NEW YORK NURSE: June 2010
by Karen A. Ballard, MA, RN, FAAN, President
This is an exciting time of year as nursing students from across the state celebrate achieving their goal of becoming a nurse. As we welcome these novices to the profession, you, the seasoned nurse, should take a moment to reflect on how you felt when you “became a nurse.”
If you were like me, graduation filled you with mixed feelings – happiness, relief, exhaustion and disbelief that it actually happened. As a graduate nurse, you cleared one hurdle only to be faced with the next - passing the NCLEX-RN exam. This test, which continues to increase in difficulty to reflect advances in practice, would be the first of many opportunities to prove your aptitude as a professional nurse. I remember so well the day that I found out I had passed the NCLEX and was now an RN.
I recently had the privilege of addressing the nursing graduates from Crouse Hospital School of Nursing. I shared stories of times in my life when I was so proud to be a nurse and recalled moments when I knew that my nursing care had made a difference. I challenged these new graduates, as I now challenge all NYSNA members, to identify and reveal these moments that make our work worthwhile.
I like to share with graduates a story that illustrates the culture of nursing – its compassion, commitment, and connection. It is from a book about nurses – “Nursing Illuminations – A Book of Days,” by Patricia van Betten and Melisa Moriarty. At one time or another, everyone’s life is touched by a nurse. It is these everyday stories of nurses that make connections across the centuries of nursing practice.
The story is about Lynda Van Devanter Buckley. She lived from 1947 to 2002. Lynda was educated at Mercy Hospital and Antioch College in Maryland. She served in the Vietnam War as an Army OR nurse. After the war, Lynda wrote “Home Before Morning,” her personal account of service as an Army nurse in Vietnam and the inspiration for the television series, “China Beach.” She stated: “I started writing as a form of therapy… to exorcise the Vietnam War from my mind and heart… but found that my feelings about the war will never go away. I don’t want them to go away… for if I forget entirely, I may be passively willing to see it happen again.”
Lynda used her war experiences to become one of the first “voices” for women veterans.While many of you may not have had the experiences that Lynda had, you all have important stories to tell that have helped to shape your nursing career.
We also celebrate those RNs who have gone on to advance their education and obtain baccalaureate degrees in nursing. This commitment to higher learning is one that NYSNA has championed over the years and hopes to one day make a goal for all new nurses. The Educational Advancement for Nurses bill currently before the New York State Assembly will require new nurses to achieve their bachelor’s in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure. I was joined by my colleagues from NYONE in advocating for this effort on May 25 at the CANE (Coalition for Advanced Nursing Education) Lobby Day at the Capitol in Albany. Legislators were receptive to the idea that nursing requires the critical thinking skills that a baccalaureate program provides and NYSNA will not give up until this initiative becomes law.
Nursing is a career for all the days, years, and decades of your life. As you look back on your career, or are just beginning it, cherish and remember these times that made you a professional nurse!