Published May 4, 2015
From infants to the elderly, nurses impact the lives of their patients at every life stage. To honor their commitment and compassion for care, the School of Nursing (SON) will celebrate National Nurses Week.
The annual celebration is held between National Nurses Day, May 6, and the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale, widely considered to be the founder of modern nursing.
To kick off Nurse’s Week, the SON will hold its annual faculty and staff appreciation lunch and awards ceremony to honor all those working at the school for their dedication and commitment to students.
The school also will hang a banner on Wende Hall, the South Campus home of the School of Nursing, and hold an undergraduate nursing information session on May 8. Later in the month, the school will host its annual May Celebration, a way for alumni to network with fellow alumni and for students, friends of the school, faculty and staff to celebrate the SON’s achievements.
“Nursing as a profession is multifaceted, with members taking on the roles of trusted health care provider, patient advocate, influential leader, dedicated educator and expert researcher,” says nursing dean Marsha Lewis.
“National Nurse’s Week serves as a time to reflect upon and celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of our nation’s nurses, and allows us the opportunity to educate the public on the impact nurses have on health care in our community every day.”
To capture the influence of nurses, the UB Reporter asked members of the UB community to share stories of how a nurse or nursing care affected their lives.
For most, an artist and a nurse are two distinct career paths that rarely meet.
So it was understandable that, in 1985, Ginny O’Brien, an intensive care unit nurse who returned to school to study art, searched for ways to merge her passions by introducing the arts into health care settings.
Convinced there was a connection between the two, O’Brien sought to use art as a design tool to create “talking” cards for patients on ventilators who were unable to speak. The cards would help patients communicate with family members and hospital staff.
It was the support of Carol E. Smith, a nursing professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where O’Brien worked, that inspired her to follow through on her ideas. At Smith’s suggestion, O’Brien submitted a paper, “The Nurse as Artist,” to The Kansas Nurse, an academic journal, on the use of art for patient-nurse communication and self-renewal for health professionals working in hospitals. The article was O’Brien’s first publication.
“She validated my thinking and that has inspired me through all the years I’ve worked to bring art into clinical settings,” says O’Brien, now curator of education for the UB Art Galleries.
Through the UB galleries, O’Brien often hosts classes and workshops for local health care professionals, educators and artists on how to use art to achieve wellness and support good health.
She also has taught art and design courses at SUNY Buffalo State and D’Youville College, led an expressive arts program for adolescent in-patients at Erie County Medical Center, and works with Aspire of Western New York to provide gallery-based sessions for artists challenged with developmental disabilities.
Other nurses O’Brien credits as influences are Frances Crosby, dean of Niagara University’s School of Nursing and former UB Nursing faculty member; Susan Nierenberg, UB clinical assistant professor of nursing; and Sharon Murphy, a reference librarian at UB’s Health Sciences Library.
One word can sum up the stellar care provided to J. Brice Bible’s father by nurses in Chattanooga, Tennessee: déjà vu.
While an undergraduate at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Bible, now UB vice president and chief information officer, often would make the two-hour drive home to Chattanooga in his Fiat convertible.
Once during the drive, Bible was in an accident in which his car flipped over. To make matters worse, he was not wearing a seatbelt, a law that was not widely enforced at the time.
Although, Bible does not remember much of the accident, he does recall the care he received from the nurses at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.
“I don’t remember the treatment, the room or their names, but I remember the way the nurses took care of me,” says Bible, who remained at the hospital for several weeks. “Here I was, a young kid, and they cared about me and treated me with amazing respect.”
Nurses, some of whom were not assigned to care for Bible, often would check in on him and his family at the start of their shift, he says.
Years later, when Bible’s father suffered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer, Bible noticed the same compassion in the care provided by his father’s nurses. When his dad underwent weekly chemotherapy sessions, the nurses made sure his father’s needs were tended to, all while getting updates on his grandchildren.
“The thing that we just can’t get over is how they treated my father like he was a family member,” says Bible, whose father eventually passed away. “Here it is, 12-13 years later, and this still sticks out in my mind. It wasn’t just an act of customer service; the care came from the heart.”
Being a father during the delivery of your children can be stressful. You’re often left without control over the situation, the power all lying in the hands of a team of doctors and nurses.
For athletics director Danny White, the birth of his four children was no different.
“The four most stressful days of my life have been when my four kids were born,” says White. “It’s a scary experience: both the birth of your child and caring for a baby for the first time.”
But on each occasion, he says, nurses went above and beyond their job descriptions to ensure the safety of his wife and children. Whether it was checking on the children or him and his wife during the night, or giving White and his wife parenting tips before they left the hospital, White felt the comforting presence of the nurses during each of his visits.
“It was a strong reinforcement on how informant the nursing profession is,” says White. “It’s a unique calling that attracts a special kind of person.”
When Lauren Kroening’s father was diagnosed in 2011 with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells — a type of white blood cell — a special connection with a nurse helped them both get through the difficult time.
As part of his treatment, John Kososki needed a stem cell transplant that would require spending 10 weeks in the hospital.
At the time, Kroening was a senior at Houghton College. While her classmates readied for graduation, Kroening drove her “beat-up” pickup truck on weekends to the University of Rochester Medical Center, where her father received treatment.
“It was always hanging over my head,” says Kroening, now a social work and public health graduate student at UB. “Everyone else was excited about graduation and I felt detached.”
Her family, however, found a comforting presence in Paul, the nurse assigned to John. Paul, himself a cancer survivor, also had undergone a stem cell transplant during his treatment. John and Paul quickly established a connection.
“Paul was very empathetic. He knew what my dad was going through,” says Kroening.
Paul used with humor and casual conversation to keep the Kososki family at ease and grounded in everyday life. And he did not shy away from the seriousness of the illness, sharing his personal experiences with recovery so the family would know what side effects and symptoms to expect, and guiding John through several complications.
John fully recovered and is now doing well, says Kroening.
For Timothy Murphy, a physician and SUNY Distinguished Professor, observing the way nurses work changed his approach to medical care.
His wife, Vicki, a psychiatric nurse practitioner — a career field that experiences a high rate of burnout, Murphy notes — is his greatest influence.
“How she combines compassion with her care is such a huge impact,” says Murphy, director of UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC). “She not only changed how I deal with patients, but my perception of how we — as a health care system — need to do a better job.”
Vicki mainly works with children with mental disorders. Although her patients receive the majority of her attention, what inspires Murphy is how she extends her care and help to her patient’s families as well.
And her care isn’t limited to work hours. Vicki shares her personal phone number with families for emergencies, and often takes calls at home, sometimes spending hours getting a crisis sorted out.
One weekend, when a patient ran out of a critical medication and the parents called Vicki in a panic for help, she made more than five phone calls to pharmacies to get the prescription filled and drove to her office to pick up samples of the medicine to hold the patient over for the weekend.
“The situation helped me see my patients in the context of their family and how it impacts their well-being as well,” says Murphy.