Nurse's StationScrubs

Dear Nurse: Are you thanked enough?


On occasion, a patient’s thank you can even give your family better insight into your professional capabilities. For Jennie Dugan, the evidence that her mother was well regarded at work lies in a couple of lines from a former patient. When Dugan’s mother, Jean Blue, was a nurse in the 1940s, she received a simple but meaningful nod of appreciation scratched out on an envelope: Keep the good work going. You’re always good for the “Blues”! “The note was a play on her name and it meant so much to her that she put it into our family scrapbook,” says Dugan. Blue has since passed away, yet the sentiments expressed in that short note still live on as reminder to Dugan and her family about the quality of her mother’s work.

Keith Ahrens is another patient who unintentionally clued a daughter into her mother’s value as a nurse. Ahrens, who had a heart attack at 45, followed by bypass surgery and rehab at St. Rose Dominican Hospital in Henderson, Nev., ran into the nurse who had given him a lying-down stress test before his operation. The test had been especially scary for Ahrens because he weighed more than 400 pounds at the time (he’s below 200 now). Running into the nurse, who was accompanied by a young woman, gave him the opportunity to tell her how much her gentle care had meant to him. The two hugged and exchanged email addresses, then went their separate ways. To his surprise, Ahrens heard from the nurse later that day. “Keith,” she wrote, “I have been crying from happiness all day. That woman standing next to me was my daughter, and when you left, she turned to me and said, ‘Wow, Mom, now I know what a great nurse you are!’”

Ahrens had also previously written to the administration of St. Rose Dominican to express his appreciation of the entire staff who had helped him. In the letter, he mentioned many of them by name—because he could. “It’s important for you to tell patients your name,” says Monstein. “Otherwise it’s hard for them to say thank you.”

Dear Daisy Foundation,

I’m in this unit because I made a serious suicide attempt. It was my first time harming myself. The days leading to this event were miserable. I was afraid to leave my apartment at night and interact with strangers because of paranoia…I was checked into this unit about midnight, and woke up very depressed the next morning—I did not want to get out of bed. That morning nurse Jane Pressman came to my room several times and encouraged me to get out of bed, bathe and clothe myself, and participate in the daily activities. At first I struggled…but as time passed I grew more and more comfortable interacting with the staff and other patients. I believe her persistent genial encouragement helped to make me feel at ease, and she played an integral role in how I feel today—ready to live a regular life again.

As the organization behind the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses, the Daisy Foundation gets notes like this all the time. Bonnie Barnes and her family created the foundation in honor of her son Patrick, who died at age 33 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Recognizing nurses became part of its goal because of the top-notch care Patrick received while ill. “Who says thank you to nurses for all the little things they do without a second thought?” says Barnes. “They’re unsung heroes.”

Well, not so much anymore. In partnership with health organizations around the world, the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses pays tribute to nurses who exhibit not only great clinical skill, but also strong patient care and compassion. Patients, families and colleagues submit nominations, and winners receive a certificate, a pin and a Healer’s Touch sculpture, as well as a cinnamon roll party for the entire unit. Since 2001, more than 6,000 nurses have been honored.

In the course of running the awards program, Barnes has been surprised to find how self-effacing nurses are. “I always ask them, ‘When in nursing school did they teach you to say, I wasn’t doing anything special, I was just doing my job?’” says Barnes, who has found that nurses also know a thing or two about gratitude. “When they get the awards, they often say they are the grateful ones. They’ll say to patients, ‘Thank you for the gift of being able to care for you and for letting me a part of your life.’”

To Attitudes of Gratitude author M. J. Ryan, that’s a healthy sign. “In a challenging career like nursing where so much is out of your control, noticing what you’re thankful for and what you enjoy can help you keep your spirits up and make you more resilient under stress,” says Ryan. “Gratitude helps us return to our natural state of joyfulness.”

Dear Daisy Foundation,

As the mother of a 17-month-old, I don’t have a lot of time to explain what a major impact James Scott made on my son’s stay here at UCLA. No request was too small and no challenge too big. This is our fourth hospital and James is the most devoted and calming nurse we have ever had. As someone who spent much of my childhood in a hospital, I know the positive impact a great nurse can have on how a child heals.

Daryn Eller
Daryn Eller is a freelance writer based in Venice, Calif., who has written for Parents, Prevention and Ladies’ Home Journal.

    How to cope when you’re off duty at odd hours

    Previous article

    Nursing trends around the world in the last decade

    Next article

    You may also like