On this website, I share experiences I’ve had over four decades, working in various health care settings, as a nurse and nurse practitioner. I tell the stories of patients I cared for; they taught me far more than any textbook. I write about the intimate relationships nurses develop with patients and their families and how these differ from doctor/patient relationships. I discuss how nurses struggle to be heard in a hierarchy that so favors physicians.
In the 60s, I attended a traditional three-year diploma program and, in 1981, became one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners. Before then, care of the elderly wasn’t considered a specialty, like pediatrics. Older people’s needs were seen as different from those of other age groups. I was on the forefront, providing that care. I have written a book: Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers that chronicles my challenges in caring for the underserved elderly who lived on the Westside of Chicago.
My favorite work setting has been home care. On entering a stranger’s home, a nurse never knows what she’ll find—an empty fridge, filth, extreme isolation, a loving family or a fractured one. She relies on her skill and knowledge, what she packed in her nurse’s bag and improvises the rest. Most important she must develop a trusting relationship with the patient and family to obtain a positive outcome.
Throughout my career, I’ve felt nurses don’t always get the appreciation we deserve—in part because we rarely inform the public about what it is that we actually do. Years ago, when I was working at a government hospital, I solicited stories from nurses about the work they did—how they made a difference in a patient’s life. I planned to put the stories in a brochure to distribute during National Nurses Week. I received very few submissions. The most common reason I heard from the staff nurses for not sharing their stories: I don’t want to write about what I do. It’s too much like boasting.
I hope to encourage nurses to tell their stories about the ethical, professional, and personal difficulties they experience as well as the times they make a difference in their patients’ lives. Only then will the general public appreciate what nurses really do.