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Lessons from my mother

I followed in my mother’s footsteps when I became a nurse. Her advice that being a nurse is a privilege is one of many lessons she taught me that helped me throughout my career. I’d like to share some of them with you.

Lesson 1

Be courageous and independent — My mother grew up very poor. Her father died when she was 9 years old and she was raised by an aunt. She became a nurse after seeing an ad for the Cadet Nurse Corps offering free education. She knew nothing about nursing, but she saw a way out of poverty and took it.

I’ve tried to be courageous and independent, too. I was a community college graduate, and I returned to get my bachelor’s degree in public health nursing because I wanted to stop patients from returning to the hospital by focusing on prevention. Later on in my career, I served as study director for the Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” I knew the report’s recommendations had the potential to transform healthcare through nursing, so with the blessing of my employer, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, I launched a major campaign with AARP to implement the recommendations at the national and state levels. I never imagined I would direct a national campaign with Action Coalitions in every state.

Lesson 2

Nursing has no boundaries — Along with being independent, my mother was, and still is, restless, but nursing enabled her to have several career paths. She was a staff nurse, private duty nurse, polio nurse, maternity nurse and public health nurse. I’ve taken advantage of the many career options nursing offers, and I’ve been everything from a public health nurse to a disaster nurse to a teacher.

Lesson 3

Follow your passion — My mother loved to travel, so she joined the Air Force. She followed every passion she had, including being a dancer in Cuba. Now, in her later years, she has become an award-winning water colorist and published poet.

I’ve also pursued my passions. I became dedicated to the American Red Cross after a volunteer located my parents in Mexico City following an earthquake in 1976. In fact, shortly after the Campaign for Action launched, a series of deadly tornadoes struck Alabama in 2011. I took two weeks off from work to serve. I also served during the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

But it’s equally important to find passions outside of work and achieve balance. I enjoy hiking and biking with my husband and spending time with my granddaughter. My passions are distinct from my mother’s, but the idea of tapping into what you love was one of the great lessons she taught me.

Lesson 4

Honor diversity — My mother never saw a person of color until she went to nursing school, but her teachers stressed equality. My mother passed her views on to me. The healthcare workforce should reflect the patient population it serves, and everyone should be prepared to provide culturally competent care.

Lesson 5

Give back — My mother instilled in me the importance of giving back. Each time I’ve served as a disaster nurse, I’ve gained far more from serving than I’ve given. Volunteering is not riddled with scope of practice barriers, painstaking paperwork or hours at the computer. It’s about humanity at its finest.

I think Albert Schweitzer says it best: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Nursing gave both my mother and me the opportunity to serve. She was right; being a nurse has been a true privilege for me. I hope it will be a privilege for you, too.

By | 2021-05-07T16:19:52-04:00 November 10th, 2014|Categories: Nurses Stories|0 Comments

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