What Inspires Our Nurses?
A Few of Our Nurses Share Their Thoughts.
Each year we celebrate Nurses Week, recognizing the many contributions nurses make as they care for our patients. This week we wanted to learn why they became nurses—what path led them to nursing and what continues to inspire them. Below, some of our nurses tell their stories in their own words.
I started at Virginia Mason in 1991 as a nurse assistant. Growing up in Yakima and working at Memorial, I had heard all kinds of good things about Virginia Mason. When I decided to move to the Seattle area it was my first and as it turns out, my only stop. I worked as a night float during a time when there were only two or three nurse assistants in the building at night. I loved the job and found myself drawn to Pulmonary and Level 16.
Once I received my RN degree I was lucky enough to get hired onto Level 16 and to work with some wonderful mentors. There are too many to name but a few are still here, Gigi Gempesaw (now the manager of Level 16), Frank Knapp and Sandy Cowles were a great help in me finding my path here at Virginia Mason.
After about 10 years on Level 16, I was looking for a new challenge and when I was approached by Dr. Kirtland to be the Lead RN for Bronchoscopy I jumped at the opportunity. I have not been disappointed and relish the opportunity to work with a great team and to continue to learn.
It’s been 25 years and I still enjoy coming to work and am very thankful for my time here at Virginia Mason where I get to work with some of the best MD’s, Nurses and RT’s around.
I chose to become an oncology nurse because of the strong calling I felt after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was almost done with my first bachelor’s degree at the time, and was going to graduate with a degree in Physical Education and Fitness and Health Promotion. The plan at the time was to graduate from Western, and then go school to become a physical therapist, but after my mom had surgery and started going through treatment, I felt helpless and like I needed to do something. I felt pulled towards nursing, even more so, oncology nursing. I had to make a difference for my mom and others going through the same things. I wanted to help fight cancer! So I had a long talk with my advisor at Western, who told me to graduate and focus on supporting my mom however I could, but then gave me some of the best advice I have ever gotten… to become a nursing assistant.
So I got my certification and started working as a CNA in a local nursing home and in the cardiovascular unit at the local hospital. I worked there for a few years. This was the hardest work I have ever done, but it really sold me on nursing. I loved it and couldn't wait to go further.
I moved away for nursing school, and really tried to keep my options open to other types of nursing I could get in to. I like blood and guts, and trauma, so I really liked my ICU rotation and I loved the OR and L&D, but I really kept falling back to oncology nursing. So here I am.
The pathophysiology of cancer is fascinating to me and medicine behind all these cool treatments and the patients are typically awake and can talk to you. The best part is the new lease on life these amazing and strong cancer patients can give you every single day! Sometimes my patients have the odds absolutely stacked against them and they know their time is limited,but they are so hopeful and positive and gracious. They teach me so much about myself and people and life and this big wide world. They are just incredible. It’s raw and emotional and so real. I love being the one to walk them to the door and back for the first time and see the proud smile on their face and then high-five when they sit back down. I love holding someone’s hand when they cry and are feeling scared. I love teaching patients what Is going on in their bodies and the medicines and options they have, but pointing out that “YOU are not cancer. You may have cancer, but IT Is not YOU.”
I really can’t imagine NOT being an oncology nurse.
I became a nurse four years ago because I wanted to combine my passion for science and medicine with my desire to work with people. I first worked as a nurse for two years in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. What I quickly realized was that I was extraordinarily privileged to be able to walk to my car after every shift, and say to myself, "I did something good today," no matter how beat up I felt. Once I gained critical care experience on the Interventional Care Unit I decided to take advantage of the great opportunity of travel nursing. I was a traveler for a year and a half, spending time in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri before heading out to Seattle.
Having spent time in numerous healthcare facilities has given me clearer insight on what I hold important in choosing a hospital to work in as a permanent employee. This being excellent patient care and a strong sense of teamwork. Both of which I have found at Virginia Mason.
I've been on the Jones 5 Admit and Recovery Unit as a travel nurse since October 2015, and recently signed on as a permanent nurse. Being on a procedural unit was a whole new nursing experience for me, but the Jones 5 team made the transition very easy. I enjoy coming into work and knowing I am a part of such a strong team of nurses, techs and doctors. A team that enjoys the work they do while bringing a smile to patients and their families, often in their most vulnerable times.
I'm looking forward to settling down in Seattle and my continuing my growth as a nurse at Virginia Mason. Who knows where the future may lead me, but that is exactly what is so exciting about being a nurse!
I recently joined the Nursing Resources Department as a Resource Nurse. Prior to becoming a Resource Nurse, I joined Virginia Mason in the perioperative department serving as a preoperative RN and PACU RN for approximately three years. I began my nursing career at Penn State’s Emergency Department in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Resource Nurse position appealed to me because it utilized the knowledge I gained in my prior positions and afforded me the wonderful opportunity to interact with staff hospital wide at Virginia Mason, learn a great deal about each floor and their patient populations, and develop skills in areas I was not exposed to in my previous positions.
I did not originally go to school to become a registered nurse and began my post-university career working in nonprofit organizations. I soon realized that I wanted a career that was hands on while also improving the quality of people’s lives. Nursing provides not only the opportunity to take care of people, but to do it in a time of vulnerability in a patient’s life and in a multitude of arenas providing the opportunity for career change.
The patients keep inspiring me. Each day is fulfilling and knowing that in some small or large way, I got to make a difference in someone’s life that day. Beyond that, I am always inspired by the other nurses I get to work with. Virginia Mason has an exceptional team that works together to ensure patients receive safe care. When challenges arise, I see what amazing teamwork the staff at Virginia Mason has developed.
I’d always had nursing in mind as a career. It was important to me to pursue something that was both rewarding and helped people, and that gave me constant room to grow. With a family background in auxiliary healthcare I never had a reason to doubt my chosen path, but it wasn’t until my practicum in emergency that I had any real knowledge of what it meant to be a nurse.
When I began working with patients, I realized the difference being a nurse could make. I saw people at their weakest and most vulnerable, when they were embarrassed or upset or in pain, and I realized as they began asking me questions or requiring treatment that I actually could help them. That I could make the difference between someone feeling scared and alone and someone knowing that they would be alright was incredible, something I try to bring with me to work every day.
I love that as a nurse there is always something new to learn, something I can improve on, and that every day my team and I make the difference in someone’s healthcare experience. I’m so happy to be where I am today.
I knew I had wanted to be in the medical profession from a young age. While in high school, I was a candy-striper at my local hospital. I wanted exposure to different areas of the hospital so I volunteered on a med-surg unit, the business office, and the emergency department. That led to volunteering in a mission-field medical clinic on a trip to the Dominican Republic. It was a rewarding experience and reaffirmed my decision to go into nursing.
I joined the Air Force to get money for college, but then marriage and kids happened. Throughout those years, I had done other service industry jobs such as being an esthetician and a massage therapist but my heart was still set on being a nurse. I finally got my BSN 17 years after graduating high school.
During my senior year of nursing school at Pacific Lutheran University, I became an ER Tech at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. My first day on the job, EMS brought in a patient who was coding. Watching the team get to work to save the man’s life was an incredible experience and my thought at the time was “I love this”. I knew from that day that I wanted to be an ER nurse. Throughout my clinical experiences during nursing school, I always felt drawn to the emergent situations that would happen such as a postpartum hemorrhage, STEMI or psychiatric emergency. Despite the chaos that seems to inevitably happen around such events, I feel a sense of calm and thrive under the pressure of making decisions quickly. What I love best about being an Emergency nurse is stabilizing critical patients and seeing them turn around before my eyes such as in flash pulmonary edema. It’s such a satisfying feeling to help patients through these frightening times in their lives.
I’m inspired by the potential for the future of nursing. So many others have broken down barriers and opened doors for nurses today to be involved in decision-making, research, leadership, and becoming partners with patients to help improve their lives. I am currently a student again at Pacific Lutheran University to earn my Doctorate in Nursing Practice. Upon graduation, my goals are to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner and teach the next generation of nurses. I have been fortunate to have great teachers throughout my nursing career and I feel it’s important to pay that forward.
After working in inpatient oncology for seven years and getting my Master's in pursuit of a nurse educator position, I felt my practical background and experience from which to draw to teach would be improved by practice in an acute, monitored setting. I chose medical telemetry, in part because a few people said the floor was really tough and I love a challenge.
Working on med tele gave me additional, valuable experience in an acute care setting and also some great stories. It was reassuring to know I could learn and become competent in a new nursing specialty. From there I went to teach clinical at Shoreline Community College for a year, which I LOVED! Ultimately, I chose to stay in bedside nursing for financial and practical reasons. I thought I would try yet another new kind of nursing, procedural nursing, on Jones 5 Admit/Recovery, where I've been since October.
After my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I saw the difference quality nursing made and was drawn to the profession though at the time I was a sophomore committed to working toward a degree in Horticulture. I was out of school six months before starting nursing prerequisites and haven't looked back since.
The immediate gratification of helping people effectively is rewarding. The prospect of providing the perfect patient experience and meeting a patient or family's specific needs is the challenge that we all face every day and is what keeps me engaged in nursing. Learning new nursing specialties has counteracted the sameness that can come with becoming an expert in a field.
In 2005, my wife, three-month-old daughter and I moved here to the United States. Having completed nursing school in the Philippines, I knew I wanted to work in healthcare. I started work here at Virginia Mason as a phlebotomist while working to obtain my nursing license. While working as phlebotomist, I encountered an IV RN placing a PICC line in a CCU patient. I was amazed how this person performed this procedure and at the same providing care to this sick patient. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to pursue the field of IV therapy nursing. Since then I have developed increased interests in advance technical skills like placing PICC lines.
In the IV therapy/Vascular access field of Nursing, I am able to apply the optimum professional practice that a Nurse is allowed to do through advance vascular skill like placing PICC lines.
After medical school in the Philippines and moving to United States, I became busy with life and decided to explore the option of the nursing field. Once I started I realized that this was a good fit for me. Nursing and taking care of patients at the bedside, I found very rewarding. I realized early on in my career that I liked making an impact through supporting patients and families and healthcare providers during the critical times of their hospital experience.
It gives me great joy, knowing I have helped someone (a patient ), contributing to a less stressful patient experience by delivering high quality of care in vascular access.
Coming out of nursing school, I wanted an area of nursing that would give me opportunities to learn multiple skill sets. I knew I wanted do bedside nursing and I wanted to work with a patient population that was challenging. So, on the recommendation of my mentor, I decided on med/surg. I love working in a busy unit! I always feel challenged and learn something new each day.
I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was in junior high school. My mother had two sisters who were disabled, I witnessed my Grandmother Rosa providing loving care for my two aunts. She was my inspiration. I was a candy striper in high school. I was so proud of my blue and white striped pinafore. I worked summers at the Comanche Hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma.
It took a while longer to achieve my goals than I thought I would, but I finally graduated in 2005 at the age of 47. I did it!
I know my grandmother would be proud!
In grade school I was involved with a state wide tobacco prevention coalition. We discussed how tobacco prevention could be implemented in schools. I had a career as a tobacco cessation counselor after college. Talking to people affected by smoking and helping them make powerful changes in their lives was inspiring. Now, years later as a nurse. I work with people affected by lung and mouth cancer – often related to smoking. I use my counseling background with my nursing knowledge to empower my patients to keep fighting tobacco and now cancer. I understand the power of addiction, but have seen people succeed and break free. I am honored to be on their side through their fight.
Nursing is a beautiful balance of science and art. Each person connects with others differently- finding that connection is what makes nursing so appealing to me. It’s not easy, but the rewards are worth it.
I draw on my co-workers and patients for inspiration every day. Working with people who do their job so well makes me want to do my job better. Seeing how nurses have spent their years gaining knowledge through experience gets me through the long hard days. I know that tomorrow I’ll know something I didn’t know today.
With nursing, you can specialize in caring for neonates, you can specialize in pediatric care, but "adult" care covers such a broad spectrum of illnesses, personalities, comorbidities, life experiences. I have worked in home care, learning respect of the patient as a legitimate team member in their care. I have struggled to keep very ill patients from relocating to intensive care in the middle of the night, reinforcing how much impact one nurse can have on the fate of an individual.
My current nursing career has allowed me to care for the "adult" spectrum as a whole. On a daily basis, I find myself able to advance my knowledge of certain ailments, all the while providing a mentally healing environment. Working with involuntary psychiatric patients has opened my eyes to the mental health needs of my entire patient population. This ability to impact another person's life in the most vulnerable moments is what led me to, and has sustained me in, a career in nursing. Along with this motivating factor, I have been blessed to work with the most passionate and kind nurses and nursing assistants who have sustained me through the heartbreaks and challenges that come with the career.
Ever since I was a kid I have wanted to travel. I grew up in a very small town in Michigan, but knew there were many other amazing places in the United States to see and experience. There wasn't a ton of opportunity where I grew up, but there was a great hospital in a small city 30 minutes from us. When I was a kid my dad work as an EMT/Firefighter and I also babysat for a family in which both parents were nurses. My dad and those nurses heavily influenced my decision to become a nurse (they even gave me my first medical dictionary when I graduated high school). I grew up with the excitement of emergencies around us and having to act quickly. People from town knew my dad was an EMT and sometimes they would come to our house before calling for the ambulance. More than once I was my dad's "assistant".
I started my nursing career on a very busy medical/surgical floor in Michigan. My first medical job was as a PCT, then I worked my way into a Nurse Tech position when I was far enough in nursing school. By the time I graduated school, I needed just a few days of orientation and I was on my own as a nurse. I had to develop goals for my nursing career upon hiring into the nurse position.
Some of my top goals were to become a traveling nurse and another was to eventually work in PACU. Unfortunately after working in med/surg for a year I found it was very difficult to get a med/surg traveling postion, but I did find out there were lots of ICU jobs. The first place I wanted to travel to was Colorado, so I got on the internet and applied at every hospital that had an ICU position open. I took the first job offer I got and signed a one year contract with the notion that I could travel after one year or stay if I liked it. After a few years of working ICU in Colorado I had the opportunity to travel nurse.
My first travel position brought me to Virginia Mason and I worked 3 contracts in the CCU over one year. I traveled Peru and Bolivia for a month that year and did a road trip to Michigan to see my family. I came back and signed on as staff to the CCU here at Virginia Mason. After about a year I decided I needed a change of pace and applied for a job in the PACU here at Virginia Mason and got it! The PACU is a great teamwork environment and I take care of patients that go home, to the inpatient units, and the CCU.
I love nursing. I like the schedule and ability to have more time to enjoy the things I love to do. I love the constant learning. I find the new technologies and new processes to improve healthcare procedures to be extremely interesting. Even though it can be a difficult job at times, I know at the end of the day I have a made a positive difference in someone's stay while in the hospital. I have learned things at the bedside from my patients that will leave a lasting impression on the way I live my life and I will forever be grateful for these learnings.