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Nurses’ personal stories shed light on what it means to be an RN

For the 5th consecutive year, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is calling on registered nurses to share their stories for publication on the association’s website during Nursing Week (May 7-13). Thanks to these personal and powerful stories, the public will get an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the profession, and what it means to be an RN. Some of the stories will also be selected for publication in the summer (July/August) issue of RNAO’s magazine, Registered Nurse Journal.

This year, we want members to look back on their education. They say every profession has a few hidden surprises. We want nurses to write about what surprised them most when they transitioned from the classroom to the bedside. Was there a particular situation, person or predicament that presented itself that they could not have prepared for, no matter how much studying they did? For instance, most nurses working on reserves in Ontario’s rural and remote communities will tell you they’ve found themselves faced with challenges they never read about in a textbook. When the power goes out and it’s minus 50 degrees in northern Ontario, lessons from a nursing textbook are not much help. It’s about knowledge, on-the-job skill, and instinct in those situations.

Over the past four years, we’ve asked RNs to share their stories about everything from their role models and mentors to the unique knowledge they possess to make a difference in a patient’s life.

Here’s just one example of a submission that was published in 2011…

I started my nursing career in the emergency department, much to the chagrin of some of my more senior colleagues who believed that the place for a new graduate nurse was learning “time-management skills” on a general medical floor. From the day I started, I was on a quest to prove them wrong. Only problem was: who would teach me?
Before long I met Lynda Hookham. In her hospital greens and running shoes, she lapped the emergency department—cool, calm and collected amidst the chaos. At the time, she was a permanent charge nurse; the community was recovering from the first wave of the SARS outbreak; the hospital was at its normal 150 per cent capacity; and 30+ admitted patients lined the hallways waiting for care. I remember a semi-circle of nurses, doctors, paramedics, support staff, patients and family members lined up, waiting for their chance to speak with Lynda. I was one of those in line.

Complaints, concerns, illness, stress. Yelling, crying, anger, frustration. None of it seemed to faze Lynda. She treated the first person in line the same way she treated the last: with dignity, care and compassion. That picture is so vivid in my head. Although I did not envy her position at the time, the respect and admiration I developed for Lynda that day has continued to strengthen over the years. Even though I have moved away from the emergency department, what Lynda taught me has continued to motivate me throughout my career.
Lynda once said to me: “If you don’t know something, make yourself the expert.” This was a major motivator in making me the nurse I am today.

If you are a registered nurse with a story to tell – or you know a registered nurse with a story to tell – write to us at editor@rnao.org. Submissions should be 500 words or less, and must include a contact telephone number and RNAO membership number.

The deadline for publication on the RNAO website is May 1, 2012. Submissions for the summer issue of Registered Nurse Journal will be accepted on or before June 8, 2012.

We know every RN has a story to tell. And we thank those who have shared their lives and love of nursing with us.


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