1. Adams, Ellise D. PhD, CNM

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This is my first column as the contributing editor to the Parting Thoughts section of The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing. I am Ellise D. Adams, and I have recently retired as a tenured professor of nursing at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. I have been a nurse for 39 years and a nurse educator for 26 years. My experience clinically, as a nurse researcher, and as an author has been as a perinatal nurse. I consider my greatest accomplishment to be participating in the education of more than 3000 nursing students and watching them make an impact on the profession of nursing. While I have retired, I have not stopped being a nurse.


When I think about nursing, I honestly think about who I am. Nursing is a critical part of my identity. Erik Erikson, in his theory of psychosocial development, calls identity the method of organization that provides a sense of sameness, and also uniqueness, and assists in the development of mental and physical health. Nurse identity combines all the memories, experiences, relationships, and values gained during our practice to create a sense of self.


My nursing brain is geared to view everything through the nursing process: assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Mostly, this thinking is effective, but sometimes, it gets me in trouble. My youngest son would say I assessed a little too long when I gathered data for 48 hours to decide whether his injury was a broken hand. It was broken. In my experience, nurses' children are often at risk for overassessment.


Nursing has made me curious about everything. This is a must-have skill for a researcher. Nursing taught me to be a good listener and observer and to turn all conversations away from myself and back to others. This is a critical skill to get to know the patients we care for and to build trust with them. I recall 15-year-old Kristy, who was in labor with her first baby. Her boyfriend slept in the chair, and her mother, dressed immaculately in high heels, peeked into the room every 2 hours, whether we needed her or not. Kristy had to learn to trust me, or she would have been all alone as she labored and gave birth. I never left the room. Kristy clung to me as the baby came into this world. She trusted me.


Nursing taught me to keep my face from reacting, no matter what was said or what was seen or smelt. I call it the nurse face. This face is critical to the nurses' identity. Sitting beside my daughter-in-law, a perinatal nurse handed me a laparoscopic picture of my first grandchild lodged in my daughter-in-law's fallopian tube, an ectopic pregnancy meant we would never hold this child. I could not lose control then. I had to be strong for her. My nursing knowledge gave me that strength.


Nursing taught me to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I learned to treat each person with dignity and respect no matter who they were. My experience as a perinatal nurse in a public teaching hospital taught me to ignore the prison guard outside my patient's room. Valuable lessons were learned about modesty while caring for various women from other cultures. These and many other lessons carried over into life and assist me every day.


The choice of nursing as a career changed my identity. The public needs to better understand this nursing identity. I want to encourage you to share your nursing story throughout your career. Tell the world who you are. Celebrate who you are. Within the guidelines of HIPAA talk about what you do. Write and publish about what you do as a nurse. Make sure that the public knows that nurses contribute to research, education, public health, health policy, and all levels of healthcare organizations. Make sure that the small and large impacts you make are known.


-Ellise D. Adams, PhD, CNM


Professor Emerita


College of Nursing, The University of Alabama in Huntsville


Huntsville, Alabama