Always Real, Modern Medicine

Excellence In Nursing

When I was little, I was in and out of the hospital a lot.  My kidneys never seemed to work right until I was about nine or ten.

I remember one time when I was about five, I was there by myself, sitting in the hallway in a wheelchair and my neighbor who was a young nurse in her 20s at the time, sought me out and sat beside me. She patted my arm and looked me in the eye and made me feel safe.

I remember sitting in that wheel chair, feeling the warmth of her hand on my forearm and looking at her white hose and nurse cap.  Even at five, I was overly self-reliant and a stubbornly brave soldier, but I remember the feeling of relief wash over me at seeing her familiar face.  I think from that day, I’ve always had a respect and admiration for nurses. They represent something to me that feels like security.

This afternoon, I had the honor of attending a program at my hospital recognizing excellence in nursing.  I call it “my” hospital because there are many hospitals in my area but this is the one I choose even though it is in a terribly inconvenient location for me.  Ergo, it is “my” hospital.

I have had the privilege of having a number of my spare parts removed at this hospital over multiple occasions and each time the care I received from the nursing staff and the patient care technicians was beyond excellent.  And each time I wrote a letter to the hospital president to bring this to his attention, naming names as I am prone to do. And each time he responded promptly and personally with a note of appreciation which told me that the culture of excellence in patient care starts at the top in this hospital.  This is an organization that prizes the human-to-human dynamic.  And that’s the kind of hospital you want to be in should the occasion arise.

As I sat in the auditorium, I watched different nurses come to the front to receive recognition awards in various categories.  I thought about how being a nurse is one of the very few careers where you can really make a difference in the life of another human being;  the rest of us are just pushing paper from here to there.  Nursing is one of the few jobs where you put your hands on another human and you look them in the eye. Not everyone can do that.  There is nothing impersonal about nursing.

I thought about the nurses who cared for me after each of my surgeries, who did things for me that only my mother should have to do, and did so with respect and dignity, who when they came to my room to attend to me, made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, who were terribly concerned that my pain was manageable, who would explain everything and empower me with information, who knew when to give sympathy, when to cheerlead and when to prod – who would look me in the eye and pat my arm and make me feel safe.   Nurses who cared not just for me but about me, a human,  rendered vulnerable and helpless by circumstances beyond her control.

If you know a nurse, remember to tell them from time to time how much you appreciate what they do to make the world a better place.  And if you’ve been cared for by an excellent nurse, take the time to write a letter and let someone know.

43 thoughts on “Excellence In Nursing

  1. I happened to have a doctors appointment last week and noticed it was the first day of Nurses Appreciation week. I took each of the nurses (and receptionist) a little gift that day. It was so fun to surprise them.

    I was also in the hospital a lot as a child for kidney and bladder issues. Then I started having migraines at age 8 and got to go in a few times for cat scans and other fun stuff. Nurses are wonderful people.

  2. I love reading your posts. I just seem to nod and say, yes! yes! Bless you for going through all that as a child. The summer I was four I had a serious kidney disease. They had my mom ready to do a transplant but tried a “wonder drug” (penicillin) and I recovered, but it was a long summer that I remember well. In March I had one of my spare parts removed (unplanned) and had to have a transfusion first. It was procedure, but the nurse sat with me through the first 15 minutes to make sure there were no complications. The whole transfusion thing kind of creeped me out. But the nurse visited and reassured me. It was nice because my husband had to leave earlier in the evening to care for our children at home as it was their bedtime so I was alone. It sure would have been harder had she not been there and then she kept checking back. Whether you are four or ten or forty-nine, nurses are God’s angels.

  3. My daugher is a nurse at our local hospital & just received the “Florence Nightingale” award. Makes me a pretty proud Mom!

    Almost a year ago we had a horrible flood & in a matter of minutes, our hospital was flooded, forcing a complete evacuation. Karen was working that day. It took our hospital 5 months to rebuild. For a brief period our city was without hospital care. A mobile until was brought in from North Carolina & was even outfitted for emergency surgeries. During that time, the hospital paid all of their staff, but they were required to work at other hospitals, do volunteer community work, help with the hospital clean up, etc. It’s a long story & I don’t want to take up your blog space!

    I too want to share your tribute with my daughter & other nurse friends. Thanks so much!!!

  4. As a nurse, I thank you for this. Sometimes, when we are particularly short-staffed and feel all we are doing is putting out fires, we leave work feeling frustrated and discouraged, knowing we didn’t get to spend as much hands-on time as we wanted. It’s nice to feel appreciated, no matter what line of work you’re in.

  5. Thanks for your tribute to nurses. I am a late-blooming nurse – I graduated last year at 57. I work nights in a small community hospital, and I love it! As a kid, I dreamed of being a doctor, but then I realized that what I really wanted to do was look-them-in-the-eye, pat-them-on-the-arm nursing. My first and best career was as a mom, but I feel so fortunate to be doing something I love so much now.

    * * *
    Yay you Kathy for getting your nursing degree! “You’re never too old” is my motto!

  6. What a wonderful post. So often, people write letters to hospitals only to voice their complaints and oh, how they were wronged. What a beautiful gift to write a letter and recognize the GOOD that you have received and acknowledge people for their dedication and commitment.

    Well done!

  7. AM, This is such a great post about our nurse caregivers. My husband was hospitalized for 7 weeks prior to his death and his nursing care was really, OUR nursing care. They were exceptional in so many ways. Now, two years later, I have relationships with three of them, bonds form during that time that connot be broken. God Bless our nurses!

  8. Thank you so much for that post. I have been a pediatric nurse at a very busy children’s hospital here in Chicago for ten years now. I went back to school for my nursing degree when I was 42, after having taught school for nearly 20 years. I found new challenges, lifetime friendships,and an incredible culture of caring. It is a phenomenal career. I thank God everyday I am lucky enough to be a part of it.

    * * *

    My friend Jennifer who is helping me lead the Bible study (in the side bar) was a critical care pediatric nurse before she became a mom. She took care of the sickest of the sick children. It takes a really compassionate and remarkable person to do that kind of work, and Jennifer is both.

    In my view teaching is the other job where you have the opportunity to really make a life long difference in the life of a human. There is evidence of this in my own life. And you’ve been a teacher and a nurse! God bless you Melissa.

  9. I remember the differences nurses made around the time of the birth of my twins. I had to go to the hospital for non-stress tests every week, and I had various nurses who gave me advice and calmed my worries. And when the twins were born, I was blessed with a nurse who had 2 y/o twins herself; she was an invaluable source of help.
    And of course my own mother was a nurse! 🙂 You’re right. Nurses really do make a difference in people’s lives.

  10. I have a good friend who is working full-time as an LPN and is also going to school to become an RN. She didn’t become an LPN until she was nearly 40 and her children were in high school. Now she is finally realizing her dream of becoming an RN. She is the most compassionate person I know and makes an excellent nurse. The world needs more people like her.

  11. Wow, what a blessing to have such a hospital in your area. What a blessing to know you can go in and not come out better rather than contracting something worse while you’re there, which seems to be the rule rather than the exception in many other necks of the woods.

  12. As a nurse, I thank you for this post. I have printed it for a friend who is just starting her education towards a nursing degree. Initially I wanted to be a teacher but when I graduated high school in the early 80’s, teaching was a difficult field in which to find a job. I loved my years working with the smallest and sickest babies in the NICU, but when my first child arrived I found that pediatric home care allowed me to be home more. Eventually I started teaching childbirth classes and it has fulfilled my desire to teach. It really is a wonderful/flexible career and I am so happy to see more young men and women considering it.

  13. And, Antique Mommy, when you write, you change lives, too, even though you’re not putting your hands on someone – I will never take for granted my fertility or the children God has given because I have read your blog. 🙂

  14. I have a wonderful OB that has seen me through some terribly traumatic times. I really love her! But her nurse is a nightmare. She is condescending, rude, has no bedside manner, does not return calls or emails. I have seriously considered switching doctors because of the nurse. I’ve talked to the doctor and unfortunately, this nurse is “assigned” to her at this practice and there isn’t much I can do. Yesterday the doctor was kind enough to have another doctor’s nurse handle my case, so I didn’t have to deal with her.

    I only have about 9 more weeks before this child is born and it will be my last biological child. It saddens me that she hangs such a negative cloud over my experience, but I’m not sure what else can be done. At 31 weeks, it’s hard to find another doctor to take me.

    All that to say that a bad nurse can do just as much damage (to the patient and her industry) as a good nurse can do good. I wish she knew how she was affecting people. She makes me really hate going to that office. 🙁

    * * *
    I guess I disagree that a bad nurse can do as much harm as a good nurse can do good. And I say this because I believe the good outweighs the bad in life – I’m a glass half-full girl. In every industry there are bad apples and they should be called out. Of the probably 100 nurses/PTs that have cared for me at this hospital, there was just one that was not great. That’s pretty good odds.

    I had a bad nurse in the recovery room when I had my hysterectomy two years ago – and I wrote a letter to the president of the hospital. It took me awhile to decide to do it, but the hospital responded. I got follow up calls and letters from department heads. They wanted me to know that they would check into it and take whatever corrective action they found to be warranted. (I wrote about it here:

    I recommend you write a letter calling this gal out. And then write another letter calling out those that are doing a great job. It keeps the scales of good to bad in balance. ~AM

  15. This is excellent. I have two friends who are nurses. One in the baby ward and the other who is an ICU nurse. I am going to forward this on to each of them. I know they will love it! Have a great weekend.

  16. As I read this, I am in the hospital with my husband for his lung biopsy. Things are not looking good, but the nursing staff is incredible. Angels on earth. Bless them all.

    * * *
    Sending up a prayer for some good news for you. ~AM

  17. AM, I would like to link to this on my facebook page. I have lots of nurse-friends because I work in an emergency room (as a registrar). This was beautifully written and I’d love to share it with them. Let me know if that’s okay with you. 🙂

  18. I can’t help but to wonder, why on earth would a five year old be alone in a hospital? Where were your parents??

    * * *
    This was back in the 60s and things were a little different back then I guess. My dad worked nights and my mom worked days and there were two other children at home. They got NO help from grandparents or aunts and uncles even though they were nearby — so I guess it just had to be done. I’m sure they would have rather been with me every minute, but it just wasn’t possible. These days, I wouldn’t dream of leaving my child alone in a hospital for one second, but these are different times and my situation as a parent is very different than what they were dealing with. ~AM

  19. Our newborn son is in the NICU and will probably be there for another week or 10 days. The nurses taking care of him are wonderful, and the hospital administrator can expect a letter from us singing their praises. Our little one will be fine and what he’s going through is not life-threatening; he just needs a little extra care right now. But his nurses watch over him just as closely as they watch over the tiniest and the sickest babies. I’ll be able to go back in a couple of hours for the next visitation and it will be a pleasure to take a copy of your post with me.

  20. Wow you had good care. Last Fall when hubby was in the hospital for 3 days, I had to stay because they didn’t care for him. This needs to be done too bad you can’t get out of bed hope you have someone with you.

    Then we have my daughter-in-law who is a NICU nurse and she is excellant. She loves every patient she has regardless of adult or babe. A few prayers for her too. She just burnt her hand and is off for a few weeks. Doctor says 2nd degree burns but she will recover nicely. She misses her work. Mostly the patients.

    In hubby’s case the nurses were just that overworked! Takes a special person to do that kind of work.

  21. I say a big “YES” to this post. The nurse can make so much difference. And let’s face it, most people are in vulnerable situations when they are in hospital – they wouldn’t be there for fun.

    Do you ever watch “Scrubs”, by the way? Quite the best thing on American tv, in my opinion. Nurses even come out well in that show – and that’s saying something.

  22. My grandmother was an RN. It wasn’t just her job. It was part of who she was. She was so good at her job, she was even offered to adopt one of her terminally ill patient’s children. My grandfather declined the offer. She thought of that little girl for the rest of her life and wondered who ended up taking her.

  23. My wife is an RN. She works hard, and touches a lot of lives. She knew from an early age that this is what God wanted her to do, because her gift is caring. I’m utterly and completely proud of her.

  24. Of all the nurses I or my children have ever had, only one of them was “bad”. . .and really it was more “young” than “bad” probably.

    I count the school nurse where I work among the GREAT nurses. She is called upon everyday to do the impossible–make everyone feel better all the time while doling out band-aids and medications and breathing treatments and determining who’s faking and who’s really ill, AND giving Advil to teachers. *Ahem*

    Nurses rock. I sent the link to your blog to our school nurse, and thanked her for all that she does.

  25. You’re so right! I’ve had numerous hospital experiences in recent years and have had some of the most wonderful nurses! They are treasures, to be sure.

  26. All it takes is one bad hospital experience to appreciate how much nurses matter to the process of getting well. To all the nurses who go above and beyond expection, thank you for being you!

  27. I think that nurses do G-d’s work on earth. My older daughter has spent almost 5 months of her little life in various intensive care units and the nurses cared for her like she was their own. They even turned a blind eye when I climbed into the giant metal crib with her so she could sleep. They’ve been such a wonderful blessing to my entire family – it’s wonderful to see such a lovely tribute to them.

    * * *
    Oh my goodness. The image of you climbing into the crib with your baby makes my eyes sting with tears. A mother’s love knows no bounds, no indignities, no rules. ~AM

  28. yup, I know exactly what you’re talking about. we also went to the little hospital that no one else seemed to care for – because the docs and nursing staff were so personal and connected. it’s also the place where my daughter was gifted a stethoscope by my husband’s nurse – a gift we use for science projects to this very day.

    It’s amazing how powerful “small” can be!


    * * *
    I think it’s interesting that you assumed it was a little hospital. It’s actually a big hospital, although I never mentioned its size. One of the interesting dynamics I’ve noticed in blogging/commenting over the past nearly four years is that readers interpret the words I write through the lens of their own experience. It’s an interesting phenomenon. ~AM

  29. wow – wanted to thank you for this. i am a special care nursery RN and have often thought of leaving nursing. it is difficult at times with not enough nurses on the floor – feeling like you AREN’T able to make those patients that you care for feel as special as they should because you are so busy running to the next task! i teared up reading your post and appreciated that you took the time to write that and let us know that we DO make a difference. thanks.

  30. Really lovely, AM… the nurse friends that I have are ALL special people, and this is a beautiful tribute. I shall send them over here post-haste (does that have a hyphen or not? Oh well, today it does..). You write so well.

  31. How insightful of you to realize the “hard work” that someone else is going through so that you don’t have a “hard time”.
    It’s their job, versus your experience. However, the good one’s don’t consider it to be just a job.
    Thanks for publically recognizing that! 🙂

  32. Hi again AM. I just read thru all the comments. Wow, you started a lively discussion! You are right , things on a pediatric unit are much different now, we practice “family centered care” where we do our best to accomadate parents in every way and strive to keep them well informed. They are as much a part of the “care plan” as the docs and nurses. Also, I wanted to comment about “bad” nurses. I’m not sure “bad” is the right term. Nurses that struggle with communication and forming relationships with their patients seem to have the same problems with their co-workers. Probably where that term “nurses eat their young” came from. Perhaps they might find their niche and happiness in a different field.

  33. Thank you, as ever, for highlighting an occupation for angels – I would not have survived the loss of our triplets, the many doctor visits and numerous hospitalizations during pregnancy, or the PNC stay of our twins without the amazing laying-on of hands and hearts of so many wonderful nurses at our hospital. We donated a room for them, made life-long friendships and are thankful every day. It’s a noble career, to be sure.

  34. My sister is a nurse. If you can’t be one, next best thing is having one in your family. I am sending her a link to this. I know it will make her day. 🙂

  35. Hubby just had double hernia surgery, and we love every nurse who worked with him! Since we only see the surgeon for a few minutes, the nurses were in the frontlines, keeping my husband calmed down by exchanging stories of their kids with him – and even bringing ME beverages when I was just hanging out with him! I think most of them go over and above in keeping a personal touch and great bedside manner in the healthcare industry.

  36. I too have had many nurses who have shown such loving care to me–and in very desperate, scary times. Angels, I tell you. They are angels.

    Also, this might surprise you, but I have not once, yea NEVER, considered being a nurse. Nor should I ever go down that route.

    Some people are good with humanity; me? I make fun of it. That doesn’t go over very well in a hospital.


  37. When people ask me what my wife does for a living, I tell them that she does hand to hand combat with the Angel of Death. She bats about .800 in that league.

    She’s an emergency room nurse.

    * * *
    God bless your wife Bill. She certainly is on the front lines of health care. And she has to put up with you. (That was a joke.)

  38. Thank you. As a nurse, I love hearing and reading stories like these. It makes every single day in this volatile profession not only bearable, but enjoyable.

  39. I’m forwarding this to my girl friend who’s a nurse. I don’t know how she does it, but I’m very grateful for people like her who do.

  40. I love this post! LOVE!

    My grandmother was a nurse and she was always on my case about writing those letters, not only to hospital directors, but directly to the nurses and doctors who assisted me. Now I’m a pesky letter writer too. But it makes sense. I trust these people with my health and they deliver it to me intact. I suppose that’s worth a little letter writing =)

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