The American Nurses Association celebrates National Nurses Week 2024, May 6 – May 12, and throughout May. This year’s theme, “Nurses Make the Difference,” honors the incredible nurses who embody the spirit of compassion and care in every healthcare setting. In this post, I wanted to celebrate and share highlights of my journey as a nurse.

  • I began my career as a Licensed Practical Nurse on the recommendation of my cousin because I did not want to be a secretary.
  • I graduated from St. Mary’s School of Practical Nursing in 1973. It was a brutal program, but with hard work, determination, and perseverance, I passed my State Board and became a Licensed Practical Nurse.
  • My first job was in a 64-bed male unit at the hospital where I trained. Most of the patients were blue-collar workers. Many were alcoholics or older men with multiple chronic illnesses. In 1973, LPNs were in charge and passed. Looking back, I am not sure all we did was within our scope of practice, but this was the world we lived in then. We had nurses’ aides we worked with, who taught, supported, and alerted us when someone was in trouble. It was trial by fire, but we did good work, and I loved what I was doing.
  • Responding to rumors that nurses who were not RNs by 1980 could not work in hospitals, I returned to school to get my RN in 1976. I chose an associate degree program in Center City, Philadelphia, in 1978. I graduated, passed my State Boards, and worked at the hospital connected to the Nursing School at Hahnemann University. I worked there till I left Philadelphia to move to Florida in 1988. I was a critical care nurse and worked in the Emergency Department and the Respiratory Intensive Care Unit. I learned how resilient people were and also the importance of teamwork.
  • In addition to my clinical experiences, I worked as a risk manager, traveling to four hospitals in the Philadelphia area where I reviewed incident reports and investigated medical errors to have documentation in case of a lawsuit. This experience gave me a view of the big picture of how hospitals functioned, how mistakes occurred, and the importance of advocating for the patient and the family while trying to decrease liability for the hospital. During this experience, I learned that most people who experienced a medical error in the hospital mainly wanted the error to be admitted, an apology for harming the patient, and a plan to make sure the error would not happen again.
  • In 1988, I moved to Florida, where I worked as a traveling nurse. Being a traveler allowed me to find a job and housing while planning a wedding and a move to Florida. It was a great experience that I wished I had tried earlier. I met many traveling nurses who worked across the country and loved it. I thought it would be fun! As I had emergency department experience, I got a job in a community hospital in Fort Lauderdale in the ED. It was a less hectic pace than I was used to, and it took me time to adjust. I made a new set of friends/colleagues and am still friends with many of them 36 years later.
  • In 1990, on a tip from a friend, I investigated the role of Nurse Case Manager. Not knowing what a case manager did, I interviewed for a job with Intracorp. The woman who interviewed me (who became my manager) explained that case management was “good nursing.” My job as a catastrophic nurse case manager would be to ensure the patients got what they needed in the least restrictive setting, in a timely manner, for the most cost-effective price. I would also explain to the insurance company who covered the patient why things were being done and what resources would be needed to help a person who had a catastrophic illness or injury heal and regain their baseline or adjust to their new normal. I would also advocate for the patient and their family to understand what was happening and help them on their journey. The role sounded interesting, so I took the job. I stayed in the ED to keep my clinical skills by working weekends. This helped my husband and I save for our new home.
  • Case Management closed the circle of nursing for me. It allowed me to see how people recover and live with the repercussions of their injury or illness. As a nurse case manager, I educated, empowered, and advocated for those people to get the medical care and resources they needed. It also empowered me to be a good nurse.
  • In 2010, I moved into journalism when I went to work for Dorland Health as the editor-in-chief for Case In Point, a case management publication. This job opened new doors and allowed me to share my views and highlight professionals developing best practices in their roles as case managers. I had great managers and mentors who pushed me past what I thought I was able to do. The role gave me a voice as a nurse case management leader, educator, and mentor that served me well personally and professionally.
  • In 2014, I got to see healthcare from the patient’s perspective when I was diagnosed with a central nervous system brain tumor. I can say the diagnosis rocked me to the core. It took away my job and almost took my life. But it gave me insight into what it is like to be a patient. As a nurse, I knew the healthcare industry from the industry’s point of view, but as a cancer patient, I learned how challenging the healthcare system was for the people who use it – the patient and their families. With an excellent healthcare team, I survived, and after healing, I used my writing and case management skills to start a new career as a Nurse Advocate. This role gave me a purpose and allowed me to help patients and families navigate the complex healthcare system. I started my blog, Nurse Advocate, to share my experiences to help improve the system and support all stakeholders in humanizing healthcare.

Becoming a nurse was the best career decision I could have made. I have had a great career, and I thank all who supported me and allowed me to grow professionally and personally.  During National Nurses Week, I hope you share your story about why you became a nurse and your career. This is our week, so make sure you celebrate your successes!

 

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