several years when I was suddenly reminded of what is truly important in life. Driving home one day, I heard a loud boom and looked back to see that a truck had hit a tree. I pulled over, called 911, and ran over. The driver was crying out in pain and calling for help. I spoke to him and kept him calm. He was 67 years old, with recent heart issues, and on his way home to see his wife and grandchildren. Another nurse arrived, and as she took his pulse, the man stop breathing and his heart failed. I began CPR and after 2 minutes 35 seconds, the nurse exclaimed, “We have a pulse!” The man opened his eyes, looked at me and said, “I think I hit a big bump.” I replied, “You did hit a big bump, welcome back.” I had saved his life.
I was later told that the man passed away en route to the hospital, but not before speaking with his wife and family. He got the chance to tell them that he loved them and would miss them. I was upset and shaken that he passed away, but comforted in the fact that he spoke with his family one last time. I had made a difference, and in doing so, I remembered why I am so proud to be a nurse. Hug your kids. Tell your family and friends how much they mean to you. Life is precious, so stop and think about what is truly important.
- Sharon Newlin Randa
Patients often impact and change the lives of nurses in surprising ways. One example that stands out for me was a man with a blood clotting disorder. I saw this patient in the hospital many times over the years as he experienced heart, kidney and lung issues as a result of his condition. During one admission, he asked me, “BJ, when am I going to get better?” I knew with his extremely poor heart condition and other health issues, he would not get better. I spoke to him as honestly and gently as I could, and he listened with grace and understanding. After discharge, he spent time with his family, including two beloved sisters. A few days before he passed away, he was again hospitalized, this time with kidney failure.
I went to his room to say my goodbye, and to my surprise, he was laughing with his sisters while reminiscing about their childhood days. I laughed with them and when I the time came to say goodbye, he held my hands and said, “You have always been there for me. Always remember you are where God wants you to be.” I ran to the nurses’ lounge so he wouldn’t see me crying, only to find another nurse crying also. I know that as a nurse, I am where I was always meant to be.
- BJ Whiffen
When I was a recent graduate, I took care of a patient with cancer. We became very close during his care. Despite his constant pain and poor prognosis, he always maintained a positive attitude! He never expressed self-pity.
Back then, nurses had to mathematically calculate the drip count and one day, while hanging his IV fluids, he noticed that I was struggling. I had a very long shift, with a heavy patient load. He looked at me and said, “April, whatever it is, don’t let it beat you.” Knowing that the cancer would soon beat him, I was amazed that he would make the effort to encourage me, despite his own circumstances. He died a couple of days later, with his family and I at his side. I’ll never forget those words from my friend and patient. They still encourage me any time I feel overwhelmed and overworked. Taking care of others is very rewarding. I am so proud each and every day to be a nurse.
- April Thompson
Nurses see people in their most vulnerable state. We are there for our patients, listening to their fears while wiping their tears. As a home health nurse, I take pride in the time I spend caring for each patient. I recently had a patient who was not doing very well. When I called to set-up an appointment, she sounded a bit unusual, so I decided that I needed to see her first. When I arrived, her husband indicated that she seemed very sleepy, unable to stay awake for very long periods. I checked her pulse ox and upon getting a reading of 78%, I called 911 and saw her off to the hospital.
Later that afternoon, I received a call from the patient’s daughter. Although she was crying because her mother was placed in ICU, she was actually calling to thank me. The doctor told her that had I not arrived when I did, her mother would have died at home. My patient was released from the hospital and eventually was able to return home from a rehab facility. As she puts it, she is alive and every new day is full of possibilities. Knowing that I had a hand in giving her those days is wonderful, but I do not feel like I had done anything special -- I was just doing my job. I do thank God that I was in the right place at the right time that day. I am also thankful that I was called to this wonderful career of nursing, where I can make a difference in the lives of others.
- Rebecca Hyde
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