Honoring Nurses Who Make a Difference
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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.
January: A Silver Lining by Franci VanWie
It’s not so much what has influenced my decision to become a nurse, but rather who has influenced me. Five years ago, my husband suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage from an aneurysm. The men and women who ultimately saved his life had the biggest impact on my decision to become a nurse—from the paramedic, who works a 40-hour a week day job while pursing a nursing career and working weekends in an ED, to the doctor who runs an ICU department and serves as the medical director for the local EMS to the doctors and nurses who cared for my husband in the hospital.
During the ordeal with my husband, I have met many exceptional nurses. As I watched them work, I realized that I could be one of those nurses that patients would be thankful to have at their bedside and families can count on and trust. I learned that book knowledge isn’t enough to be a good nurse; it also requires having a genuine interest in caring for people, supporting them and their families, and encouraging their recovery. Being a family member of a critically ill patient has helped me realize my true calling. And, witnessing how nurses work in many roles instilled upon me the desire and passion to help the sick and their families. I want to experience the satisfaction of saving a life or bringing comfort to the end of someone’s life. And, the only way I can do this is to become a nurse.
February: Nursing Wasn’t My First Choice by Nicole Manding
Becoming a nurse was never my career choice. But, listening to my grandmother and my older sister talk about their experiences and passion for nursing was incredibly inspiring, exciting, and emotional. And, as many of my family members had to be hospitalized because of different illnesses, I gained more insight into how nurses and doctors actually work. Still unsure if nursing was for me, I decided to volunteer at a local hospital. Being in that environment and being able to talk with the nurses clinched my decision. Everyday that I spent volunteering felt more and more "right" to be in a hospital caring for people.
My grandma also told me something important, she said, "In the medical field, you are there to serve; it's not about making money." I think about that everyday, and even though it sounds cliché, I really do want to make a difference in people’s lives and make them feel important. I want them to know that their lives are worth saving, and I want to bring them and their families comfort. I am finishing my prerequisites at a community college and looking into different universities to complete my nursing degree. I have a while to go yet, and I know it won’t be easy. But, becoming a nurse is my goal and the road there will be a worthwhile and satisfying endeavor.
March: For My Mother by Sherri Rudolph
During my first year of nursing school, my family was given the devastating news that my mother, who was only 50 years old, had stage IV cervical cancer. I was alone with my mother when the doctor and a nurse, from the unit my mother was on, came to deliver the bad news. It was the most shattering news I could have ever received. I remember I had a class that I was supposed to attend that night, and my mother insisted that I go. I knew there was no way I would retain anything in class after hearing that my mother had cancer and the prognosis was grim. Not wanting to let my mother down, I left the room and pretended to go to my class. I was crying and feeling so alone. The nurse from the unit saw me as I sobbed on the way down the hallway. She caught up to me and asked if she could sit with me until I calmed down.
We went into an empty room and she sat with me, as I cried and told her that I was in nursing school. I told her that without my mom I didn't know if I would be able to continue because she was my strength. The nurse gave me the best advice I could have ever asked for. She told me that my mother had raved about how she was so proud that I was in nursing, and I needed to remember that it was not only important for me to finish my degree but it was important to my mom. A few days later when I finally had a chance to think, I asked my mom what she had said to that nurse. She said that she had told her that she needed me to finish school so I could help people like her and families like ours. I don’t remember that nurse’s name, but she changed my life. She helped me become the nurse I am today. Without her caring, compassion, and encouragement, I don't know if I would be where I am today. My mother has since passed away, and I went on to finish my degree. Today, I am currently working toward my master’s degree with the confidence that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to because of a few encouraging words from just one nurse.
April: My First Assignment As A Student Nurse Left A Lasting Impression by Sherry Gomez
When I was a student nurse, my first assignment was a cancer patient. I told my instructor that I was frightened and concerned about what I could do as a student nurse to help someone who was dying. My instructor told me that holding her hand and talking to her would be the best medicine. So I sat with the patient and held her hand, and we began to talk. The patient informed me that she was a nurse and the powers above intended for our paths to cross. She said to me, “A good nurse always asks questions when unsure. Communicate well with your doctors, learn from them, and respect will be your friend. As the years go by, never lose compassion or become numb to the tragedy of death in medicine. The most powerful gift you can give your patients is kindness through holding a hand and listening.” At that moment, the patient held both my hands and told me that she could see deep into my soul that nursing was my calling.
I have a message for you, she said, “Believe in yourself; God has great plans for you to make a huge difference in many lives.” As a student nurse, that was the most amazing experience for me. The next day, the patient died. I was saddened by her death but grateful for the brief moments I had with her. I often reflect on her message and have never forgotten the words we shared. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine this journey I have taken—from a bagger at a Safeway Store to being the Chief Nursing Officer and ED Director of my community hospital to the recipient of a Nightingale Award. God sent me an angel with a formidable message who left an imprint on my heart. My hope is that she is smiling down knowing she has made a difference in my life in that brief encounter. Her wisdom will stay with me forever.
May: It’s Not Always About The Medicine by Danielle Collins
In 2004, I gave birth to my son 13 weeks premature because of preeclampsia. His lungs were not developed, and the first time I was able to hold him he was four days old. I sat at his bedside everyday wondering if he was going to live. The nurses and staff who cared for both of us changed my life forever. Each person I encountered taught me a new way to bond with my infant, care for him, and grow as a mother. Sitting in the NICU day by day, I met multiple families and saw many babies. When the families could not be there, nothing warmed my heart more than seeing the nurses hold the babies and read to them to keep them company.
Being there for nine weeks inspired me to become a nurse so I could be a resource for patients and families in their time of need. Now, as a nurse nothing makes me happier than knowing I have healed a wound or eased someone's pain or comforted a patient. Sometimes, it's the human element that makes nursing a daily reward. It’s not always about the medicine.
June: I Am Where I Am Supposed To Be by Dawn Johhnson
I have been a nurse for 23 years. As a child, I was a caregiver to my mom and my brother, and even then, I knew I was happiest caring for others. My life was not easy. I overcame so many obstacles, including alcoholic parents, depression, and foster homes. When I was 17, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I finished high school and spent a couple of years working and trying to give my daughter a healthy happy life. I remember when she was about 12 months old; I had no car, so I would put her on a wagon in the summer and a sled in the winter to get to the laundromat and grocery store. I enrolled in the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program at Villa Maria College in 1989. I graduated in 1992 and worked as a medical surgical nurse with Trauma Certification, for many years, absorbing as much knowledge as I could to be the best nurse possible. Over the years, I went back to school and obtained my BSN and MSN, with a minor in education, and currently, I am pursuing a Doctorate in Nursing Practice.
Now, as a nursing educator, I feel I have a wonderful job preparing new nurses to be in the best field. I have never forgotten where I came from; those tough times in my life made me the strong woman I am today. I get many students who come into my program with similar stories of wanting a better life for themselves and their children. I believe I am the stone that begins the ripple effect by giving support and mentorship to a student; my hope is that will cause another to give the same. I am where I am supposed to be. Thank you to all the wonderful nurses and care givers out there!
July: A Long And Winding Road by Linda Sperling
In 1964 when I was 12 years old, my mother told me that I would not be able to go out to play that summer because I had to stay home and care for my dying father. I was an only child and my mother had to work to support us. I bathed him, fixed his meals, and fed him. I sat with him and did everything I could to take care of him until he died on August 28, 1964. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse but college was not something that we could afford. So, I got married and raised five children. I was a stay-at-home mom until my 2nd oldest child was hit by a car and remained on life support for three months in a coma. Six months later, I decided to become a chaplain volunteer at the very trauma center that my son went to with his injury. As I watched the nurses taking care of patients, I wished I could have been one of them. But, with three children still at home, it didn’t seem possible. One day I was standing at the desk in the ED where I volunteered and saw the paramedics and EMTs bringing in a patient. I looked at my husband, who volunteered with me, and said I wanted to do that. I think I could do that.
I applied at the local college to become an EMT but couldn’t get in because I didn’t have a high school diploma. That didn’t stop me. I took a few GED prep classes, passed the test, applied again, and became an EMT. After working as an EMT for a couple of years, I went back to school to become a paramedic. I worked for another several years before realizing that I could go to nursing school, and finally, that is what I did. I graduated from nursing school and worked in the ED and ICU for a year and a half before becoming a travel nurse. After traveling for a while, I went back to school again and got my BSN, MSN, MHA, and my Doctorate in Healthcare Administration. I usually tell my students this story because many times there are older students in the class who I want to assure that it doesn’t matter how old you are as long as your heart is in it. After sharing my story with them, I reveal that I got my GED at age 40. It is never too late to learn or to follow your dream. I began teaching five years ago and am now the campus nursing director of Everest College, Ontario Metro campus, ADN program, Ontario California.
August: I Couldn’t Ignore The Signs by Barbara Russell
I always wanted to be a nurse, but at 32 years old and a stay-at-home mom of three children, I felt my ship had sailed. One morning, as I was preparing to chaperone my son’s 5th grade field trip to the New England Aquarium, I had an odd feeling that something was going to happen that day that would change my life. On the ride to the aquarium, there was a boy who told the most captivating and interesting stories about his mother. He was very entertaining, and his mother sounded like a most interesting person. As he went on and on with his stories, we turned onto route 128 and drove past Lahey Clinic, and the boy said, "and my mom worked there, too." The teacher to whom he was speaking asked, "Oh, and what does your mom do"? He replied, "She's a nurse." Bingo, it was like a bright light went on; I got goose bumps and suddenly realized I was going to be a nurse; it was the most amazing moment.
I had no idea how I was going to accomplish this. I just knew I was going to become a nurse. When I returned home from the field trip that day the mail had already been delivered, and sitting on the table was a brochure from the Rivier College Nursing Program. I remember looking through it in private feeling a little foolish at my idea but knowing I had to follow through with it. I made some inquiries at the college and returned to high school to complete pre-requisites of algebra and chemistry over the summer. After passing the two classes, I was accepted into the nursing program just weeks before the fall semester. The rest is history. I have been a RN for 17 years, caring for people in a number of different settings. Currently, I am an oncology nurse and have returned to school, yet again, to complete my BSN.
September: A Change Of Plans For The Best by Linda Bowling
In 2007, my 23 year-old son, Brandon, was critically injured in a 4-wheeler accident. The EMS crew, the Life Flight crew, and the staff at the hospital were wonderful to our family. They showed a level of compassion for my son that was utterly amazing. I got to be with my son for almost two days before he died from his injuries. Although loosing Brandon was incredibly sad, the fact that he was an organ donor and saved five lives made me proud. He was truly a remarkable young man. I realized that when he moved back home to help me raise my daughter’s child.
Before Brandon’s accident, I began school to become an early childhood educator. But after the accident, I changed my degree plan to become a nurse and vowed that I would do my best to help others the way Brandon’s nurses helped and supported me. Becoming a nurse was the right move. I love being a nurse. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue it right after high school.
October: What I learned in Nursing School Really Helped When I Needed It Most by Helen Brugger
I had an experience at my last job that stayed with me for a long time. I was the charge nurse at a busy outpatient radiology facility. It was a particularly busy day; I was placing an IV in a CT patient, when an ultrasound technologist came to my door and said, “I have a baby not breathing in ultrasound room 1.” I took the tourniquet off the patient’s arm and said, “I’ll be back; I have an emergency.” Running to the room, I thought, I have three minutes to get the baby to breathe before he suffers brain damage. As I ran into the room, I saw a naked blue three-week-old baby lying on the ultrasound table not breathing and the parents crying. I grabbed the baby in one hand turned him on his side and asked the ultrasound technologist why the baby was having an ultrasound. She said, “Pyloric Stenosis.” I asked if she give him any fluids and she said, “Yes 2 ounces of water.”
I suctioned the baby and thick yellow mucous came out, and he started to breathe. I tried to remember the normal vitals for a one-month old baby. We had no pediatric monitors, and I was not a pediatric nurse. I held him upright, and he seemed to be breathing normally for his age. I also remembered the appropriate body temperature for this age group and wrapped him a blanket. Then, the baby stopped breathing again. I turned him on his side like before and started suctioning him again. Calmly, I told the technologist to get a doctor and the practice manager and to call 911. I listened to his chest, and it was clear and his heart rate was normal, so I put him on oxygen. The ambulance arrived and I told them what had transpired. As I was telling the father how to get to the ED, he said, “I know. I work there. I am a hospital administrator.” Later, I found out that the baby was doing fine and had been diagnosed with gastric reflux. The parents were grateful that I was the nurse that day. And, I was happy the pediatric knowledge I learned in nursing school came back to me when I needed really it.
November: Nursing, a Legacy
Being a Nurse, a Real Nurse
Knows that alert or not, you are Unique
Has a Goal to know you and about you
Commands Your Privacy
Desires your right
Treats you with respect and Dignity
Does only what you allow
Neither Judge nor Discriminate
Concerned about your safety
In your passive moments
Will be your eyes and ears
Your hands and feet
And even your brain
Will watch over you
Even when you have no one
Delighted to teach you when you are not sure
Understands and feels your pain
Even when you can’t say it
A real Nurse
Cares about you
Is very Patient and thoughtful
Sensitive and confident
Most of All
A real Nurse has a BIG, BIG heart
December: It Took A While…But I Found My Calling by Carol Rutherford
Like many nurses, my mother was an RN. I looked up to her and always wanted to be like her. But, at first, when I went off to college, the desire to be a nurse was not there. I took the RN prerequisites for two years and then left college to “find myself.” I worked as a millwright welder, cutting and climbing 300 feet off the ground. I got laid off during the winter and took a job as a coal miner at a surface mine, operating heavy equipment, and working with 7200 volts of electricity that powered those enormous pieces of equipment. I love working with my hands and seeing my accomplishments. Once again, I was laid off. After that, I got a job in a factory running drills and lathes and was again laid off because the plant closed. It was then I realized that my hands were my greatest assets and that I cared for people. So, I took an EMT class and worked for an ambulance service. From there, I took classes to become an LPN and worked as a pharmacy technician while attending school. In the end, I continued my education and ultimately became an RN.
I graduated on a Friday and started a job in a busy trauma ED the following Monday. Also, I became a TNS and an ACLS and BTLS provider and instructor. I spent several years in that ED then transferred to surgery where I specialized in neuro- and reconstructive surgery and plastic surgery for burns. Today, I am an occupational health nurse, and my background in the ED and surgery and my experience working in manufacturing help me deliver exceptional care to people who have been injured on the job. I love nursing and am so glad that I “found myself.” Life experience is a wonderful thing and has made me the well-rounded nurse I am today.
Bonus: A Team Of Amazing Nurses Saved The Day by Virginia McCall
I was the Director of Critical Care at Pendleton Methodist Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, during Hurricane Katrina. The 29-bed ICU was filled with patients that were critically ill and could not be discharged or transferred to another facility. When I arrived at the hospital the Sunday before the storm hit, my staff was surprised that I was there and that I was going to stay with them through the hurricane. New Orleans was in a state of evacuation, so getting staff to come in was difficult at best. Throughout the hospital, staffing was limited, so we all wore many hats.
During the hurricane and the aftermath when the levees broke and we all watched our cars go under water, the nurses remained strong, compassionate, and caring toward our patients, their families, and the refugees that came in to the hospital to get out of the flood waters. There are many heroic stories that could be told just from this one forgotten hospital on the edge of New Orleans East. But, the nurses who worked during this storm deserve recognition for the phenomenal job they did. They never failed to take care of their patients, and they never lost hope.
Bonus: No Call…No Show…No Worries
It was a late afternoon during the summer in Aliso Viejo. Two of my patients had not been home for their homecare visit. After calling to confirm the appointments the week before, the day before, and the morning of and after driving 40 miles, I was pretty exasperated. I pulled into a Chick-fil-A to try to cool off and drown my frustrations in an ice-cold diet Coke. Standing in line, I hear behind me a tiny whisper, "Daddy, she's a nurse." "Yes, son, she's a nurse. She helps people." The boy said, "Like Batman? Can I get her autograph"? I turned around and said, "I know somebody who's better than Batman and Superman put together." The child looked at me and said, "Yeah, who"? "He's right there beside you," I said. The young boy looked confused and asked, "My Dad's better then Batman and Superman together? What'd my Dad ever do"? I said, "He takes you out, and he spends time with you." The child looked impressed and said, "Wow! Thanks, Dad! Can I go play in the balls now"?
I left feeling as though maybe being a nurse really is kind of like being a superhero. It was still a hot, pretty worthless day. But, being recognized by a stranger as someone who helps people made it easy to swallow the excuses I got from my no-show patients such as "I forgot" and "I hadn't read the paper when I talked to you this morning and I found out there was a sale at my favorite shoe store.”
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