"As a nurse, we have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of our patients, their families and ourselves. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel."— Maya Angelou, author, poet and civil rights activist
Making a difference while battling metastatic breast cancer to the brain.
Maybe it was the little “health center” my mother created for my sister and I when at the age of 4, dressed in a homemade nursing outfit, I cared for my dolls – protecting them, speaking soothingly to them, bathing them to make sure they were comfortable. Maybe it was my need to become a “candy striper” at the local community hospital during the summer months while other kids my age were just enjoying summer vacation. Or, maybe it was my first job as a nursing assistant in high school when I worked in every area of our community hospital: emergency room, intensive care unit, medical surgical unit and psychiatric ward. I soaked up every experience and loved absorbing all there was to learn. But somewhere along the way, I discovered I had a passion: I wanted to be a nurse.
Working in the hospital always gave me a sense of accomplishment. But it was the stories of those I cared for that really hooked me in to what it meant to be a nurse. My patients – typically scared and overwhelmed – were always so grateful for anything I did to ease their suffering. They would ask, "Why me?" , they would ask ". What can I expect? Am I dying? Will my family member get here in time?". They knew, and I knew these were not questions that had answers. But I never left them alone, I held their hand, listened and just sat by their side to be present with them. I loved every minute of those intimate moments. It fueled my passion for nursing and the work I wanted to do. I was honored that patients trusted me and allowed me to “come along with them” in their health journey.
Over the course of my career what I found most exciting was the variety of things one could do as a nurse. I embraced everything I ever did.
Now, with terminal cancer to the brain and unknown amount of time left, I know more than ever what it is like to be the one asking those questions that have no answers, to rely on my friends and family in ways I never had to before, to be comforted by my nurse colleagues through our collective tears. Yes, I am scared, but I am not alone. I have an amazing family, friends and incredible colleagues. And I realize that as I face the inevitable, I still have so much passion for the profession I chose. We do not know how much time remains for me, but I have a plan. Therefore, we created this legacy fund for Nurses who have been impacted by COVID-19 and for all nurses interested in conducting nursing science. All nurses have stories. I am creating a “story board” and I’m calling it the “Cap and Pin Challenge”. I invite you to please tell your story and challenge your colleagues to tell theirs.
My dream is to establish a legacy fund that will:
- Provide direct Financial Assistance for Nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Create a Nursing Research Grant Fund that focuses on collaborative practice
Nurses make a difference in the lives of patients every day. Their research is about the human experience and response to illness. Cancer, COVID-19 and a host of medical conditions whether curable or not, pose many challenges and is life changing for all those touched by it. Nurses walk the walk with patients and their loved ones along their health journey. With their patients, they celebrate, cry and laugh. These are the stories that do not always (and ought to) get told.
Will you help me realize my dream? I ask that you tell your story as a way to raise awareness about the work of nurses and by doing so we may fund research, conducted by nurses, that seeks to improve a patient's care-experience and supply financial relief now to those nurses on the font-lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Please put a smile on the face of this passionate nurse as I brave the most challenging battle of my life! I want to hear someone whispering in my ear that the social media waves are being overwhelmed by your stories and donations. Remember, no donation is too small. Every single dollar is an opportunity for nurses to collaborate on cancer research and improve the lives of our patients and their families.
+ Florence Nightingales 200th – read more
So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself. – Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820-Aug. 13, 1910)
The WHO has declared 2020, Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, the Year of the Nurse. Florence Nightingale was beloved for her care and her mercy, for her commitment to relieving the suffering of wounded soldiers on both sides of the Crimean War. We are now fighting the COVID-19 war, an enemy we can’t see. Channeling our “inner” Florence Nightingale we have established the Cap and Pin Challenge, Nursing Legacy Fund.
Florence Nightingale was beloved for her care and her mercy, for her commitment to relieving the suffering of wounded soldiers on both sides of the Crimean War. Yes, she wandered the wards at night, carrying a lamp, checking on her patients; but the lamp became her symbol only after male journalists found her too forceful and analytical for public consumption. She already had a nickname when the press found her. She was “the Lady with the Hammer”.
The Crimean War, after all, was a political conflict. Neither side wanted to share supplies; both sides were set on the raw cost and gain of conflict. Florence had a hospital full of dying men and exhausted nurses, riddled with dysentery and cholera, funded with leftovers. So, Florence took up the hammer and beat down the military storeroom doors.
According to some sources, this wasn’t an isolated incident. If you withheld necessary supplies, Florence would come in with her hammer and clean you out. Military leaders loathed her and feared her. She drank brandy with the soldiers, did statistics for fun, and had no respect for the politics of men.
She adapted her practice with each advancement in evidence — she entered the field of nursing believing that warm clothing and good food could prevent most disease, only to take up the causes of sanitation, drainage, isolation of communicable disease, and statistical epidemiology as science progressed. She was the first public health nurse and the first to turn nursing into a visible profession of advocacy and strength.
The WHO has declared 2020, Florence’s 200th birthday, the Year of the Nurse. In perfect irony, hundreds of thousands of nurses stand on the front lines of a pandemic exacerbated by politics and greed. We have heard the stories of nurses being understaffed, underfunded, underequipped, desperate for masks to protect ourselves and our patients, already watching our colleagues succumb to the virus from sheer intensity of exposure. We have seen our communities rally nurses in making masks, sending food to their places of work and sing songs of recovery as they go to and from their shifts.
We need community help. We demand our leaders’ support. The symbol of our labor may be the lamp rather than the sickle; but like Florence our foremother, we are not afraid to take up the hammer. [edited by Karleen Habin, MSN, RN with permission from Elise Barrett, RN]