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Exceptional nurses who shaped this nurse

Here’s the thing about exceptional nurses: Often they’re right in front of you. The dirt and debris of the healthcare environment can cloud your ability to see, but brush that away and you might find a rare diamond. Gems are to be admired, valued and treasured. Gems look their best in the light of day — they deserve to be shown off.

I’d like to highlight three nurses who unknowingly influenced my nursing career. But they should know and others should, too. These are my gems. Who are yours?


10 or so years ago, my cousin Jimmy lay in the ICU in the midst of a long-term hospitalization for complications related to his congenital heart defect. A nurse named Lucia took care of him frequently. She had the ability (as many nurses do) of managing his complex medical state without drawing any attention to the fact that she was doing so. In a rare moment of calm, during a conversation with my aunt and I, we started talking about paper snowflakes (I can’t for the life of me remember why). She grabbed a couple of sheets of paper, folded them up and quickly cut away bits and pieces, opening them up to reveal pretty white flakes. She brought over a chair and, after closing the curtain around my cousin’s room, stood right on it and hung the paper snow from the ceiling above his bed. This was one of the defining moments that made me want to be a nurse. She was kind, strong and not afraid to bend the rules just a little bit. Standing on that chair, doing something so simple and seemingly frivolous, she brought life into what was otherwise a grim moment in time. Lucia was the kind of nurse I wanted to be.


Nursing professors are incredibly valuable, more so because we just don’t have enough of them. The great ones are indeed a rich discovery. Ginny is a writer and a psych nurse who used writing as a therapeutic tool. She’s the one who introduced me (and so many other nursing students over the years) to the importance of the nursing narrative. She taught us that it’s our responsibility to educate the public about what we do. She wanted us to learn how to illustrate with words the many nuances of nursing care. I’ve held those values with me throughout my entire career and they have become more important to me as time passes.

Mary Ellen

Having worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for 35+ years, you’d think Mary Ellen would be set in old ways. But she isn’t. She’s smart and savvy and a model for nurses who have managed to keep up with the fast-paced changes that healthcare has seen over the past three decades. One day, I was admitting a patient for elective surgery. She had a nose ring that needed to be removed per hospital policy, but the patient did not know how to get it out. “The nurse I saw at my pre-op evaluation said she could remove it. She has a tool or something.” Doubtful that this patient had heard correctly, I went looking for Mary Ellen. “Oh yeah, I have a kit,” she said. And pulled out a jewelry removal kit. She had spent several hours at a tattoo parlor sometime ago, learning how to properly remove various facial piercings. I had to laugh — is there anything she can’t do? If there is, I haven’t found it. Mary Ellen is the epitome of a nurse: a jack-of-all-trades, a go-getter and never done learning.

These are my gems. Who are yours? is giving you a chance to show off the nurses you hold near and dear. See how brilliantly they sparkle once a little light is shed upon them. Nominate a nurse for the 2013 Nursing Excellence Awards today!

Nominations open for a limited time. Click here to learn more.

By | 2020-04-06T10:55:00-04:00 January 14th, 2013|Categories: Archived|0 Comments

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