Looks like I have started my own tradition. I am posting Happy Lasagna Day on my Blog during Thanksgiving week for the third time since 2016. That year, my husband and I chose to spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year, although we enjoyed a traditional turkey meal with my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids, I posted Happy Lasagna Day for the second time.
This year we will spend Thanksgiving day alone, again, but not by choice. My husband and I are at high risk for the devastating effects of Covid-19 and we decided to stay safe at home.
Rather than feel sorry for our isolation, I will relive the warm memories of family celebrations of the past by posting Happy Lasagna Day for the third time. Yes, my new ritual.
Happy Lasagna Day
First posted on November 24, 2016
My husband and I are spending Thanksgiving alone—by choice. We had been invited out but graciously declined.
After having three sets of houseguests in six weeks, we are happy to be alone. By the way, the house has never been cleaner.
And we broke from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—we are having lasagna.
I love leftover lasagna as much or more than leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy.
Over the years lasagna has become the ubiquitous casserole. You can find it premade in deli departments and frozen food cases in grocery stores. It’s the go-to meal neighbors bring over to neighbors on happy occasions (childbirth) and solemn occasions (sickness or death in the family).
My love of lasagna goes back to my childhood when we visited Grandma in Jersey City. She lived in a second floor walk-up two blocks from my house. Who remembers what time she got up in the morning to begin cooking the lasagna and the rest of the meal, including homemade bread and a roasted chicken? As for the lasagna, she made the pasta from scratch. The tomato sauce (we called this gravy) simmered for hours on the stove. She used whole-milk ricotta and mozzarella cheeses that were made fresh at the Italian store down the block.
Being the oldest granddaughter, I sometimes helped by assembling the multiple layers of the dish. First the sauce, the pasta in one layer, a few spoonfuls of cheese mixture (ricotta, parmesan, eggs, oregano and parsley), sliced mozzarella, more sauce/gravy and then I started over again finishing with the mozzarella on top.
If the family ever had turkey for Thanksgiving, I don’t remember.
In Grandma’ s cramped kitchen the men ate first—Grandma’s three sons, her five sons-in law and Grandpa. My cousins and I sat at the “children’s table” that was cobbled together with end tables and folding chairs. The women served and cleared and eventually sat down to dinner with the windows open to let out the steam from the kitchen along with the delicious aromas of the Italian Thanksgiving feast.
So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the usual, although not insignificant blessings, such as health, family, friends, but also for the memories that warm me and bring me back to Grandma’s table laden with her gifts and in the company of my extended family—some long gone but not forgotten.
Wishing you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving with Joyful Memories.
I’m taking a break from discussing writing methods or how nurses are dealing with the COVID-19 virus.
For this week’s post, I’m talking eggs.
I went to the North Carolina Farmers Market last Friday to drop off an empty egg carton and buy another dozen jumbo “free range” eggs from the Cox farm stand.
Janie and Robbie Cox sell their eggs at the Farmers Market every other Friday. The Thursdays before, Janie Cox texts her regular customers—over 175 strong—to tell us where the egg stand will be since the stand doesn’t have an assigned spot.
On this sunny Friday morning, I wait while Janie chats with a customer—keeping my 6 feet distance. Frequently, there are other customers before me when I come to buy eggs. “I know I jabber on,” the customer smiles at me as she leaves. I have already decided that my next post will be about food, most probably eggs, and I want to take pictures of Janie and Robbie Cox and their stand at the Farmers Market.
I enjoy visiting the Farmers Market because in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the environment there feels safe. The market is outside. Directional arrows on the floor encourage customers to observe social distancing and hand sanitizers are placed in strategic locations. Wearing a mask is mandatory. The greatest danger for me is to buy more produce than I can possibly cook.
After I explain that I would like to include Cox eggs in my upcoming post, Janie and Robbie agree to let me take their picture. Janie tells me she will email more information about their business. I leave with my purchase: a carton of eggs and a few sunflowers that the grow wild on their five acres of land.
What I learned about the Cox’s and their businesses:
The Cox’s raised race horses for 20 years. Then they started a full-time fresh produce business. After 15 years, Janie and Robbie celebrated their retirement by buying 500 Rhode Island Red laying hens.
For the next six years, they have come to the Farmers Market every other weekend selling 4 sizes of eggs: X Large; Jumbo; X Jumbo and XX Jumbo. The smaller egg sizes are sold at other markets and at a home delivery service. The chickens are all “pasture raised/free range.” Janie tells me that the chickens “come and go as they please.”
My attempt at impersonating a roving reporter at the Farmers Market allows me to expand my knowledge about all that involves food, a topic dear to my heart. Plus, it’s fun to interact with the vendors. I’ll continue to hone in on my nascent interviewing skills.
N.B. Those who follow my Blog know that I am a city girl. However, when I was two years old, I knew my way around chickens, and, as you can see, ducks, too. I’m standing in the back yard of Aunt Sophie’s house in Long Island. My older cousins refused to eat the chickens that Aunt Sophie, their mother, had killed for dinner.
More about eggs:
At just 78 calories each, eggs are an efficient, rich source of protein and vitamins. A large egg contains about 6 grams of protein. Eggs also are a good source of other nutrients, including vitamin D (which aids bone health and the immune system) and choline (which helps metabolism and liver function, as well as fetal brain development).
Egg yolks also can be good for the eyes; they are significant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people 55 and older.
Marianna Crane became one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. She writes to educate the public about what nurses really do. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Eno River Literary Journal, Examined Life Journal, Hospital Drive, Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology, and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. She lives with her husband in Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit her at http://www.nursingstories.org.
The book will take as long as it needs to take to be done.
My book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, took me about seven years to complete. I couldn’t seem to rush the process. A mentor told me “the book will take as long as it needs to take to be done.” And only after I finished the book did I understand what my story was really about.
My nursing career covered forty years. As soon as I retired I began to record those years starting with nursing school. When I reached the early 80s, a tug in my gut told me that I couldn’t go any further. During that time I was the coordinator of a not-for-profit clinic in Chicago targeting the underserved elderly. Throughout the years, I always remembered the clinic as being totally different from any other job I ever had. Located on the tenth-floor of an apartment building for low-income seniors, the open door policy allowed anyone to walk in—with a heart attack or carrying a loaf of zucchini bread.
As a new nurse practitioner (I had been a registered nurse for twenty years before I went back to school to become an NP), I narrowly viewed my role as a health care provider. I would see patients in the clinic for illnesses or health maintenance. That the elderly had multitudinous social and economic problems initially eluded me. Or was it that my lack of education in geriatrics, a new specialty at the time, that contributed to my misconceptions?
Many of my patients’ stories were captured in a journal that I kept while I struggled with the dilemmas that challenged me—patients choosing between food and medicine, or were victims of family abuse, or targeted by scam artists from the community. I often vacillated whether I had any right to step in and take over a patient’s finances or change the locks on the doors. With no road map, I fumbled along, sometimes butting heads with my staff in deciding how to intervene.
Finding the Truth in Revision
I learned that what I wrote initially in the book was not a clear map of what I wanted to convey. I just wanted to tell this story. But what story? My memory cast my co-workers in roles that inhibited my progress. With each rewrite, I softened my harsh critique of others and uncovered some detrimental actions that I had initiated. My insight became sharper when I let the story percolate in my head rather than rushing to rewrite. Reflection and patience, albeit over seven years, finally enabled me to be truthful to what happened in the tenth-floor clinic.
In retrospect, I see that having a preconceived notion of what I wanted to write had caused me to miss what was behind the real story. My belief about the stories from the tenth-floor clinic stemmed from what I remembered—my truth at that moment. The passage of time has a way of rearranging recollections. It was only after examining my place in my memoir that I uncovered what the story was really about, even if I had already lived it.
The book took as long as it needed to take to be done.
Lorraine Starsky writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about three “extraordinary” Pittsburgh women who happened to be nurses. Each woman had provided services beyond the boundaries of the nursing role.
In this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Lorraine Starsky tells the story of three women who were trailblazers
LORRAINE STARSKY OCT 25, 2020 9:00 AM
In May 2019, long before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, the World Health Assembly designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
The designation was, in part, to pay tribute to Florence Nightingale. Considered the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, making 2020 the 200th year anniversary of her birth.
Nurses and midwives have had a long, rich history of safeguarding the health of people. Primarily they work without recognition and pass into history with their names unknown and their stories untold. In honor of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, here are the remarkable stories of one midwife and two nurses who worked in the Pittsburgh area.
Hannah Sandusky was born in 1827 to a Jewish family in Kovno, Lithuania. With no doctor in the village, Hannah was taught important skills by accompanying her midwife mother as she assisted with local births. She married Louis Sandusky, a window glazer, who came to Pittsburgh in 1860. Hannah and their son joined him 1861. She began working as a midwife, as well as providing care to the many impoverished residents of the Hill District — newly arriving Eastern European immigrants and Blacks from the South.
Her reputation drew the attention of a local doctor who called on her intermittently to assist him with difficult deliveries. He was very impressed by her skill and in appreciation for her help, he sent Sandusky and her son, who had an eye problem, to Germany to see an eye specialist. During the time that her son received treatment for his eye, Hannah attended a recognized school of midwifery.
With her son’s eye treatments completed and her midwifery education finished, Hannah returned to Pittsburgh with formal certification as a midwife, making her one of only a few women in the U.S. with that credential. She delivered 3,571 registered births, but there were, no doubt, many more births that went undocumented. Her passion for providing care did not always carry over to paperwork and The Birth Registration Act didn’t go into effect until 1870. Regardless of the exact number of deliveries; it is an impressive feat since she accomplished this while she raised her seven children.
Sandusky was very kind-hearted and was known for providing her services for free. In situations where a family was facing hardship, she also gave food, baby clothes, and blankets after a birth. She was affectionately known as Bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) Hannah throughout the Hill District. She was 82 when she delivered her last baby and died at age 86 on November 15, 1913.
Her legacy lives on through the Bubbe Hannah Fund at The Midwife Center for Birth and Women’s Health at 2831 Penn Ave. Donations to the fund underwrite services for individuals experiencing barriers to quality health care. The Midwife Center overcame attempts to drive it out of existence, flourished with grassroots support, and expanded to become the nation’s largest free-standing birth center operated by midwives.
An exquisite, art quilt portrait of Bubbe Hannah hangs on the waiting room wall sweetly looking on the families awaiting the midwives’ services.
Like midwife Hannah Sandusky, public health nurse Anna Heldman spent the bulk of her nursing career in the Hill District.
Anna Barbara Heldman was born in Castle Shannon on January 15, 1873. Early on, she felt the call of nursing and found work as a practical nurse at Allegheny Hospital in 1893 despite the fact that she had no training or experience. When South Side Hospital established a Hospital Training School for Nurses, Heldman enrolled and was given a year’s worth of credit for her two years of practical nursing at Allegheny Hospital.
She was among the first graduating class of the South Side Hospital Training School for Nurses, receiving her diploma on April 8, 1897. About a year later, she volunteered to serve as a nurse in the Medical Department of the United States Army during the Spanish-American War. She served in Florida, Georgia, and Cuba. When she returned from her tour of duty, she worked briefly as a private duty nurse.
Heldman didn’t find private duty nursing challenging. In 1902 she learned about a new type of nursing referred to as community visiting nursing, the genesis of public health nursing. She was hired at the Columbian School and Settlement in the Hill District modeled after the Hull House in Chicago.
It evolved into the Irene Kaufmann Settlement. At this time Pittsburgh had very high rates of tuberculosis and typhoid, with the Hill District being a hot spot since it was crowded with the poorest of the poor — Blacks escaping the South and new immigrants.
Initially Heldman was discouraged, but she persisted. She already was fluent in German and that helped her master Yiddish, which was useful for nursing Jewish immigrants. She also learned Syrian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Italian, which gained her the trust and affection of the community. She became a recurring sight in the Hill District’s streets and alleys carrying her black nurse’s satchel. Soon people began referring to Anna as “Heldi.”
Her commitment included fighting for better housing conditions, stricter labor laws in the Hill’s cigar factories, better schools, workers’ compensation and the first legal aid service. She and her staff nursed well over 1,000 flu and pneumonia victims during the 1918 flu epidemic.
In addition, she initiated numerous public health programs that ultimately became city services, including a visiting nurses service, a prenatal nursing service, baby clinics and regular medical inspection of students in Pittsburgh’s schools.
The Hill District became Heldman’s family as she never married or had children. Because her dedication touched the lives of so many men, women and children in her 38 years of service as a public health nurse, she became known as the “Angel of the Hill District.”
As an expression of gratitude for her devotion to the Hill District, the city in 1939 renamed Overhill Street, Heldman Street, which still exists. When she died in March 1940 at 67, her body was brought to the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House. Thousands filed past her coffin to pay their respects to the indomitable woman they called the “Angel of the Hill District.”
Evelyn Paige Parke
Evelyn Page Parker was born January 8, 1921 in Pittsburgh. While she was a student at Westinghouse High School, she knew she wanted to become a nurse. However, in 1940 no schools of nursing in Pittsburgh would admit Black students to become Registered Nurses, so she left for Philadelphia. She enrolled at Mercy Douglass Hospital School for Nurses, which was the first nursing school in Philadelphia for Blacks.
While at Mercy Douglass she took a course at Philadelphia General Hospital, where she learned that Blacks were not permitted to eat in their cafeteria. She was not deterred and continued to go to the cafeteria. Eventually the cafeteria cooks let her eat.
Later in life she related the story, “Everyone started looking at me, thinking ‘What’s she doing here?’ But then, they started letting African American students eat there.”
Parker graduated in 1943 from Mercy-Douglas. She persisted in her efforts to promote equality for Blacks. Philadelphia General Hospital finally opened its nursing school and internship programs to Black students in 1945.
In the meantime, she pursued her nursing career in Philadelphia. She focused on public health nursing and was instrumental in helping to found the Community Nursing Services of Philadelphia in 1959. During this time, she married, had a son, and worked on her bachelors in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania, which was awarded in 1961.
In the late 60s Parker returned to Pittsburgh and enrolled at the Graduate School of Public Health at Pitt. She finished her Master’s degree in Public Health in 1969 and became a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing until 1981.
She then taught at Duquesne University’s School of Nursing until 1984 when she retired. She mentored students at both universities throughout her career. Even in retirement, her passion for nursing and social justice burned bright as she continued to help young Blacks pursue their dreams of a career in nursing.
Parker volunteered for many causes, from the local NAACP chapter, the AARP health committee, American Heart Association’s Sister to Sister Program and many cancer survivors’ groups. Probably closest to her heart was the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, which is called Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action.
Evelyn remained a devoted member until her death in 2008. In her obituary, her son Tom Parker said “I think the challenges she faced just motivated her more.”
Today the Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action carries on her legacy by offering support to prospective Black nursing students and addressing health disparities in the community. The Evelyn Paige Parker Scholarship is awarded annually.
Lorraine Starsky BSN, RN, retired in 2019 as a Public Health Nurse with the Allegheny County Health Department. She is working part time currently as a community health nurse consultant for Project Destiny. She can be reached at email@example.com
In my post on September 22: Nursing Students Provide Insights into the Pandemic, I spotlighted the thoughts and experiences of the nursing students from Seton Hall University, New Jersey, as they cared for Covid-19 patients.
Today’s post has the same focus but this time nursing students from the United Kingdom share their stories about working on the front line of the pandemic. ITV News from the United Kingdom discusses a new book: Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19 that was written by twenty-two nursing students plus other health care providers. The feelings that were expressed by American nursing students are mirrored in the UK nursing stories. The pandemic serves as a backdrop to reinforce the positive impact that nursing has on health care delivery and shows the general public how nursing care makes a difference.
United Kingdom Nursing Students Launch New Book About COVID-19
Video report by ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson
Wednesday 14 October 2020, 7:16pm
Student nurses who were recruited to work on frontline NHS services to respond the coronavirus crisis have shared their stories in a new book
The trainees faced the daunting task of being placed in frontline positions at hospitals around the country whilst finishing their studies amid a global pandemic.
Now, some have written about the personal and professional challenges that inspired them to flourish at a time of national crisis.
Entitled Living with Fear: Reflections on Covid-19, the book tells the stories of 22 nurses and other frontline professionals reflecting on what they experienced and how it impacted them.
Ikra Majid reads from the book. Credit: ITV News
Student nurse Ikra Majid did placements at various hospitals in London and Hertfordshire during the pandemic.
She now works at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.
“There did get to a point where I thought, why I am I doing this, it’s too much. I didn’t sign up for this pandemic,” she said.
“We have to make the best of it. As people say, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I tried to make the sweetest lemonade possible.”
She added: “The pandemic has made me realise even more what an important job we do.”
“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.
“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”
Another one of the authors, Estelle Kabia, helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit during the pandemic.
“Covid taught me to be the nurse I want to be,” she said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, I don’t think I will ever do anything as big in my whole life.”
Estelle Kabia helped patients at the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Unit.Credit: ITV News
The book also explores the concept of ‘moral injury’ where nurses feel unable to provide the care the patient needs leaving them to question their own ability.
Ms Kabia said: “Sometimes I felt moral injury as we were picking up new practical skills whilst dealing with sick patients coming in, but it would come and then go, because after a few weeks I could see the impact I had.
“In one way, stepping up was nerve-wracking but it also gave me the passion to go out there and help. You’re treated as a professional, not a student. I had no fear when I was on the ward.”
Claudia Sabeta, who finished her postgraduate course specialising in mental health nursing at Buckinghamshire New University this summer, worked at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow helping vulnerable and elderly mental health patients.
She said: “At first, I felt very overwhelmed by the Covid situation and I was worried about joining. I wondered how I would cope and if I’d put my family at risk.
“But it was a great experience in the end and an opportunity I will never have again in my life.
“It had a positive impact on my knowledge and training, and boosted my confidence. I learned so fast and it will stay with me forever.”
In mid-April, NHS England reported that nearly 15,000 student nurses, midwives and medical students had joined “frontline NHS teams as part of the nationwide coronavirus fightback”.
Proceeds from the book will go to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) Charitable Fund, which supports staff and service users.
Dr Scott Galloway, one of the book’s authors and Chief Clinical Information Officer at CNWL, said: “Every day, frontline healthcare professionals manage the challenges and stress of making difficult and uncomfortable decisions about how to provide the best possible care to patients.
“Sometimes, however, our capacities are so overwhelmed by extraordinary events, such as Covid-19, that we are unable to provide what we know the patient needs.”
One of the book’s editors Margaret Rioga, Associate Head of School in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Buckinghamshire New University, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on everybody and created fear within us like never before.
“This book shows that fear doesn’t define or take away the skills and experience of medical professionals, but rather helps them to grow a new way of thinking and working.
“When our students were called into practice, it gave them a true sense of what nursing is. They helped to saved lives and became superheroes in their local communities.”
I want to write like Brian Doyle. I discovered him not too long after he died in 2017 at the age of 60 when I read His Last Game. Not only did it bring tears to my eyes but throughout my reading I felt a tightness in my chest and a longing that the story would end happily when I knew that it wouldn’t. The inevitable sad ending was never said in so many words. I was in awe of Doyle’s “style.”
His Last Game had been on my mind when I came across a definition of the lyric essay. Aha! I decided that His Last Game had to be a lyric essay. I’m not sure I wanted to write a lyric essay so much as I wanted to write like Brian Doyle. But if I followed the examples in Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s book: Tell it Slant, I would have a set of rules to apply rather than trying to dissect Doyle’s style on my own.
So, I decided I would tackle writing a lyric essay.
The Lyric Essay:
The lyric essay is similar to the personal essay in that it also deals with a topic that affects the reader.
However, the lyric essay relies heavily on description and imagery. Lyrical suggests something poetic, musical, or flowing.
This type of piece uses a heavily descriptive flowing tone in order to tell a story.
I love poetry. I took one class in how to write poetry about ten years ago and I always read my stories out loud to listen to the sound of my words as they intermingle with each other. How hard can it be?
First, I read a lot more Brian Doyle, mostly with tears in my eyes and that familiar tightness in my chest. I finally completed my own short essay that I dubbed a lyric essay, aka, imitation of Brian Doyle.
I got feedback from the members of my writing group and two other writing friends I keep in touch with via email. Helpful. But the best advice I got was that I was not Brian Doyle. I should not try to write like Brian Doyle. I needed to be me and write what comes out of my essence. So that’s what I eventually did. I finished my so-called lyric essay—still about nursing—but with a different slant. The exercise of dissecting words, connecting meanings and showing another way to view the obvious was challenging.
Is my writing better? Maybe. Maybe not. But as I struggle through the telling, I have learned to use a greater variety of options.
I’m prepared to send my essay out for submission. Let you know what happens.
The World Health Organization designation of 2020 Year of the Nurse and Nurse Midwife has taken a back seat to the sensational political news alerts that fill our lives as if nothing else is important. This post is just a reminder that nurses still are on the front lines of COVID-19 and make a difference in our lives every day.
Seton Hall students and faculty in the College of Nursing shared their stories and thoughts on being a future health care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caroline Pascasio, a sophomore nursing major, said her drive to become a nurse has remained steadfast in the face of the pandemic. She said she always knew she wanted to enter a field where she could help other people and feel as though she was having a direct impact on their lives.
“I remember when we were in the peak of COVID, I would always see on the news that they needed more nurses,” Pascasio said. “I wished I was just a few years older so I would have the proper training to help.”
The pandemic has also highlighted many stories from health care workers. Colleen Osbahr, a sophomore nursing major, worked in a hospital over the summer and said she experienced a situation like this firsthand.
“One woman was working as a nurse, and her mother tested positive for COVID and was in the same hospital as her,” Osbahr said. “She was not allowed by regulations to go into her mother’s room, and unfortunately, her mother passed away.”
Oshbar said the pandemic has been stressful for nurses working in “understaffed” hospitals with limited resources.
“All nurses are putting the health of not only themselves, but also potentially their families, on the line for the benefit of the greater good,” she said.
Dr. Katherine Connolly, a clinical assistant professor at Seton Hall, has been teaching nursing students amid the pandemic.
“I had the opportunity to work as a nurse practitioner in the hospital setting during the height of the COVID-19 crisis,” Connolly said. “I was very proud of the leadership and collegiality I observed given the uncertainty of the situation. I will never forget the deserted hallways decorated with beautiful cards of encouragement and thanks coming from school children or the loving support from the surrounding community.”
Some nursing students said they worry about adapting to the lasting changes that the coronavirus could leave on their field.
“This pandemic has definitely made me anxious because I know that our nursing curriculum will be different than anything it has ever been,” Pascasio said. “It’s just a little nerve-wracking because you don’t know what to expect. It’s not like you can ask an upperclassman because they’ve never done a clinical in the era of COVID.”
Connolly said she has heard many pandemic stories from her students.
“These students described feelings of helplessness as they were unable to assist COVID-19 patients due to shortages in PPE, which was reserved for doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists,” Connolly said. “As the supply of PPE improved—allowing many to move into the role of bedside provider—the task that most touched their hearts was assisting patients to FaceTime with family members at home, especially when the patient was not doing well.”
A deep thank you to my friend and fellow writer Michele Murdock who sent me the first Star Nurses publication, which documents the collaborative effort between the Washington Post and the American Nurses Association (ANA) to nominate six nurses from across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia who “go above and beyond.”
Hopefully, we will have more collaboration between the ANA or other nursing organizations and news media in order to spotlight nurses who make a difference. What a great way to educate the public about what nurses really do. As you can see, the six nurses selected for the first Nightingale Awards practice in diverse settings and have varied backgrounds.
The Washington Post and the American Nurses Association Announce the 2020 STAR Nurses Award Winners
September 2, 2020 at 1:51 p.m. EDT
The Washington Post and the American Nurses Association (ANA) announced the winners of the 2020 Star Nurses Awards, recognizing registered nurses in the Washington, D.C. area with the Nightingale Award for excellence in their field. The six winners, who were nominated by patients and peers and were selected by the American Nurses Association and a panel of fellow RNs, are recognized for their achievements across a range of criteria including compassion and positive community impact. Below is the list of 2020 Nightingale Award Winners:
A veteran registered nurse on the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Winchester Medical Center, Lisa Dellinger is still passionate about her profession—and loves sharing her enthusiasm with new graduates.
Lisa Dellinger, RN
“I like admitting hearts,” admits Lisa Dellinger, a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) registered nurse (RN) at Winchester Medical Center in Winchester, Va. “We come together with procedural precision, and everyone knows their jobs without being told. That still lights a fire in me.”
Admitting a heart is the process of receiving a heart patient following surgery. These critically ill patients do not go to a recovery room. They come directly to the CVICU, where a team of healthcare providers ensures that all their lines and drips are accounted for and they are transferred safely.
“It’s like solving a puzzle,” Lisa added. “It’s a puzzle I can unravel, and I can keep my patients safe.”
From an early age, Lisa was always a problem solver. Although she dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, she knew she could not afford college. Instead, she joined the military and gained experience as a medical technician. It was during this time that she decided to become a nurse. “I realized that nurses get to spend more time with patients, so I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” she recalled.
Today, after 24 years in the field, Lisa is still passionate about nursing. In fact, she is most inspired when helping new graduates navigate the challenges of the profession.
“I love working with new grads. I love being able to pass on some of my knowledge—and hopefully some of my enthusiasm,” Lisa said. “I always tell new nurses that I would rather they ask me a hundred questions than do something to harm a patient.”
Lisa strives to teach new nurses what really matters. While she expects the nurses she mentors to be very attentive to the medical details of patient care, she thinks it is even more important that they get to know patients as people. Learning a patient’s personality can help nurses motivate them to get out of bed and get better, she explained.
“Ultimately, it’s our job to be our patients’ advocates—to be their voices,” Lisa concluded.
Lisa is a strong voice and an even stronger force. She is all heart.
As a pediatric oncology nurse researcher at Children’s National Hospital, Pamela S. Hinds, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, helps young patients find their voice and make sure it is heard.
Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN
Sometimes they want a back rub. They might want to chat about their fingernails. Most of all, they want to be heard. They are young cancer patients. And they have a strong advocate in Pamela S. Hinds, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, a nurse researcher at Children’s National Hospital.
Pamela performs pediatric oncology research that enhances patient outcomes and improves nursing practices. Over the course of her long career, she has had many emotional experiences with young patients and has really learned to listen to them.
“There are so many children whose faces and stories stay with me,” Pamela said. She recalled one young woman who had acute lymphocytic leukemia and experienced several recurrences requiring multiple bone marrow transplants. “I would end each day with a few quiet moments with her. It would soothe her so much when I would just rub her back,” she remembered.
Pamela also recollected a teen girl with a rebellious spirit and an extremely aggressive form of cancer. The girl tried desperately to find something positive. “She would say to me, let’s talk about the one part of my body that’s normal: my fingernails. So we would talk about her fingernails,” Pamela recalled.
For Pamela, the diverse stories of the many children she has treated are what motivates her research. As the principal investigator for a number of federally funded grants, Pamela can amplify children’s voices to help them get better, more compassionate care.
“For many years, we didn’t ask children questions,” noted Pamela. “We never asked them what it was like to be receiving cancer treatment. We just delivered the treatment.”
Pamela and her team created a comprehensive set of questions to help care providers talk to—and understand—seriously ill children. The questions are now available for use across the country via the National Cancer Institute of the United States.
Speaking of the emotional challenges of her field, Pamela admits, “It’s very painful. But I believe in the power of love. And I see love every day—the love of a parent for a child, and a child for a parent, and also of staff to children and children to staff. That’s an amazing thing.”
As a school nurse, Viktoria Holley-Trimmer is responsible for the health and safety of every student in her building.
Viktoria Holley-Trimmer, MS, RN
You have to start somewhere. Good days start with a nutritious breakfast. Good students must first be healthy students. Viktoria Holley-Trimmer is making sure that students in the District of Columbia start healthy and stay healthy—as a D.C. public school Registered Nurse.*
“I always tell people that I didn’t choose nursing. Nursing chose me,” says Viktoria of how she came to the profession. During the nursing shortage of the 1980s, Viktoria was offered a full scholarship to attend nursing school. She took it, and she has never looked back.
At Francis Scott Key Elementary School in D.C., Viktoria is helping young people achieve their best possible health, so they can thrive as students. “The day in the life of a school nurse includes something new every day,” she said. “Kids are just so amazing.”
From bandaging scraped knees to coaching scared kindergartners to helping kids manage serious long-term illnesses, Viktoria is responsible for the health and safety of every student in her building. She also does regular education sessions with the children, teaching everything from proper hand washing technique to healthy eating habits.
A big part of school nursing is taking care of the broader community. And Viktoria is certainly committed to strengthening her community. Every year, Children’s National Hospital holds a cereal drive to provide breakfast options to underserved children during the summer months. Viktoria is one of the leading contributors.
“Last year, I collected more than 11,000 servings of cereal for children in D.C.,” said Viktoria . “I talked to the parents and the teachers and rallied them to the point where they brought me cases of cereal.”
Even with schools shut down due to the Coronavirus crisis, Viktoria is continuing to care for her community. She is currently working as a contact tracer for D.C., fighting the community spread of the virus one phone call at a time.
From her cereal drive efforts to her day-to-day work in the school, Viktoria is ensuring that children in the District know that someone cares—that someone is committed to giving them a strong start.
Cherissa Jackson is the Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS (American Veterans), a registered nurse, a veteran and a proud post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) survivor.
Cherissa Jackson, RN
Cherissa Jackson has covered a lot of ground. She traveled thousands of miles to complete her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back at home, she has logged hundreds of miles running—in an attempt to outrun her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As the Chief Medical Executive at AMVETS (American Veterans), Cherissa is using her skills as a registered nurse and her personal experience with PTSD to help other veterans recover.
As a single mom to twin daughters, a veteran, a nurse and a leader, Cherissa has overcome some major obstacles—but none has compared to PTSD. Cherissa served 23½ years in the U.S. Air Force, many of them as a nurse. She served as a battlefield clinician in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 and in Afghanistan in 2011.
“I treated soldiers for PTSD. I knew the signs,” Cherissa recalled. “When I started experiencing some of those same symptoms, I hid in silence for five years.”
When her daughters left for college, Cherissa stopped hiding. “I had a PTSD break. I knew I had to get help,” she explained.
Years later, Cherissa has learned how to manage her PTSD. She uses a tried-and-true regimen of faith, meditation and exercise to keep her disorder at bay. Exercise is key. She said, “I tell people all the time that when I run, I sweat like crazy. That’s me purging those bad thoughts and feelings. That is me getting rid of what I experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Cherissa has shared her struggles with PTSD in several national magazines, and she wrote a best-selling memoir, “At Peace, Not in Pieces” about her experiences. “I strive to inspire others not to live in silence,” she said. “There is a way to be functional and not be ashamed to admit you have PTSD.”
When she joined AMVETS in 2019, Cherissa began running the organization’s HEAL program. HEAL, which stands for healthcare, evaluation, advocacy and legislation, aims to reduce veteran suicide, unemployment, homelessness and hopelessness by providing vital resources.
In addition to her work with HEAL, Cherissa is concentrated on elevating the issues that women veterans face. She created the Women Veteran Journey Map, an online tool that illustrates the unique experiences of women service members.
Cherissa may have suffered in silence for far too long, but she is sharing her journey with PTSD and advocating for other veterans now. She’s covered a lot of miles, and she is determined to leave markers to help those who follow.
In addition to teaching, Jonas Nguh, Ph.D., RN, a professor of nursing at Walden University, is deeply committed to serving marginalized communities—and inspiring his students to do the same.
Jonas Nguh, PhD, RN
When Jonas’s phone rang in the wee hours of the morning, he was startled. The voice on the other end of the line was frantic, screaming, “Thank you, thank you!” Jonas Nguh, Ph.D., a registered nurse and professor of nursing at Walden University, inspires these reactions from his students.
The caller went on to explain that she was one of Jonas’s former students and that she had just passed her board exam to become a registered nurse. “She told me I was one of the only people who never gave up on her and that kept her going,” Jonas recalled. “She called me before she even called her husband!”
“It’s just amazing to me that I can use my abilities to improve the lives of others, whether that is the people in my community, my students or people around the world,” Jonas added. “I love working with people and for people.”
It is that genuine love of people that brought Jonas to nursing and that makes him such an accomplished educator. The youngest of five children, Jonas grew up in an impoverished community in Cameroon. He has three older sisters who are all nurses.
“I think I was born into nursing,” he said with a smile. “Now I get to prepare the next generation of health care providers.”
In addition to teaching, Jonas is deeply committed to serving marginalized communities—and inspiring his students to do the same. Jonas does several mission trips every year with his students or his faith community.
In 2010, following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, Jonas facilitated a hand washing initiative. Jonas and his students visited D.C. area hotels and collected the complimentary bars of soap left behind after guests checked out. They found a vendor to disinfect and repackage the soap. The class then delivered the soap to communities in Haiti where hygiene products were scarce.
“Sanitation is the first basic element to prevent infection,” Jonas said. “I’ve always been committed to looking for the little things that can help. This was practical and feasible, and it helped.”
Jonas is proof positive that little things quickly become big things in capable hands. Jonas is not just competent; he is gifted. And he is always willing to share his gift. “This is a calling, not a job,” he concluded of the nursing profession. “It’s a mission. It’s the whole purpose of my existence.”
Sarah Rose, a registered nurse unit supervisor at Inova Alexandria Hospital, is committed to listening—and really hearing—patients and frontline nurses.
Sarah Rose, RN
Sarah Rose is a good listener. As a registered nurse unit supervisor at Inova Alexandria Hospital, Sarah makes sure that patients’ voices are heard and respected. She also ensures that the nurses who work at patients’ bedsides have a voice in shaping health-care policies and practices.
As a child, Sarah wanted to be a veterinarian. She loved animals, so it seemed like an obvious career choice. Her parents had other ideas. One summer, they convinced Sarah to volunteer at a local hospital. She was able to directly interact with nurses and patients on a daily basis. A new nurse was born.
“I always had a calling to help others, and this junior volunteer program allowed me to see how much nurses were helping,” Sarah recalled. “That started me down the path to become a nurse.”
When Sarah joined the staff at Inova Alexandria, it didn’t take long for her patients and co-workers to recognize her aptitude for caring. She received the hospital’s Nursing Excellence award in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Most recently, Sarah was recognized for her efforts to promote shared governance. Shared governance empowers nurses at the bedside to work with leadership to formulate policies and to express concerns drawn from their day-to-day interactions with patients.
After just two years as a staff nurse with Inova Alexandria, Sarah was promoted to unit supervisor in October 2016. Her unit provides step-down care for patients with serious cardiac issues.
“I strive to lead by example,” Sarah says of her role as supervisor. “I want to show new nurses that we can take the time to make personal connections with patients—to use the patients’ names and engage in small talk. Those simple connections make a big difference.”
Even when faced with difficult patients, Sarah remains dedicated to listening first. “It’s not just about letting them speak and then not hearing what they are saying,” she said. “You have to acknowledge what they are feeling. You acknowledge their concerns and then you explain what you’re able to do to help with the best possible outcome.”
Sarah listens. She pays attention. And she connects. By really hearing her patients and her staff, Sarah Rose is helping improve lives and enhance her profession. Sarah’s hearing promotes healing.