In light of recent events, and the toll that COVID-19 has taken on healthcare workers, we have never had more reason to honor nurses and other frontline heroes.
As part of the worldwide 2020 "Year of the Nurse and Midwife" celebration, the American Nurses Association extended National Nurses Week to National Nurses Month to expand recognition opportunities and elevate the extraordinary work of nurses.
Regardless of the week, month, or year, I am always proud to be a nurse. I also am proud to work with more than 50 nurses at Vocera who help me support thousands of our peers in hospitals and health systems around the world. Our team of clinical experts works tirelessly to help make the lives of nurses, doctors, and other care team members easier and safer. Helping others is what inspires most nurses to join the profession, and this innate purpose to do good for others drives nurses to stay with the profession even when times are tough.
“It is the greatest honor to be there and to take care of someone in their darkest moment,” said Carolyn Lopez MSN, RN, CAHIMS, a nurse for 24 years.
“Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare,” explained Jamie Duffy, BSc, RSCN, who has been a nurse for more than 20 years and worked for the NHS in England for a decade. “We are medical detectives, caregivers, counselors, and usually the central link between all the other professions allied to medicine. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved as a nurse and am incredibly proud to have chosen this as a lifelong profession.”
As the chief nursing officer at Vocera, I have the privilege of working with Jamie and Carolyn. During our Year of the Nurse activities, they, along with several other Vocera nurses, shared personal stories from their professional journeys. These stories shine the spotlight on the importance of nurses and the healing, human connections they foster.
The need to help others is often a driving force in many nurses’ stories. Another one of my colleagues at Vocera, Jenilyn Turner, MHA, RN, was inspired by her game-changing grandmother to become a nurse. Jenilyn lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and spent every childhood summer with her grandmother in Brooklyn, New York. Her grandmother, who is a nurse and relentless advocate for patients, took Jenilyn to the frontlines of healthcare every day to witness this meaningful work. Jenilyn’s grandmother advocated for the rights of people with disabilities and fought for their access to healthcare. She drove sustainable change through activism and her constant questioning of the status quo.
Consider an MRI machine in a hospital. Can someone with a disability access that machine? Her grandmother made sure that question was always asked, and she worked to make sure an accessible machine was made available. She also made sure that women with certain disabilities who could not access traditional mammography machines could get the mammograms they needed and deserved.
So, when Jenilyn turned 18 and was planning to go to college, she chose nursing over all other career options. “I liked the idea of engaging with people, advocating for them, and seeing them get better. I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient,” Jenilyn said.
Julia Mason, MBA, BSN, RN, CENP, who has been a nurse for 30 years agreed with this sentiment. “It is our job as nurses to facilitate things that people can’t do for themselves, we must be the patient advocate,” she said.
Advocating for and serving others is also what drove me to be a nurse. The thought of being a nurse started early in my childhood because of my family and the people I met in church. I was the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher. My family’s entire philosophy and reason for being was to be of service to others.
Because of our church and the community outreach work we did, I encountered several medical missionaries who talked about faraway places, providing healthcare to many different people in adverse circumstances. I thought to myself, that is what I want to do—I want to be a nurse. And for more than 30 years, I have had the privilege of being able to call myself a nurse. Being a nurse is not simply a job. It is a lifetime commitment and purpose that makes a powerful impact on patients, families, communities, and countries in every corner of the globe every minute of every day within every year.
Rhonda Collins, DNP, RN, FAAN, is the Chief Nursing Officer at Vocera, where she works closely with nurses, physicians, IT professionals and other hospital leaders around the world to improve the lives of patients, families and care teams by simplifying workflows and improving clinical communication. A nurse for more than 30 years, Dr. Collins is a co-founder of the American Nurse Project dedicated to elevating the voices of nurses across the country through interviews, an award winning book, and a feature length documentary.