We received many articles for the NurseTogether article contest and it was a difficult process to pick just three, as there were so many inspirational, entertaining, touching and informative articles submitted. The team would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing your experiences with us, and thank you for being a part of this amazing profession!
Ever drooled over a deluxe box of chocolates and been torn between choosing a milk chocolate orange crème or a dark chocolate toffee? Sometimes leaving school and trying to decide what area of nursing that you want to work in is like that experience. Today’s Nursing is fortunate to have a wealth of choices and opportunities like a huge box of chocolates. The key to choice is getting that first job. Most jobs want that golden caveat called “experience”. When I graduated from my university based program in 1980 (yikes, was it that long ago?) just as it is now, nursing jobs were hard to come by if you didn’t have “experience”. I interviewed and interviewed for positions without success. Finally, I was offered and took a position on a medical-surgical floor which had an oncology focus. Margaret was the Head Nurse. Margaret had also been a fellow classmate of mine at University of Southern Maine’s BSN program. We had shared a community health nursing clinical rotation. Together we had trudged through the back streets of Portland, knocking on doors in some of the city’s seedier neighborhoods to spread the news of lead paint testing in children. She was upgrading her education to get her BSN and I was a 22-year-old who had gone right into college after high school. Despite our diverse background we got along famously. Margaret had a wry sense of humor and real world experience in Nursing. I admired her insight and no nonsense attitude. Fortunately, she saw quality and potential in me as a fledgling nurse and offered me a position on her floor. Oncology nursing did not turn out to be my “chocolate covered cherry” in the box of nursing chocolates. Margaret, however, did turn out to be a very influential role model as my first nursing leader.
She was the one who kept things humming nursing wise. She rounded daily patient to patient so that she knew who they were and they knew who she was. Margaret knew which of her nurses was lax in nursing care. She didn’t hesitate to run down a mental checklist if she saw one of her nurses lounging around and would help you to get “refocused”. Margaret believed that if you were at work you should be productive. The hospital wasn’t paying you to be lazy.
She was a champion for enforcing limits on inappropriate behavior, even if that behavior belonged to a physician. She told one doctor in no uncertain terms to never ever interrupt a nursing shift to shift report again. One day he had burst into the report room and threw a patient’s dirty, saturated dressing on the report table because he wanted it to be changed NOW. Margaret escorted him out. She gave him a severe tongue lashing in the hallway. He never had a chance to get a word in edgewise. No more dressings ever showed up during our report time.
One of my most poignant memories was the compassion she had for a man who had brain cancer. Jerry was terminally ill and the dressings to his head required a strong constitution since the drainage was very foul. Margaret herself often would come and help us do the dressing changes. She never asked us to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. Jerry had been married for only six months and Margaret had so much compassion for the couple. She would always stop and share a kind word with his wife Jill and offer a gentle pat on the shoulder to recognize all that she was going through. Jerry died after six weeks on our unit. Margaret let Jill stay by his side as much as possible. We got meal trays for her even though we weren’t supposed to in those days. Margaret personally helped Jill call the rest of her family once Jerry had passed since she was alone at the time of his passing.
Margaret helped me realize that nursing was much more than care plans, anatomy and physiology exams, and biochemistry labs. True nursing was about one on one relationships nurse to nurse, nurse to doctor, and most importantly, nurse to patient. All relationships matter. You never know who or what will be the source of your first job but more importantly what you will learn from that person.
Sadly, Margaret herself became a patient of that floor and passed away from cancer about six years ago. I’m sure all who worked with her miss her and remember her fondly.
About the Author: Maryellen Storey is an Assistant Nurse Manager at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio.Nurses, if you enjoy writing on nursing career, education or lifestyle related issues and are interested in becoming a NurseTogether.com contributor, please click here.