Content courtesy of Verizon.
During my 40-year career as a nurse, I worked as an office nurse, ICU nurse, private duty and home care nurse, a manager, and a director. These roles gave me the opportunity to consciously influence others. But a chance meeting near an elevator taught me I was making an impression without even knowing it.
In the early 90s, I was a manager in a busy, hospital-based pediatric home care department, and I had just completed my master’s degree. My director had attended grad school with me and had created the home care department from scratch.
Our team provided care to medically complex, medically fragile children. The children and infants we cared for needed at-home infusion therapy, ventilators, apnea monitors, and tube feedings. These procedures were not commonly done at home, so we developed protocols to teach families how to manage their children’s care. We were proud of the work we did and the success we had achieved.
This group of nurses was among the best I’ve worked with — skilled, caring, innovative — and we had a director who was a transformative leader. She pushed us and expected a lot from us. I accomplished things I never thought I was capable of under her leadership. She made quite an impression on me.
Our office was not a quiet one with closed doors. The nurses were in and out all day, picking up supplies, dropping off paper work, getting reports on new patients, or reporting issues to the managers.
We did our share of problem solving and brainstorming in our small, crowded office. We also did our share of complaining, occasional arguing, crying, and laughing. We shared ourselves and our home lives. It was a vibrant place to work, and we were a very close knit group.
Among our staff was a young medical records clerk, Kim, who was around 20 years old at the time. She was a single mom of a three-year-old boy and a high school graduate in an entry-level job. Kim held her own among the nurses with her feisty and sassy personality, her intelligence, and work ethic.
Because we worked in a very small space, Kim’s office was also our conference room. If the nurses came in to do paperwork or get a report, they were in Kim’s office, so she was right in the middle of everything we did.
After a couple of years, Kim moved on to another job — probably one that paid more and hopefully afforded more opportunity. I really wasn’t paying attention.
We Meet Again
Fast forward 15-plus years. I had been long gone from pediatric home care, had added a few other positions to my resume, and was just starting at a different hospital in an administrative role. One day, the elevator doors opened and a nurse stepped out. “Mary Anne!” she said.
I smiled, trying not to let her know I had no clue who she was. “It’s me, Kim! Remember? From home care?”
“Oh my gosh! Yes!” I remembered her instantly.
Here’s what she told me:
“I’m an RN! I’ve been in the OR here for several years. I’m graduating with my master’s degree next week, and I’m going to be a nurse practitioner. My son is about to graduate from college. I watched all of you and saw what you did. I knew if all of you could do it, I could do it too. So, I worked my way through college and made it into nursing school and graduate school. It took a while, but, now, here I am!”
Seeing Kim meant so much to me. It made me proud and humble. We were just busy doing what nurses do, and without meaning to or being aware of it, we managed to inspire this young woman to want to be a nurse like us! Wow!
I am really glad we didn’t make her say, “The last thing I would ever do is this!”
You read so much about “nurses eating their own.” It can happen with just a careless word, an arrogant attitude toward a young kid who is “just a clerk,” or an unkind, demeaning attitude because, “I’m in a hurry,” or “I’m the nurse/manager/more important person.”
This could easily have happened with Kim, but it didn’t. And for that, I am humbled.
Make a Positive Impression
As a team, we were not unkind and arrogant toward each other. We treated each other with respect and professionalism. Our arguments often ended with, “I’m hungry. Let’s go have lunch.”
I have to think we were more likely to have modeled “how to work well with others” rather than “how to destroy someone’s soul in a single shift.”
Mostly, I am proud. We inspired this young, single mom to make a choice and work for something that had really made a difference in her life and in her son’s life. I know Kim has benefitted financially and has had a meaningful career. She was able to provide a college education for her son. I know the opportunities that were afforded him and what that has meant for his future. But it wasn’t just that.
As a nurse, I know the difference Kim made in the lives of many patients, and there will be more to come. I’m confident Kim is making an impression every day in the life of at least one young co-worker who she doesn’t even know is watching.