In 1966, in the early years before I’d discovered nursing, I was a freshman in college trying to figure out my major. I loved science but couldn’t quite see how I could channel this passion into a career.
In those days, most girls got married or became secretaries, teachers, or nurses. Medicine was out of the question as it was a man’s world then, and as far as I knew, only men became physicians.
In the winter of 1967, I went home for the weekend to visit my mother, who was in the hospital recovering from serious spinal surgery. It was there that I discovered the smart, competent, compassionate nurses who were taking care of her. I was awed by their knowledge and skill, and it was then that I discovered that nursing just might be for me.
I have been a nurse for 38 years, working in intensive care, at a school for emotionally disturbed children, in HIV/AIDS pediatric research, in pediatric primary care and now as a professor preparing the next generation of nurses. My patients and their families have come from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, and some have shared the deeply human experience of a life-threatening illness or serious injury.
I have witnessed their joy and relief when they are about to recover, their heartache and suffering when treatment fails them, and their uncommon grace and strength when the end of their life is near. Knowing them has enriched my life immeasurably and for this, I am most sincerely grateful. But if not for my mother, I doubt I would have been on this journey at all, so I honor her for illuminating my path to nursing and a life fulfilled as a professional nurse.