This week, three nurses that I admire, respect, and would hope to care for me if I required nursing care, have told me they are thinking of leaving the profession of nursing. This left me saddened – not only for my colleagues but also for the profession that I love. More importantly, their sentiments also left me feeling worried of what could happen if all the collective nursing wisdom and expertise were to suddenly leave our hospitals, our clinics, and our facilities.
During each one of these conversations, I asked them to reflect on how much they matter, and how much our communities, our patients need them. How great nurses don’t fall from the sky, and that I could only hope to see their face looking at me if I found myself in need of care.
I fell in love with nursing. Truly, this is how I would describe it. It gives me a sense of purpose, a community, an identity. I have many stories of why I love nursing, but one comes top of mind: My mother (a nurse of over 50 years) worked in a rehab facility when my 4 siblings were very young. She’d work the 3-11 shift so she could spend her days raising her children. One patient she came to know was a young woman who had been in a coma for years after a brain hemorrhage. The 30-year-old woman had been given a poor prognosis, but her hopeful parents never gave up. As part of her therapy the tv set would be left on in her room, to encourage brain activity. At the time, late 1970’s, a commercial for the bubble gum “Hubba Bubba” would often play. One day, out of the blue, my mother’s patient said “hubba bubba” right back to the tv. This was the start of a miraculous recovery that my mother would leave her mark on.
In the following months, my mother would bring my young brother in to visit her newly awoken patient. My brother, only a year old at the time, would sit on the patient’s lap and feed her M&M’s. My mother forged a close relationship with her, and even after discharge remained in contact. In later years, my mother would ask her former patient to speak to her class of nursing students, and to come speak at the opening of another rehab facility.
Thirty years later, on my shift as a visiting nurse, I received paperwork for a new patient. I immediately recognized her name. The same patient my mother had cared for 30 years prior was now my own. When I asked her if she remembered Bernadette Oinonen, the patient enthusiastically shared her joyful memories of my mother. She expressed the immense impact my mother had made on her life.
We often cannot see the good we spread around us. Our daily struggles can cloud the gifts we have as well as the satisfaction of making a difference. At the end of my mother’s long and challenging career, she is left fulfilled with meaning, purpose, and memories. And I am there picking up where she left off. I love being a nurse, I hope you do too.
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Renee has provided care as an RN to patients in critical care, as a visiting nurse, a diabetic health coach, a nurse educator, and most recently as the Director of Nursing for Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare. Renee joined practicing excellence first as a leader in client success, and now is a senior consultant on the growth team. She partners with healthcare leaders and strategically advises them on how they can utilize the Clinician Experience Project to support their organizational goals. Renee also is a faculty contributor for our patient experience ambulatory nursing programs. Her passion for coaching ambulatory nurses is driven by the belief that patients have the best outcomes with a team approach. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Renee’s expertise is in managing medically complex chronic disease patients and advancing value-based care. Renee is thrilled to be a part of Practicing Excellence and to contribute to empowering those that care.