Being part of something

To the editor:

As nurses, we are faced with defining moments each day that become the foundation of our character and shape our professional identities. Not to mention, we work in an ever-expanding and ever-changing health care environment with numerous career paths. While the advancement of opportunities for professional nurses over the course of the past four decades has been profound, this evolution has also contributed, in part, to today’s very real nursing shortages in hospitals and clinics across the state and nation.

But now, more than ever, we need nurses. Nurses are vital to our patients and communities. In my current role, I serve as a mentor for nurses and young leaders with great dreams. They remind me of the hard work I put in starting off as a young nurse in the Intensive Care Unit, to where I am now as an executive leader. One of my greatest professional and personal joys is to recognize the quality that sets them apart: extraordinary empathy.

I believe those with an empathetic heart are more often called to serve others. They have a greater desire to not only be a part of a profession that eases the pain and worries of others, but are also part of something much bigger than the individual. That call is answered when becoming a nurse.

Some of my most memorable and defining moments in nursing are also some of my most sacred life experiences.

When my father was taking his last breaths from his hospice bed, surrounded by family, the nurse was there, too. She was in the wings providing the technical support to this very important step from one life into another. She reassured us, and gave us the space we needed to be there with him, holding his hand. She knew when to come in and when to leave, moving undetected with the ebb and flow of everything happening both inside and outside the room. She was competent and confident. By her presence, we knew everything was going to be OK.

The technical skills– whether or not she got the blood pressure right or if the sheets were tight — that’s not what I will remember. I don’t remember her name. I don’t even remember her face. But, I remember how she made me feel.

To all nurses, thank you for being role models of empathy. You matter. You are a part of something bigger: hope for a better health care future.

Sue Thompson, MS, RN

Senior vice president

of integration

and optimization

UnityPoint Health

Des Moines

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