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UB community shares nursing stories


Published May 1, 2014

On May 6, a banner will be hung on Wende Hall recognizing National Nurse’s Week, which runs from May 6 through to May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

This year, the School of Nursing is pulling out all the stops to give nurses the attention they deserve during the week that has been devoted to them. In addition to the banner, the nursing school is holding its Undergraduate Nursing Information Session on May 8 and later in the month the Annual May Celebration — a way for alumni to network with fellow alumni, and for students, friends of the school, faculty and staff to celebrate all the school has to offer.

Marsha Lewis, dean of the nursing school, is pleased to be sharing this week with the UB community.

“National Nurse’s Week is a time to reflect on all the important contributions nurses make in their all-encompassing roles as trusted health care providers, patient advocates, influential leaders, dedicated educators and expert researchers,” says Lewis. “Celebrating these accomplishments university-wide allows us the opportunity to educate the public on the impact nurses have on the very fabric of health care in our community."

In honor of National Nurses Week, the UB Reporter asked members of the UB community to tell a story about how a nurse or nursing care has affected their lives.

First person you need to know

I was working as a clinical case manager in Brooklyn in an in-patient psychiatric unit. The patients in this particular unit struggled with severe and persistent mental illness, combined with associated social issues: They had a strong propensity for violence. The nurses’ station on the unit was designed in an accessible, open semi-circle. It was not unusual for patients to climb over the desk, pick up monitors and smash them on the floor during an episode of anger.

One day when I was on the unit, a patient began approaching me quickly, with his hand raised in a way that signaled he was going to strike me. Only one thing interrupted the moment: the voice of the head nurse. She caught his attention by talking to him in a calm, direct, no-nonsense way. She didn’t have to yell. She had established herself as a person the patients respected and who wouldn’t stand for this kind of threat. She often joked with the patients, but on this day she was unmistakably serious.

And he just stopped.

I learned from that day on that the first person to align yourself with on any unit was the nurse because nurses know the patients better than anyone. I also learned to approach them with respect because they deserve it.

Elizabeth Hole, MSW graduate student, ‘14, School of Social Work

Loving care helped ease injury

On a beautiful sunny Mother’s Day many years ago, I had a farm accident that severed my left Achilles tendon. Although young, I knew it was serious by the grim and concerned look on my parents’ faces as they arrived on the scene. After a longish drive to the hospital emergency room — or so it seemed — I was greeted by nurses and doctors alike, who reassured me that all would be well. Surgery commenced soon thereafter by Dr. Long, the community’s first orthopedic surgeon, who had arrived just that week from the University of Virginia.

The loving care I received in the hospital from the nursing staff almost made the injury seem worth it. In particular, Mrs. Cullen, the head pediatric floor nurse and the mother of one of my best friends, took special care of me and made sure not only that my injury was monitored appropriately, but most importantly, made sure I had all the ice cream I could eat, a situation that would never have occurred at home. My memories and deep appreciation of Mrs. Cullen’s loving care are still fresh even with the passage of more than 50 years.

Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs, Office of Undergraduate Education

Bringing their ‘A-game,’ no matter the situation

I was 50 years old and came down with acute appendicitis. What pain; I couldn’t even stand. I just wanted someone to get it out of me. I went to the emergency room and the first person to come to my bedside was the nurse who was assigned to me.

She looked down at me with a droll expression and said, “Really, appendicitis at 50? Nobody gets appendicitis at 50.”

I looked at her face and there was just a hint of a smile and despite the pain, I started laughing. I thought, this one’s a keeper; what a sense of humor. It was like she “got” me right off the bat and knew instinctively what to say to get my mind off the pain.

You’ve got to understand, that isn’t an easy place to work. It can be a very serious place. Those nurses were busy with people much sicker than me. But here she was, taking the time to bring her A-game to me, to not only make sure my health was taken care of, but also knowing that the way to make me feel better was to get me to laugh.

Jeff Quinn, head football coach, Division of Athletics

Recalculating medication saved mother’s life

My mother had acute diverticulitis that resulted in an intestinal perforation. When that happened, the doctor performed an intestinal resection with a temporary colostomy, with the understanding that she would have surgery to repair the resection at a later date. At that time, the anesthesia caused her blood pressure to go up but it was brought down with medication.

Months later when she went into the hospital to have the “reattachment” surgery — removing the colostomy and reattaching the two ends of the intestine — she had the same problem with anesthesia: Her blood pressure skyrocketed to 230/130 (normal is 120/80), which the doctors told us could cause a stroke if they didn’t get it down.

But this time, even though she was in ICU and getting the best possible care, the medication to bring down her blood pressure wasn’t working. No one could figure out what the problem was and we thought we might lose her.

Then one of the ICU nurses took it upon herself to recalculate the dose of antihypertensive medication and discovered that what had been ordered was only half of what my mother should be taking. As soon as the dose was readjusted according to this nurse’s calculations, her blood pressure came down.

That nurse saved my mother’s life.

Sometimes when I’m working in Wende Hall — where the student nurses are — I overhear them complaining about their “med calc” course. What I want to say to them is: “Pay attention in that class because that information could save someone’s life one day.”

Michael J. Mascellino, cleaner, University Facilities Operations

Building trust leaves Dad with dignity

My father was a strong man: He contracted cancer twice and beat it. But in the end, prostate cancer got him.

During the last year of his life, when he had come home, we were faced with the challenge of a man who was losing his appetite and having pain, but who refused to take the medication necessary to help him deal with that. And though he was in a weakened condition, his stubborn will was intact; he wasn’t going to budge.

At about this time, a nurse started coming to the house to give Dad home care, to make sure he was taking his meds and to be emotional support for the family.

Right away he told her he wasn’t going to take medications and really didn’t want to discuss it. Instead of “forcing” him to take the medications, she decided to use psychology. My Dad was the most loyal Yankees fan and loved watching their games and talking baseball. My Dad’s nurse, who knew nothing about baseball, decided to start talking to him about the Yankees. It got so that in the evening when the games were on, she would call Dad and the two of them would watch the game together over the phone.

Through this connection that his nurse fostered, they became friends and he began to trust her. One day she said to him very casually and in a non-threatening way, “I have some medications that I think will help you feel better.”

He said, “OK. Don’t tell me what they are. Just give them to me and I’ll take them.” She also introduced him to N/A beer so he could savor that flavor while he watched his game.

Not only did she take the time to build trust, she knew exactly when to approach him about the medications. And I believe it added a year to his life, and it was quality life.

My Dad was a “manly man,” making it hard for him to have a woman take care of him. But he let his nurse see his softer side; he really had faith in her.

When my father passed, she helped facilitate the coroner coming quickly to the house, she came to the funeral service and even stopped by from time to time to see if the family was doing alright.

Because of her, my father never lost his dignity in front of his family. If I saw her today, I would tell her how much she meant to our family.

Linwood Roberts Jr., director, Office of Community Relations

Helping son live with diabetes

In 2010, my 14-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

As soon as he was diagnosed, his pediatrician admitted him to Women and Children’s Hospital to get his blood sugar under control and to educate him about diet and medication. After a few days he was discharged and then the real challenges began. For a teenager, walking the fine line of being like your friends while calculating short-acting insulin for every meal to complement the long acting insulin you take every day, can be tough. And that doesn’t begin to address the fact that you’re now giving yourself injections a number of times a day.

As part of his treatment, he had to go to Children’s Endocrinology/Diabetes Clinic every three months. The nurses in that clinic made all the difference in helping my son live with diabetes.

These weren’t sappy-sweet people who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. They were honest, straight-forward and talked to him in way that he listened. As a parent, I could talk until I was blue in the face about his illness. But because of the way they approached him, and because of the depth of their knowledge and experience, he had to take their advice.

They would listen to his concerns, they would provide solutions and they were kind to him. But they also expected him to take responsibility.

He is getting ready to go away to college this fall. But because of the excellent nursing care he has gotten from the Endocrinology Clinic, I told him the other day that this is no longer the family’s disease. It’s his disease now. I know that he has everything he needs to handle diabetes. Because of those nurses, I can trust in him.

And that’s an amazing gift to give to a mother.

Karen K. Chopra, director, Prospect Research and Development, Office of Development

Valuable members of the health care team

From the very get-go in my residency — when I walked into the neonatal intensive care unit that first night — I was terrified. During the day, there would be other physicians available to instruct and guide me as I learned. But at night, I was alone with very sick babies and so much of what I knew when I first became a physician was from textbooks and lectures.

The first time I saw a really sick infant turn blue, I thought, “Oh my goodness … I am all alone.”

And that’s when I discovered how knowledgeable, experienced and generous nurses are. When babies would take a turn for the worse, requiring my intervention, the nurses, who may have seen this condition 100 times, would say to me, “Doctor, when this happens, this is what we do.” And they would help steer me through the protocols and procedures necessary.

These nurses were consummate professionals who knew what they were doing. I guess I could have taken the stance that I was the doctor and in charge, but I was just learning and needed their support.

Early on, I recognized their expertise, wisdom and the contribution they make to the health care team.

Nurses often spend more time with patients than doctors — getting to know them and their families. Whenever I come to the clinical unit — before I speak with my patients and their families — I talk to the nurse who is responsible for their care. There are things patients will confide to nurses that they would never say to the doctor.

I just can’t stress enough the impact nurses have on positive patient outcomes. I know if a patient had to depend on me for their nursing care, there would be a big problem.

Martin L. Brecher, associate professor, UB Department of Pediatrics; chair, Pediatrics, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; and chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Women and Children’s Hospital


Reading all of these stories affirms why I am so proud of my profession. Dr. Brecher's recollection was especially meaningful.

I was one of the nurses on staff in the ICN "back then." I remember those shared times. We knew how important teamwork was, especially when we worked alongside the new residents. Guess we always felt the best doctors were the ones who recognized the value nurses brought to the team.


Thanks Dr. Brecher. You are one of those!


Donna Leiser, RN

I am about to celebrate my 25th reunion from my undergraduate nursing program. I am also a graduate from UB's Nurse Anesthesia Program.


One of the hardest things for a nurse to be is a patient, and even harder is the parent of a patient. My last baby spent 96 days in the NICU at Children's Hospital after an urgent C-section at Mercy Hospital. Two nurses in particular stand out in my mind.


When the baby was transferred and I was not going to be going with the baby, my nurse looked me right in the eyes and told me, "I will make sure you go with your baby" and she did, even though I know she felt she was overstepping her bounds. She continued to advocate for me.


The other nurse was a pediatric NP in the ICU. It was just one of those very frustrating days and she asked me what was wrong. I asked if she had three hours. "No, but I have half an hour," she replied and she pulled up a chair and just listened -- one of the most helpful interventions a nurse can make.


Patient advocacy and empathy are paramount to the profession and the reason nurses command the love and respect of so many.


Eirene Choroser

I have been a nurse for many years. During those years I have always been amazed by the difference fellow nurses make in the lives of their patients. The above article is a beautiful reflection of that "difference."


Years ago I was an administrator at a local hospital. I received a letter from a mother who had recently seen her son die. Even at this, her darkest hour, the mother felt she and her son had been blessed. The "blessing" was the care given to her son by his nurses. This mother said she had no idea how to thank those nurses. So she prayed that those nurses, in their time of pain, fear and need, would also receive the blessing of gentle, talented and dedicated nurses.


I myself have benefited from that blessing in my life. I pray we will all be able to receive that blessing.


Linda Scharf, RN 

How inspiring and affirming to read the stories shared from those whose lives have been touched by a nurse. All of us nurses believe we make a difference in some small way through the work we do, but it is certainly reassuring to be reminded from time to time how significant and integral nurses are in the health and wellness of our state and nation.


Kudos to Marsha Lewis and UB for celebrating Nurse's Week in a way that is enlightening and truly honoring the dedication and compassion of the profession.


Deborah Elliott, RN, executive director, Center for Nursing, Foundation of NYS Nurses and Nurses' House Inc.

Although I am away from UB, I enjoy reading online news. Yes, I second the kudos to Marsha Lewis and UB for this collection of nursing stories.


I, too, have been blessed by the care of nurses. Donna Leiser, above, cared for me the night my daughter was born. Last year that daughter had a baby and I shared the story about Donna with her.


Thank you Donna!


Pat McCartney, RN, emeritus faculty, UB School of Nursing