Yes, Nurses do Make a Difference

Every year Nurses Week rolls around and nurses are told “thank you” by their institutions; if you are lucky, you may receive a token of appreciation like a lunch bag, a water bottle, or a beach towel. The research is clear, nurses do make a difference in patient outcomes and nurses are the most trusted profession according to the Gallop poll. This is my 28th year experiencing Nurses Week, but this year I am seeing it a little differently.  

My mother passed away last year on May 25th from small cell lung cancer. From the day she was diagnosed to the day she died was 2 and a half months. She tried chemo but it didn’t work, it often doesn’t. She never regretted trying the chemo because it gave her the time to say good bye to all of her family and friends. Her friends were incredibly supportive of her and the rest of our family. You see, her friends were all nurses. They helped prepare meals, assist with her activities of daily living, and administer her medications. They even stayed overnight when one of the family couldn’t stay. They allowed me to be the “daughter” not always the caregiver. When my mom died, she was surrounded by her children and three of her best friends who were all nurses. These women made all the difference in the world to my mom and our family. They made it possible to keep her where she wanted to be – at home. 

Being a nurse doesn’t end when you retire or take time off to raise your family. It is an innate part of who you are and how you conduct yourself each and every day. So, during this Nurses Week, if you come upon a nurse who is retired or is taking some time off, say “thank you…you make a difference.”

Submitted by:
Anne Dabrow Woods, MSN, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC
Chief Nurse
Wolters Kluwer Health / Lippincott Williams & Wilkins / Ovid Technologies  

Posted: 5/6/2012 9:10:35 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Inspiring blog posts from 2011

I read a lot about nursing - mostly journal articles, but this year I’ve spent quite a lot of time reading nursing blogs and I love it! Some tell stories of certain patient experiences, some bloggers have written more about the changes our health care system is undergoing, and others use their blogs to teach students and lead newer nurses. Quite a few nurses out there do all that and even more on their blogs. I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts from the past year. These are the blog posts that have inspired me and left me with such a good feeling about nursing. Thank you to nurse bloggers who share their stories and experiences. It is so great learning from you all. 

A Nurse’s Week Reflection: The nurse’s night off
Nurse Story

Humility, Forgetfulness, and Glitter

Receiving compliments
At Your Cervix

Return of Compassion
New Nurse, In the Hood

The Priceless Clarity of Inexperience
AJN’s Off The Charts

There are such talented nurse writers out there and I’m sure I’ve missed some good posts – please share your favorites as well. I'd love to read more and learn what posts have inspired you this year.

Posted: 12/18/2011 11:23:33 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 1 comments

Categories: Inspiration

A Special Thank You

When I started to think about a special post to write for Thanksgiving, I tried to remember a time when I really grew as a nurse. There was no question in my mind about a certain patient that was instrumental in that growth. The crazy thing was I never even knew her.

It started out like any other shift – I was assigned two patients (we were fully staffed), a wonderful leader and my former preceptor was our charge nurse for the evening, and a team of interns and residents who had been in our Medical Intensive Care Unit for a few weeks were working. All the beds were full and none of our patients were up for transfer out of the unit, so it seemed like we were in for a calm shift.

Linda was a young woman who had a uterine rupture during childbirth and had lost a lot of blood. She subsequently developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and had come to our unit about 2 weeks prior to this particular evening for intubation and management of her ARDS. She had no significant past medical history, no known allergies, and had an uncomplicated pregnancy with regular prenatal care.

During change-of-shift report, I learned from the day shift nurse that the MICU team had met with Linda’s family that day after a neurological exam and testing had revealed that Linda was brain dead. The family had decided to gather together this evening and we’d remove Linda from the ventilator. They had also requested to donate her organs.

A representative from Gift of Life arrived shortly after the start of my shift and the family started to drift in as well. Never had I been part of such an emotional patient experience. The strength and courage of the family of this young woman – this new mother – was incredible. While their grief was palpable in the room, so was their faith. They verbalized gratitude at being fortunate enough to be able to donate several of Linda’s organs and saw this as a way to continue her life.

So, this special thank you goes out to Linda and her family…

Thank you for allowing me to be part of that night.


Thank you for sharing your faith with me.


Thank you for sharing your stories with me.


Thank you for teaching me that death, even a tragic one, can give us strength that we might not even know is within us.  


Thank you for thinking of others and giving life. 


Posted: 11/23/2011 9:12:12 AM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Once a nurse, always a nurse

Have you ever heard someone say “I used to be a nurse” when asked what they do? Me neither! In fact, when someone asks me what I do, the first thing I say is “I am a nurse.” This is usually followed by questions about where I work, what type of patients I care for, and the like. If the person I’m talking with is truly interested, I’ll explain my background in critical care, my role as a nurse practitioner in women’s health, and now my career in the world of publishing. I am proud of what I’ve done in the past and what I do now, but the biggest sense of pride comes with being able to say “I’m a nurse.”

A recent conversation with my mom went something like this: 

Mom: “Have you heard from your cousin?”

Me: “Yes, he’s been great.” I then went on to fill her in on recent events in his life, as well as what his family and friends have been up to.

Mom: “Wow, why is it that everyone calls you with their latest news?” She then answered her own question with “I think it’s because you are a nurse.” 

That warmed my heart! You can probably relate similar stories, especially when it comes to others, sometimes complete strangers, sharing their healthcare stories and questions.

Nurses – we truly are a special group!

Posted: 7/31/2011 12:14:09 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 5 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Time for you

Many of us nurses put the needs of others before our own. We often take care of patients and families, as well as our own family and friends, sometimes even strangers, before we take any time to care for ourselves. I know I may be generalizing here, but enough has been written about this topic  (see below for some articles and links) for me to know that I’m not the only one who has noticed this. On that note, I’d like to share some inspirational words from some of our fellow nurses…

Over at her blog, Nursetopia, Joni shares the story of her personal health journey in Working Towards Health: One Year Later and Enduring Onward. “So, today is a lovely day – a reminder of where I have been, what I have accomplished, and where I am going. It all started with one day.” Way to go Joni!

Sean from My Strong Medicine is a second-career nurse and athletic trainer who is passionate about nursing and personal health.  From his bio: “Health is the true treasure and measure of wealth.”  Thank you for inspiring me with your posts and tweets Sean!

I’ve also enjoyed reading the words of Gail M. Pfeifer, RN, MA, news director from the American Journal of Nursing. In AJN’s eNewsletter Gail sometimes carves out a special section “Your Space - Taking Care of You” and shares her tips for committing to a healthier lifestyle. In the January 2011 issue, she wrote “Like other nurses I've met, I tend to put my own needs and creative desires behind the needs of others. This can be a wonderful thing to do—at times. Taking care of ourselves, however, can sharpen our altruism and make caring for others much easier.”

By the way, it was a study shared in AJN that first got me thinking about this topic - Journal Watch: Reducing Fatigue Among Nurses. In this particular study, researchers used an intervention which included education on fatigue and loss of sleep, strategies for increasing the quality of sleep and staying alert, and modified scheduling of shifts, to decrease fatigue in full-time nurses. The result? Decreased fatigue and better sleep led to fewer errors.

Here are some related articles and editorials from our journals. Some are a few years old, but definitely worth the read!

Nursing 2011

Emotional Climate and Self-care

Holistic Nursing Practice

Where Is the Team?
Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing

Work Life Balance: Myth or Reality?
Journal of Trauma Nursing

Posted: 6/8/2011 1:45:14 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 2 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Thank you from one nurse to another nurse

Another Nurses Week has made its way to us. It's amazing how fast time goes by as we get older. Nurses Week this year is a little different that previous years for me. My mom was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer  2 months ago. She tried chemo but unfortunately it didn't work,  so 2 weeks ago we placed her on hospice and I moved in with her so she could stay at home and die surrounded by her family and friends.

What has struck me about this entire experience is the importance of nursing throughout the entire process. When my mom was a patient in the hospital where I work on the weekends, I was in awe by the way nurses of all ages and experience delivered care. I always thought our hospital delivered great care, but until I saw it in action with one of my own family members, I have a renewed appreciation for the nurses at the facility.

My mom has quite a few friends who are retired nurses. They  have stepped up to the plate to care for her, and to give me and the rest of our family a break when we need it. The care they deliver is exceptional. They know the importance of ""just being"" with her,  when to just hold her hand, when to medicate her, and when to talk her through episodes of respiratory distress. Obviously the art of nursing doesn't stop when you retire.

The hospice nurses are some of the most gifted nurses I have ever seen. They have so much to teach the rest of us on managing symptoms of end of life and have no problem with getting what they need for their patients from physicians.

My mom is pain-free and comfortable right now due to all of your efforts. I know she will experience a ""good death"" based on her terms.

So for all you nurses out there, I would like to say thank you for your dedication to the profession and your ability to make a difference in a person's life. You have certainly made a difference in mine and my mom's.  Happy Nurses's Week!

By Anne Dabrow Woods, MSN, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC


Posted: 5/10/2011 1:05:51 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Decisions, decisions

Living wills. Life support. Do-Not-Resuscitate. These are all phrases that I used frequently working in an adult medical intensive care unit. I rarely had trouble using the words death, dying, hospice, or end-of-life with patients and families.

However, outside of the hospital, these words have been a lot harder for me. My parents do have living wills and have expressed their wishes to me, but not because I initiated any discussion with them. In fact, I’ve actually avoided those conversations despite knowing how important they are. 

There is not really a good time to have end-of-life discussions, so people tend to wait for the "right time" which often turns into the "wrong time" or "too late." The conversation might end up taking place in the hallway of the emergency department or in a critical care waiting room. Sometimes, information is conveyed and decisions are even made over the phone.

I am fortunate that my own family members have insisted on preparing for the end of their lives and sharing their plans and wishes with me. As a daughter, I really don’t like to hear about it. As a nurse, I know that this is a very good thing.

Saturday, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Make this day the "right time" to talk with your loved ones and encourage the patients you care for to do the same.

Posted: 4/14/2011 2:05:21 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 0 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Read these award-winners!

Okay, so I know the words of this title should be hanging in an elementary school somewhere (and probably are), but think about all the reading you do as a nurse. It’s a lot, isn’t it?

From the big textbooks in nursing school to policies, procedures, and protocols in your area of practice, there is a lot of reading that we do. We read to keep up on health care news, drug information, technological advances, and treatment recommendations. We are constantly reading charts, care plans, laboratory reports, notes from other health care professionals, journal articles, and the latest research studies. The list goes on and on!

Social media has expanded our reading list even more. We are connecting online and reading each other’s stories and experiences through status updates, tweets, and blogs. Whole conversations are taking place without any words being spoken. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Over the past year (since really diving in to the world of social media), I’ve connected with some amazing nurses whom I would have never “met” had I not read their words. 

You can find the links to some of my favorite blogs here under Nursing Blogs (right column, about halfway down the page.) Do you have a favorite blog or even have your own? Please share the link ~ I’ll be sure to check it out! Thanks

Posted: 3/31/2011 1:21:48 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 1 comments

Categories: Inspiration

At home in a hospital

I love a hospital. There I said it. Now I know “love” is a strong word, but a recent trip over to our local hospital for an x-ray evoked some strong feelings in me. I miss it. I really do. The patients, the beeps, the smells, the camaraderie among the staff…. The itch to get back into the clinical setting is getting stronger.

As I waited in the hallway, I could hear nurses calling out for help and replies of “be right there” (while thinking to myself…Can I help too?), patients coughing up sputum (Can I see that? We might need to get a culture), and beeps of portable monitors (Excuse me…I think a lead came off). Even the familiar scent of hospital soap on the technician's hands smelled good to me.

I felt at home even as a visitor. Is that odd?

Posted: 3/27/2011 2:07:54 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 2 comments

Categories: Inspiration

Six-second strip

It was Sunday night, 7 pm, and I was just starting my third 12-hour shift in a row. I was happy to see my assignment was the same as the previous two nights - two fairly stable patients. One was a “challenge-to-wean” patient who was recovering from ARDS and who had two restful nights on Friday and Saturday. The other was a patient who was post-stroke; she was not intubated, was minimally communicative, and had stable vital signs (I had been surprised that she had not been transferred out of the ICU during the day.)

I was a few minutes early so I went to print out telemetry strips for both of my patients before getting report. Part of our documentation each shift consisted of printing and interpreting each patient’s ECG intervals. We had a certain way to fold the strips so we could tape them in the appropriate spot on the flowsheet (next to the strip from the previous shift).

It was then, when I went to tape the strip on that I noticed something very different. The patient’s ST-segment was significantly elevated compared to the strip 8 hours before. The day shift nurse came over to start report and we compared the strips - same leads, definite ST-segment changes. She grabbed the 12-lead ECG machine and yelled for the resident while I assessed the patient. She was lying in bed and appeared comfortable. Her vital signs hadn’t changed and her oxygen saturation was 93%. She did not look like someone experiencing an MI. But she was.

Within minutes (or so it seemed), anesthesia had arrived to intubate her, cardiology was at the bedside, and we were hanging nitroglycerin and heparin infusions. After a very busy night and despite all of our efforts, this patient coded and died.

I tell this story because it is not often that “cutting & pasting” a six-second telemetry strip leads to this turn of events. As a critical care nurse, I was both exhilarated by noticing the change in her ECG and devastated by the outcome.

When I considered writing about this particular night, my first thought was that anyone could have noticed the change in her ECG. Would someone who was not a nurse have recognized the change and realized the implications? Perhaps. But is there anyone else but a bedside nurse who is present and in tune to the patients they care for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year?

Nurses are there. Nurses are present. Nurses are paying attention.



Posted: 3/20/2011 3:17:05 PM by Lisa Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP | with 1 comments

Categories: Inspiration

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