Nursing is a work of heart
Happy Nurses' Week!
To celebrate Nurses' Week, we asked three of our nursing leaders to reflect on what nursing means to them. Below are their heartfelt words….
The Privilege of Nursing
Grace Jaime, RN
Global Head of Business Excellence, Oneview Healthcare
I spent ten years in EDs and Level 1 trauma centers. I’ve seen horrific accidents, gunshot wounds, amputations, and worse. I’ve seen grown men three times my size scream and cry. It was often my job to stop the bleeding, ease the trauma, and prepare people for major surgery and an uncertain future. It was, and continues to be, such a privilege.
As nurses, beyond caring for illnesses and wounds, we care for people in totality. With each patient, I have to remember that this isn’t an isolated event. This person existed before they came into my ED. Who are they? How did it come to this? The person standing in front of me was somebody yesterday, and tomorrow they’re going to be someone completely different, mentally and physically. Tomorrow they may have a permanent scar. They may be missing a finger, or a leg. Maybe we had to shave their head to address a head injury. Ten years from now, they’ll remember this moment, hopefully healed by then and telling the story to their friends over a beer. But right now, they are standing in front of me, pouring their heart out. Literally. The blood’s getting all over my scrubs. The symbolism isn’t lost on me. And it’s a privilege.
In the ED, it’s rare that someone comes in alone. Sometimes it’s a family, or even strangers who happened to be there at the time the trauma happened. This is the first time I’m meeting all of them – a brand new cast of characters who may or may not have a history. Maybe they’re in a strained relationship. Maybe this was domestic violence and the person who caused it is asking you to fix it. Maybe it’s the patient and her mother, or the patient and his child. It’s my job to honor each situation and the vulnerability that comes with it. It’s such a privilege.
Being a nurse in the ED means looking traumatized people in the eyes without any fear or hesitation, and saying, “I’m here. We’re in this together. I’m going to help you. We got this.” And it needs to be authentic. I need to give that person dignity and respect, and to give a little bit of myself each time. It’s a unique human interaction. Patients always say, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?” and I say to them, “Because you’re one of the strong ones. Think of what you’re learning right now that you can take with you. This event does not define you. It prepares you for great things.”
Families would pull out pictures and show me what the patient looked like before they came in. They were already mourning the person the patient used to be. But instead of saying, “Aw, your son used to be so handsome” or “Wow, your spouse used to have two arms,” I’d always say, “Yeah, but he’s got a cool scar now,” or “I don’t know, I think she looks pretty great with my stitches. Don’t you like my handiwork?” You’re preparing them for the new person that patient is becoming. You’re making a connection and learning about another person for a moment. It’s a true calling. And of course, it’s a privilege.
I’d try to make them laugh. Nurses need to have a sense of humor. The people in front of you are in shock. They’ve been in an accident or an altercation and they’re in a totally unique state. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but I’d try to put a smile on their faces to shift the focus from the trauma and just focus on the positive – they’re here. They’re getting help. It could be worse. Maybe they’re going to lose a limb or a finger, so I’d tell them, “You’re fine. You still have nine other fingers. Nine! Who even needs ten fingers? They just get in the way.”
One time I had a husband and wife come in, and the husband was a huge guy, but he was such a baby. Screaming and crying and carrying on. And the wife asked me, “Hey, can you stitch his mouth shut while you’re at it?” I made a joke about leaving him a little straw so he could breathe. Or maybe you know that your patient works in an office, so you joke with them that unfortunately their illustrious cello career is over. It puts things in perspective to them. You might even see a smile, and that, in addition to being a huge compliment, is a privilege.
Even while writing this piece, so many memories crept back and made me smile, even though those memories were messy. People lost blood. People lost sanity. People lost people. But I was there for them. I did my best to make them feel like it was going to be okay, even if it wasn’t. They trusted me, a total stranger, in their time of need. My days in the ED are over, but I still carry those lessons. We’re not always at our best. Our colleagues aren’t always at their best. But we are all a collection of the traumas and victories we’ve had and are having each moment. We bring our scars and our stitches to work every day. And for nurses like me, we thrive on that. Because human connection, empathy, and of course nursing, is such a privilege.
A Passion for Technology in Healthcare
Antoinette Thomas, MSN and RN
Vice President of Sales, Oneview Healthcare
I was always a closet science lover. I say “closet” because during my school years, it wasn’t encouraged for girls to explore science. Some might argue they’re still not. But I always loved science, especially biological science – anatomy and physiology. I was fortunate to have a biology teacher who made a tremendous impact on me as a student. He took the time and cared enough to notice that I was good at science, and helped me foster my skills in that area.
When I began academic life, I had no ties to medicine and hadn’t even considered nursing. I went into my first year of college, studying textile sciences. Six months into it I was miserable, and knew I had to make a change. I took a semester off and put time and thought into my future and my purpose. I didn’t want to give up science; it was in my bones. I thought about my legacy and ways I could impact the world in a positive way. I also recognized that I loved the challenge of quick thinking and critical decisions. I loved using a growing bank of knowledge to make rapid-fire decisions under pressure. The world of critical care spoke to my passion for quick decision-making. Thus, the nursing seed was planted. I applied and was accepted to nursing school, and my time there validated that it was the right choice for me.
An opportunity opened for me in pediatric critical care. At that interview, I was struck by the abundance of technology and the fragility of these tiny, vulnerable babies whose survival depended on it. I didn’t know if I had it in me. But when they offered me the job, I never looked back.
Even then, the amount of technology in the space was eye-opening, and it was saving lives. I spent 17 years in that environment, watching technology evolve and watching babies become children and adults because of what we, and our technology, did for them.
What started with a passion for biological science grew into a passion for technology. It must have been obvious to my peers; I was chosen for technology committees and testing, and was always a super user for emerging healthcare technologies.
Working so closely with technology binds you to it, and shows you how much is possible with data collection and understanding. All of these devices and computers are helping us complete tasks, but more importantly, they’re helping us learn. The devices we use hold all the secrets to our own behavior, motivations and flaws. Technology can tell us so much if we listen. The morsels of data that come from technology have the power to help patients, doctors, nurses and even families.
Just as a stethoscope is a healthcare tool, so is the technology we build and imagine for the future. By focusing on a career in technology, I can help thousands of patients at a time, versus one or two at a time like I did in the hospital.
Nursing is truly the noblest of professions, and I’m honored to be one. I hope the advances we’re all working toward in technology can give nurses more tools, more data and more satisfaction in the way we all care for people.
Why I Love Being a Nurse
Jacinta Opie, BN, MBA, MHA
Outcomes Manager, Oneview Healthcare
Being a nurse means so much. While I could go on forever about the reasons I love nursing, my favorite career moments come from:
- Sharing empathy and compassion for others. Nurses give of themselves every day. We help people through life’s worst moments. It’s special.
- Lifelong learning. The environment is ever-changing. Every day there are new technologies, new medications, and most importantly, new people that challenge me and teach me.
- Involvement in ground-breaking research. As nurses, we are on the front lines of all the new advancements in healthcare. We get to see it unfold every day, even before everyone else reads about it or sees it on the news.
- The reach beyond patients to families. We touch more than just the patients we’re healing. Those patients have families they return to after treatment. We help families feel at ease, and learn how to help patients through recovery.
- Traveling the world. My journey has taken me to a place where I can share my passion for patients globally. It’s a gift.