1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

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At the start of a new year, I am always challenged to reflect on the past year and plan for the new one. Typically there are lessons learned as well as new dreams for the upcoming year. In my first editorial of 2014, I shared with you that a dear colleague, friend, and mentor had been diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer. My focus was thinking about how I could make a difference in her life and challenging our readers to make a difference in the lives of others. Amazingly, my friend and dean lived 12 months after that "end stage" diagnosis and while I do not know that I made a difference in her life as I had hoped, I can speak to how she made a difference in mine.

Kathy A. Baker, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowKathy A. Baker, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN

Paulette was an amazing leader. She was kind and compassionate, always seeing the potential in others. She was also an attentive listener. I could go to her with a concern that I had not handled something in the best way, but after only a few minutes in her presence, she would minimize my transgression and help me to process how I could manage that "opportunity" in the future. She never made me feel inadequate or ineffective. She made me believe that my leadership and vision were needed. She built me up through her faith and support as I struggled day by day to make a positive difference in both my professional and personal life.


I also love that Paulette never took herself seriously and, in fact, would tell stories about something funny or silly she had done, laughing out loud as she would relive the experience. I loved her low chuckle that always preceded one of these "true confessions." She was a happy person, even during difficult times, and her example reminds me that the little things, like laughing at one's self and finding the joy in life, can make a difference to those around me.


Paulette dreamed of big things and worked diligently to make those dreams come true. Under her leadership, we obtained new academic program funding, new staff and faculty positions, even a beautiful, state-of-the-art building addition because of Paulette's vision and persistence. The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates fellows and scholars experienced the benefit of that vision and dream, recently spending time in our new building and benefiting from the resources we have due to Paulette's high standard and insistence on the best. She wanted the best students, the best faculty, and the best resources. And, in the pursuit of the best, she was always grateful for what we already had, who we were, how we were blessed in so many ways. Her example made a difference.


Tomorrow we will memorialize Paulette's life in a special service for her family and friends. I anticipate that the church will be overflowing simply because so many people have indicated their desire to come together to honor her life ... how she made a difference in so many venues, to so many people. There is such a big hole in my heart, but I am so very grateful for the difference she made in my life.


Clearly, my reflection on the past year has demonstrated that my friend made a difference. And have I? I'm not sure I can answer that at the moment because my thoughts are focused on Paulette and her many gifts to me. Hers was a life well lived, full of grace, laughter, wisdom, and generosity. My legacy, and yours, is still unfolding. Her legacy undoubtedly will shape my life in ways that I hope will cause me to honor her in my own efforts at leadership.


In your own reflections of 2014, how have you made a difference? Did you make a difference in the experiences of your patients and coworkers? Have you made a difference through your commitment to the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates at the regional and national levels? Have you published an article or presented at a professional meeting? Have you pursued a higher educational level or obtained certification? All of these questions were posed in my editorial last year (Baker, 2014).


It's not too late. That is the beauty of reflection. We can look at the past, determine what we have done and failed to do, set a new course of action, and work a new plan. Just like my dear friend Paulette, I want my life to make a difference. I hope that as my sorrow recedes and my fond memories begin to dominate my thoughts of her, I will be ready to contemplate my plan for making a difference in 2015. And what about you? Are you working your plan? Will 2015 include time deliberately spent on making a difference? That's what legacies are made of. Paulette's life validates making a difference is a legacy worth leaving behind. God's blessings, dear friend. I am thankful for your legacy.




Baker K. A. (2014). Do you make a difference (Editorial)? Gastroenterology Nursing, 37(1), 11-12. [Context Link]