The Lippincott Solutions 2017 "Inspired Nurses: The Heroes of Healthcare" calendar was created for nurses by nurses, from the hundreds of touching and moving stories that were submitted from around the country. Their strength, courage, and compassion, these 12 stories illustrate just how crucial nursing is to optimal patient care and the art of healing.
As the year progress, we hope these stories will be a constant source of inspiration and reminder of just what it means to be a nurse.
It was a cold winter night in 2007 that changed my life. I was driving down a dark desolate highway and suddenly had to slam on my brakes as there was a car lying on its side, blocking the two-lane highway. I pulled over, ran to the vehicle but found no one inside. I then heard moaning and saw a body a few feet away. I raced over and found a young 22 year old woman, crying. Her head was bleeding and her leg was badly twisted and broken. I tried speaking to her, but she kept repeating, “I'm so cold.” And, “Daddy I want my Daddy.”
I saw blood on her jeans, and wondered to do? On that portion of the road there's no cell service so I tried to calm her before running to my car to get a knife to cut way part of her jeans where she was bleeding. I placed my jacket on top of her and then waited 20 minutes before another vehicle arrived and was able to call for help. As I watched her being airlifted, I thought, "if only I had known what to do.” I was later contacted by her family who thanked me for saving her life. She had been in a coma for 10 days, but had survived! It was then I realized no matter what it takes, I want to become a nurse. I waited until my youngest was in high school and then started on my journey through nursing school. It wasn't easy, but in 2014 I graduated and I now work at an awesome hospital where I have learned a lot from my peers and continue in my education.
February: Listening From the Heart
Author: Kristin Mahler, School Nurse, Ann Arbor Public Schools
"My chest really hurts!” Said the scared young man as he entered my high school clinic. He was not one of my frequent clinic visitors, and the look on his face told me he wouldn’t have come if he hadn't felt it was serious. We began the school year reacting to the sudden death of a young male athlete who had been an otherwise a healthy 17 year old, with no known medical history. This was racing through my mind as I began assessing the student in my clinic with questions about his symptoms like dizziness, and shortness of breath. I then listened to his heart, and when a strong, regular beat came through, I reassured him his heart was OK, though I could see he was not totally convinced.
“I’m going to ask my mother to take me to the hospital,” he said.
Remembering hearing a student speaking earlier about losing her grandfather, I decided to take a chance.
“Did you recently lose your grandfather?” I asked. He looked surprised, but answered that he had, and that he had had a heart attack while at work. Then, it all fell into place. I reassured him that his symptoms could be a normal response to his grandfather’s death and told him that it was OK if he wanted to see a doctor for reassurance, but then let him listen to his heartbeat again and explained why I had asked about his other symptoms which led me to believe he would be okay. He rested a then asked to return to class.
Later when I spoke with his mother, she mentioned that her son had sent a text asking to be taken to the hospital. I told her that I thought he was okay, but given the history, I would support whatever choice she made. She thanked me and said she had just received another text from her son stating he was feeling better and wanted to stay at school.
This is just one example of what a school nurses does – help keep students in school and learning, and to listen.
March: From NICU to Nursing
Author: Melissa Collins, RN, WellCare
I became a nurse in my late 20s. I had two daughters that were in NICU who were 19 months apart in age. The care and support we received from the NICU nurses prompted me on my journey to become a nurse. It made me want to “pay it forward” and show others my caring personality. I wanted to help them as much as those nurses helped me. I went to nursing school while my husband was serving in the Army and was overseas in Iraq. Though it was challenging, I've had wonderful support from my family and friends. And my kids are proud to say that her mom is a nurse.
April: Medical Missionary
Author: Rhonda A. Hilliker, Church Missionary Nurse, Village Baptist
There is one person who has played the most significant human role in me becoming a nurse, staying a nurse and continuing to advance my degree - Susan M. I first met Susan after I started working as an L&D nurse in a local military facility. I overheard her talking about the many Missionary trips she had made to Africa, so I enquired further and ended up going on a Medical Missionary trip with her several others to Uganda, Africa, in 2008. On that trip I got to watch a wonderful Nurse Midwife share her skills. Her compassion and love for what she does made me feel completely honored to be there with her, and totally hooked me on being a Medical Missionary forever. God lead me to her, and she led me to the medical field, showing me just what we could do as nurses outside the comforts of the developed world’s Labor and Delivery Unit. Since then, I've been on many Medical Missionary trips with her, serving 8-1/2 months in Sierra Leone as a Labor and Delivery Nurse in an Ebola Holding Unit. As a result, I began my MSN/DNP on July 4, 2016, and wish to thank Susan for her commitment to women around the world and for allowing God to use her to guide me into serving women around the world as well.
May: Through the Stomach to the Heart
Author: Simone Cheong, Magnet Project Coordinator, West Kendall Baptist Hospital
In a previous role working on an inpatient medical-surgical unit, I had an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in the life of one patient. We had been caring for a patient who had worked for a cruise line and had become very ill, requiring prolonged hospitalization and medical therapy before being released to return home. He was from India and had no family or friends.
The staff explained that the patient was not eating and was losing weight. His mood was also depressed. The physical ailment included wound healing, and with insufficient nutrients, the body is slowed in its healing process. Although the dieticians tried their best to make accommodations, he was still not eating well, so I took it upon myself to go to a local Indian grocery store and buy some Indian food items. With the physician's permission, I proceeded to cook and provide him with Indian meals and snacks. The patient was thankful and overwhelmed with emotion, and over the course of his hospitalization, he began eating better, improving his nutritional intake along with his mood as well. He was subsequently released after several weeks.
Over the years, the patient has called back to the nursing unit asking to thank me again and give me updates on his health status. That is what nursing is all about. Going above and beyond to meet the needs of the patient.
June: Hair and Hospice
Author: Marcy Hof, RN, Hilton Head Hospital
Thirty-two years ago when I was 21, I got my cosmetology license and began working in a salon. My father had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and went from hospital to hospital for different treatments and a clinical trial. It was at that time that I realized how valuable nurses are to the world, and how many different aspects of nursing there are. When my dad got to the point where he needed hospice care, I was the only one who could lift him or clean him up. He would tell people to go away and let me help them because I was stronger than my mom and sister. It was only after he passed away that I went to nursing school. I have been a RN for 24 years and today my daughter is in nursing school too! My father would have been so proud!! It is a very rewarding, frustrating, sad, and interesting career that I am glad I pursed!
July: Meant to be a Nurse
Author: Adriana Pirez BSN RN, Saint Luke's Cornwall Hospital, Medical/Surgical Unit
All my life I've wanted to be a nurse. The inspiration was in my family, as my aunt Mercedes was the nurse coordinator for a private hospital in my native country of Uruguay. She married a doctor and one of their sons became a doctor too.
On Sunday's when we would gather at grandma's house, as a little girl, I remember hearing conversations about new drugs in the market to fight illnesses, and many stories my cousin would tell about his experiences as a new doctor doing an internship in a local hospital ED. I was mesmerized by their stories, their intelligence and mostly for their love and dedication to their professions. It took me a long time as a woman, a mother, and a wife, in my forties to realize that that dream of being a vocational nurse could be possible here in the U.S. So, after working for years in different hospitals as a unit secretary and a registrar for the Emergency Department, I enrolled in a nursing program at my local community college.
Finally, after so many struggles, lack of support and discrimination from some professors for me speaking with an accent and being different, I maintained a positive attitude, and transferred to a new nursing program in a prestigious Christian College in Rockland County, NY. In 2013 I graduated with honors. It wasn’t always easy, but I would do it all over again – nine years, three colleges and a huge debt in student loans.
Today, I work in my local hospital, the one where the nurses in that ED inspired me even more. I love the smiles on my patients when they see me coming on my second day of my shifts. Their smiles and their trust in my care is the greatest support I can get, knowing that nursing is in my heart and in my Christian soul, and that I was truly meant to be a nurse.
August: A Better Life
Author: Helene Vossos, DNP, PMHNP-BC, ANP, Stewart Marchman ACT Behavioral Services
As nurses, we must recognize how vulnerable mental health patients often feel, which can impact their access to mental health services.
As a mental health nurse, I participated in an "Open Access Model" to "walk in" appointments in an outpatient clinic that improved access to mental health services from 54% up to 94%. Many of our inpatient, outpatient, home health care and homeless patients lack communication skills, resources and all nurses can help make a difference when coordinating their care. As a case study, we talk about Miguel, who is a 32 year old immigrant from Puerto Rico, homeless in Florida, has a history of schizophrenia and is a new resident. He came to the states by boat, "for a better life." His history includes three previous self-inflicted stabbings to his abdomen and chest when he was out of medication and when "the voices were loud and commanding."
Historically Miguel was in contact with emergency department nurses, medical-surgical nurses, OR nurses, case manager nurses, mental health nurses and nurse practitioners for the past three years. All of these nurses are "mental health nurses" by proxy, as they all touched his life, saving him and helping him to maintain stability and get the health care services he needs by providing "walk-in" status during open-access for mental health services, and have provided a translator as well as additional assistance in maintaining appropriate medication and continuing outpatient services. Nurses save lives in all ways of collaboration, caring and research translated into clinical practice!
September: I’m Just Like You
Angela Townsend, BSN, RN, Home Health
When I was 17, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It was at that moment when I decided to become a nurse. I've found that my own personal experience having a chronic illness has not only increased my understanding and passion for teaching others with diabetes, it has allowed me an empathy towards my patients that I never thought possible. I teach my patients about their illnesses and let them know, "hey, I have to do this too." It has made my experience as a nurse in an ever changing world of medicine, so much more rewarding!
October: Beautiful Colors
Author: Leeann Vidt, R.N. supervisor, Oakmont Center for Nursing
As all life must come to an end, some families have find it difficult to face emotionally. I observe them looking scared to talk with or touch a dying loved one, so will often enter the room, sit on the bed, and take the patient’s hand in mine, then I will ask them if they think the fall leaves are beautiful with all those wonderful colors. They always answer, yes, and look at me puzzled. I then tell them that those leaves are actually dying and that something so beautiful should not be feared. I tell them the greatest gift to give their loved one is loving memories. I ask starter questions, such as what their favorite vacation or holiday spent together was. As they answer with smiles across their lips, I quietly exit the room and close the door. Nothing warms my heart like hearing the laughter behind that door. And then after the patient passes, I am thanked for making the passage from this life, a better memory for them. I tell them that their loved one left within a circle of love, just as they had lived.
This is why I love nursing. To be able to help someone change such a scary situation into a sweet memory, makes those difficult stressed shifts well worth my nursing cap.
November: It’s My Pleasure
Author: Katie Fadell-Mann, RN, Ebenezer Lake City Care Center
My Dad was a double lung transplant recipient in 2006. What inspired me to be a nurse was seeing the difference his nurse made in his care. His nurse, Sara literally did not leave his side for the first two days after his surgery. When I asked where I could send a gift to for her to thank her for all she had done, she said, "There's no need, it's my pleasure to take care of your Dad." I started going to school for nursing a few months later.
December: Giving Care to “Throwaways”
Author: Carol Hodge, Retired
While working as the Director of Nursing in a Medicaid only nursing home, I had the pleasure of taking care of the many "throw-away" people in the county. These were the homeless, prostitutes, and drug abusers, as well as others who needed long-term care but did not have the resources to pay for it. When a patient, an elderly former prostitute, was admitted to the hospital, I visited her, finding her in a room alone and unresponsive. I sat and talked with her for a while even though I did not get any response or acknowledgement. We weren’t particularly close, so I wasn’t expecting much from our visit. But as I left the room, I heard a weak cry. I turned around, and she was looking straight at me with a tear sliding down her face. It was a moment that confirmed I was on the path that had been chosen for me. I will never forget that day. And now that I am no longer able to work in my chosen career, I know it was truly the hardest job I have ever loved. God Bless our nurses!
Nurses in History
Florence Nightingale - Perhaps the most famous nurse in history, Florence Nightingale is known for her efforts to reform the British military health system. Born to a patrician family, her mother was distressed when Nightingale forsook her aristocratic duties to become a nurse. Nightingale traveled to a number of countries and rejected an offer of marriage as she did not want anything to interfere with what she believed was a God-given calling as a nurse.
Walt Whitman - Few people realize that the famous poet was also a volunteer nurse. Whitman worked as a nurse at Army hospitals set up during the Civil War.
Mary Todd Lincoln - The wife of President Abraham Lincoln was a well-educated young woman from Lexington, KY, worked tirelessly as a nurse during the Civil War, tending to wounded soldiers.
Clara Barton - known as America's "Angel of the Battlefield,” worked tirelessly during the Civil War and was deeply affected by the lack of medical supplies available to the wounded soldiers. Taking action, Barton took supplies to the battlefield, nursing the wounded where they lay. Barton also founded the American Red Cross in 1881.
Margaret Sanger - Best known as an activist for birth control and family planning, Sanger pioneered the women’s health movement distributing pamphlets with information on birth control and other topics such as menstruation and sexuality. In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League which became Planned Parenthood.
Mary Eliza Mahoney - The first African-American woman to become a registered nurse, Mahoney was one of four to graduate from the New England Hospital for Women and Children's nursing program in 1879. Her success allowed more African-American students into nursing schools throughout the nation, and she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908.
Linda Richards - developed the record-keeping that the U.S. and U.K. still use in nursing today after finding herself stunned by the disorganized records she found at her first nursing job.
Dorothea Dix - spent 40 years of her life lobbying for mental health care. In 1861, Dix became the superintendent of female nurses for the Union Army and oversaw a staff of 6,000 hospital nurses and founded 32 mental health institutions to facilitate the nation's growing need for better mental health care.
…found their calling by helping people from all walks of life. What inspires you?
We understand it can sometimes seem like a thankless job, but then something happens to remind you why you became a nurse. Or maybe you’ve been inspired by another nurse, clinician, friend, colleague, mentor or teacher who’s made a difference in your life and in the practice of nursing.
Help Us Celebrate Nurses
We understand that it can seem like a thankless job at times. But then something happens to remind you why you became a nurse in the first place. Wolters Kluwer wishes to thank you for all you do by providing several ways to honor nurses and sharing your inspiring stories.
Share Your Inspiring Stories
Nurses, please submit your inspiring stories about being a nurse, or how you were inspired by another, and be entered to win a spot in the 2018 Inspired Nurses calendar!