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Nurses share 'My Why' stories on their career choice

Published 05/07/2021

Each year, Nurses Week offers an opportunity to celebrate those who chose care, compassion, and a commitment to others as their career.

This year, South County Health held Nurses Week activities from May 3 – 7.

Click here for Nurses Week story >>

To get an insight on what motivates these healthcare heroes to do their job, and what nursing means to them, they were asked to share their personal thoughts on nursing.

Below are a few of our nurses’ ‘My Why’ stories.

Lee Ann Quinn, RN, BS, CIC, Director, Infection Prevention & Professional Development

Lee Ann Quinn“My decision to become a nurse was made when I was in high school. In those times, you did not have many “careers” to choose from. My guidance counselor told me to become either a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.

In my family tree, I had many aunts as nurses and I remember babysitting for my cousins while my aunt got ready for work. She put on this crisp white dress and white stockings and last I saw this white cap with a black band across it. She would put in her bag and off to work at the hospital she would go.

During my high school years, at the age of 16, my first job was ‘sitting’ at night for a local nursing home in my home town. Lots of old people were in wheelchairs or bedbound. The owner of the nursing home, also a nurse, took me around and introduced me to many of what she called ‘residents of the home.’

She said, ‘All you have to do is watch the patients and check on them hourly with your flashlight. If they have to get up and go to the bathroom, you can take them. Anything else call me.’

At the time I think I felt empowered and important to take care of these old people. Kind of like babysitting I thought, but looking back it was my first introduction to nursing.

I was called a nursing assistant but with no training. I was in high school and working the overnight on weekends. That started my journey.

I can still remember the residents’ names. I often wondered what their families thought of them being in this home. It’s funny what teenagers think.

This is why I stayed a nurse …

As a new, young nurse at a hospital, one of my first experiences that validated my calling as a nurse was a young man - a student at URI who came to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. We did not know it at the time, but he was septic. He had surgery, followed by daily wound packing. He was with us over a month. In that time, I cared for him every day I was on duty, and I got to know him and his mother very well.

When he was ready for discharge, we both cried but it was for joy. He, being younger than myself (but not by much), said to me: ‘I’ll never forget you.’ And I said the same to him.

Twenty-plus years later our paths crossed again. This time I was an OB nurse in the same hospital. A couple came in, and she was in active labor. The shifts changed. When I came on, I was assigned to this couple.

I went in and realized that the name of the father was the same name of the young man I had taken care of in this same hospital many years ago. He immediately knew me by my name (yes even after those 20 years). He was so excited to tell his wife who I was. I was now included in another of his life’s experience, this time the birth of his first child.

During their time with us, he took a moment to tell me: ‘If it wasn’t for you and your kindness and care for me then, maybe I wouldn’t be here today starting my family.’

Again, tears, but joyful tears.

Our paths have not crossed since then, but I remember him and his mother, and his new family. I think to myself that I made a difference in his life “as a nurse”.

You all have that “patient you’ll never forget”. We all will have lots to say about our careers - what we have seen, felt, laughed, cried but always PRIDE.

This past year and the theme, The Year of the Nurse, is very fitting. We can be known as that great nurse who started that IV or dropped that tube down, but much of what we are and learn is not tangible.

So when we answer “why did we become a nurse” or “decided to be a nurse”, there was a point in time where something just decided maybe it’s more than a profession.

It is in our DNA. The spirit of caring.”

Alison Hoffman, BSN, RNBC, CCM, Nurse Care Manager
South County Primary Care - Wakefield & Westerly

Allison Hoffman“Nursing provides the opportunity to challenge, advocate and encourage patients to improve their health while providing quality care.

As a nurse, sometimes we are the only ones the patient has to advocate on their behalf.

One of my favorite quotes is: ‘To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care.’” (Mandy Hale)

Beth Collins, RN, BS, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant, Lactation Office

Beth Collins“I may be bias, but I feel nurses were amazing before COVID, and even more so throughout this pandemic! Care for patients has been more complex. Patients and families are more frightened about the uncertainties of these times.

I feel that the care we give requires us to look at our patients with more than our eyes, hear them with more than our ears, and treat much more than their physical needs.

It is a beautiful experience to witness nurses working so hard physically, through their own worries and fears, taking time to nurture patients’ mental, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as their physical needs. It takes so much more energy from nurses to give so much every day.

I think 2021 should be a time to be mindful of taking care of ourselves and our nursing colleagues, as well as we care for our patients.

Cheers to all our amazing nurses who give so much love and kindness every day!”