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I agree with many of Margaret Belcher's points in "I'm No Angel." I don't consider myself an angel, and as a nurse researcher and professor I certainly don't view nursing as magic; it takes a lot of hard work to be a nurse. And I too am concerned about the stereotypes of nurses.


Where I disagree is in the statements "self-sacrifice . . . has never been good for nurses" and "that so many nurses see nursing as a calling . . . has nothing to do with the work we do." I don't believe there's necessarily a conflict between self-care and self-sacrifice. For example, I knew a young student nurse who volunteered for a double shift in an emergency, and the staff and patients were so grateful for her help. She later said, "I felt so great because I knew that I had made a difference."


Throughout the history of nursing, caring for the sick has been understood to be a calling. Over the centuries this has drawn many men and women to the profession. For me, the call came from Christian Scripture. For others, it may have different spiritual sources. Regardless, the call is to serve, as best one can, those who are in need.


Mary Elizabeth O'Brien, PhD, RN, FAAN


Washington, DC


Having been in this profession for more than 30 years, 20 of them in trauma critical care, I can say that I have sat with more than a few patients and families dealing with tragedy. To have even one of them consider me to be an angel-or even remotely resembling one-is just about the highest compliment I can receive. I put my knowledge and skills into my patient care, and also my heart and soul.


Elizabeth Symons, RN


Washington, DC


Margaret Belcher may not be an angel, but she probably works from a calling more than she realizes. Nursing, by its nature, is a moral and ethical response to human suffering.


Judith A. Shelly, RN


Frederick, PA


I am an ED nurse, and I used to think there was something wrong with me because I didn't feel special when people praised me for being a nurse. There were times I felt unworthy of the word nurse. Then I realized that nursing is something I have learned to do. I am grateful that I enjoy my work. I am proud of my accomplishments and my abilities. I am aware of my responsibility. And through experience, I have learned to take care of myself so that I can respond when I am needed.


Barbara J. Kysor, RN


Florence, TX



Kathleen Sitzman's article, "The Ice-Bag Incident," makes me embarrassed to be a nurse. I used to work in critical care. I became tired of the "we don't have time" excuse that so many nurses used. I preferred to try to create a hospice atmosphere for a dying patient, even in the ICU. A family was losing a loved one, and who was I to lay down the rules to a grieving family? I wish I could have remained in critical care long enough to have made a greater difference.


Kathy Mahan, MSN, ARNP, BC


Fort Myers, FL


There are plenty of nurses who take care of their fellow nurses. My mother spent her final days in a hospital, where my sisters and I were with her around the clock. The nurses were helpful but knew I was a nurse, and they usually left us alone. On the night my mother died, Joe, a traveling nurse, was on duty. I had told my family that death is not always like it appears on television, and when the regurgitation began they left for the visitation room. I stood frozen and watched her die. Joe came in and said, "Dottie, you don't need to be a nurse right now. I am here and will take care of your mother. Go be with your family and let me do my work." Relieved, I left. When we were called back to the room my mother was cleaned up, peaceful and serene. I am so thankful to Joe, who allowed me to be a daughter, not a nurse.


Dorothy E. Hill, RN,C


Bangor, ME


As an RN and a retired city police officer, I have dealt with death many times. I can't express the horror and anger I felt for Ms. Sitzman and her family when I read "The Ice-Bag Incident." I am proud of her for confronting the staff and letting them know how hurt she was. As an RN, I apologize on behalf of these seemingly uncaring nurses. And as for hugging, I can't tell you how many hugs I have given out-even as a police officer.


Roni Tomarelli, RN


Chesapeake, VA


I am a senior charge nurse and unit educator in a busy ED, which is frequently charged with the task of caring for patients in cardiac arrest. If the outcome is death, the staff (nursing, medical, and pastoral) directs its focus to the family. I find Ms. Sitzman's story disturbing. My hat is off to her for meeting with the staff. I'll use her article in the educational program of our ED.


Charles E. Brown, RN, NREMT-P, CEN


Columbia, SC


My father died last November, after having gone into assisted living. At age 90 he was alert and interested in life, even as his lungs failed. My 48-year-old sister had died in July, and I was in surrogate court to obtain guardianship of my niece when my father took his last breath.


When I arrived at his apartment, a plant had been placed next to the door, soft music was playing, and my father was lying in his bed. Members of the assisted living staff were with him, and they reassured me that his passing had been easy. The nurse and the aide had made my father's last moments their priority, even though he died in the middle of their morning med pass. The hospice nurse came and helped me with the arrangements, changed my dad's pajamas, and drove me home. I am grateful to all of the people who took the time to care.


June Butkas, MSN, RN


Bloomfield, NY


We nurses can appear so confident and be such strong advocates for ourselves and our loved ones, but we can also be deeply wounded by other nurses and physicians. Perhaps it's because we expect so much more from them. We know how it should be-how we would hope to treat patients if we were their nurses.


I hope that the staff heeded Ms. Sitzman's words. We all could do with reminders that patients and families need our support; what we say can affect them for the rest of their lives, positively and negatively.


Janet Vandenberg, BScN, RN, IBCLC


Newmarket, Ontario, Canada