Nurses Week

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. We also included a few of our retired nurses.


Sharon Watts
Sharon Watts, RN-BC
Virginia Mason Seattle General Internal Medicine and Concierge Medicine

I remember being admitted to the hospital when I was a child and I was in an isolation room. There was a little boy who was younger than me, in the room next to me. I could see him through a partition window. I felt very sorry for him and wanted to comfort him but I couldn’t. I don’t know if that is what inspired me to choose nursing as a career, but I know the experience stayed with me, and that nursing is something I always wanted to do.

My grandmother, who was a great seamstress, made me a nurse’s apron and hat. The hat looked like a nun’s veil and I still have it to this day. I have been a nurse for 36 years across two continents and have not regretted a single minute.

Sarah Partain
Sarah E. Partain, RN
Infection Prevention and Control

I wanted to be a nurse after I read my first Cherry Ames book (a mystery book with a student nurse as the central character) in fourth grade, and I just marked my 38th year as an RN.

I confirmed my desire when, in high school, a family friend was in a very bad car accident. She needed lots of rehabilitation even after she was discharged from the hospital. She and her mom would come over to our house on Sunday afternoons for a swim and dinner. I would help her in and out of the pool, help her with toileting, dressing and eating. I got frontline training even before I started nursing school.

Mary Jo Briggs
Mary Jo Briggs, RN Care Manager
Primary Care Patient Outreach

I recently joined Virginia Mason and am privileged to be among such a cadre of excellent nurses.

I was inspired to be a nurse because I came from a large family in a rural setting where the nursing profession was admired, nurses were viewed as critical to communities, to rural health and to the care of all populations. I write this in support and appreciation of the wide spectrum of nurses and their critical roles!

Sandy Maloof
Sandy Maloof, RN, retired

During Sandy’s 29 years at Virginia Mason, she worked with coronary artery bypass patients.

I was interested in nursing from early childhood on. When my father suffered a heart attack in 1975, he was not a Virginia Mason patient but admitted to another hospital in Seattle. The nurses there were abrupt with my mother and insisted she go home as it was late in the evening. My mother remembers my dad asking the nurses if she could stay and they replied, “No, she has to do this our way.” Several hours later, my father coded and died without my mother by his side. She learned of his death in a phone call from a physician. Arriving back at the hospital, my father’s belongings were handed to her in a plastic bag, no outreach, expression of concern for her well-being, or sympathy. I wanted to never have anyone experience what had happened to our family.

Within the next 18 months, I had returned to school to start working toward my nursing degree. It was absolutely the right decision for me. I wanted to make someone else’s life better because I was there, offering care that extended beyond the patient to include the family. In my greater than 30 year career, I never sent a distraught family member home. I arranged cots for family members to stay overnight, and always listened to their wishes and fears. I am grateful to Virginia Mason for its development of patient-centered care and I loved working there.

Pat McGuire
Pat Maguire, RN, retired
Virginia Mason:  1980 – 2005

Pat’s nursing career began at Virginia Mason as a staff nurse in 1980, and concluded when she retired as, senior vice president in 2005

When I was a young child, my father’s sister, Elizabeth, was my hero and my inspiration to become a nurse. After graduating from the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Boston, Elizabeth served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and later joined the City of Brookline public health team as the one and only nurse for the Driscoll and Lawrence elementary schools.   My fate was sealed the day I was invited to spend a day with my aunt in her office. I’m pretty sure it was her starched white cap and flowing navy blue wool cape (lined with fire engine red wool) that solidified my career goal way back in the 1950s. Fast forward 20-plus years, Elizabeth was there in the front row when I graduated from the Lawrence Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, and we remained close through her death in the late 90s. To this day, when I am faced with a professional dilemma or personal challenge, I find myself asking, “What would Elizabeth do?”  

Judy Updegraff

Judy Updegraff, RN, retired

Judy worked at Virginia Mason from 1961 until her retirement in 2010. I was a Girl Scout all through high school. We had to do some community service so I became a Candy Striper at our local hospital. That sealed it for me. Back then (1957), the careers for women were limited to teaching, nursing or office work. You can see where this is going. I loved every minute from the first day of school in September 1957 until I retired in 2010. My whole career, except for the first year after I graduated from NE Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing training, was spent at Virginia Mason.

Colleen Bruns
Colleen Bruns, RN

Colleen became a nurse to see the world.

Debbie Buchwach
Debbie Buchwach, RN
Director, Clinical Practices and Professional Development

I was inspired to become a nurse by experiencing compassionate care provided to me when I had my first child. From the moment I showed up quite ill at the clinic, through the delivery, time spent in the hospital and visits with my daughter in the NICU, nurses were there to care for my mind, body and spirit.

That experience changed my life. I am proud to call myself a nurse and that I get to pay it forward.

Bonny Lien
Bonny Lien, RN
GIM, Virginia Mason Seattle Medical Center

I recall my Grandfather talking about “how great the nurses are in the Navy” and that I should become a Nurse. He was a retired Navy officer at the time. I believe I was in the 6th grade.

I started College thinking I would go into the Arts, but soon realized, I was not that artistic. I took an Alignment of Interest Tendencies survey in high school and scored high in Physical therapy. I reflected upon this in college, and changed my path into Nursing. After completing my Nursing degree, I looked for a nursing preceptor program and found Virginia Mason. I have been here ever since, with no regrets!