Nurses are qualified to help manage health conditions and prevent disease but also have the special touch and caring nature to help ease people through difficult moments.
Tucson Medical Center will honor its dedicated nurses by celebrating National Nurses Week from May 6-12, 2017.
According to , in January 1974, the International Council of Nurses designated May 12 as “International Nurse Day” to coincide with Florence Nightingale’s birthday. The following month, then-President Richard Nixon proclaimed National Nurse Week. It took until 1993 for the American Nurses Association Board of Directors to expand the observation to a full week.
To help celebrate the week, Tucson Medical Center wanted to share the stories of just a few of the many nurses who selflessly care for their patients. Their stories show exactly how the nurses, and their colleagues, not only serve as the heartbeat of the hospital, but also its emotional heart.
The emergency department at a hospital can be an extraordinarily stressful environment, but that’s not what first comes to the mind of ED Lead Nurse Will Bascom.
“Our responsibility is to give 150 percent and treat each patient like they are family,” said Bascom. The longtime ED nurse began his career as an EMT/firefighter and moved into nursing after experiencing a serious injury. He completed his training in the ED and garnered experiences in psychiatric, float and critical care venues.
“At first, I worked in several nursing care settings - but I always ended up coming back to the ED.” So, what is it that kept Bascom returning to one of healthcare’s most challenging environments?
“Being there for patients and their families during one of their toughest times,” Bascom said confidently. “For any nurse, in any setting, it’s challenging and you never know what situation is going to walk through that door, but at the end of the day it is so rewarding to know you made a difference in a patient’s life.”
For Bascom, providing exceptional care with compassion goes hand-in-hand. “If you make the effort to show that you really care, patients will pick-up on your sincere intent,” he said. “They will feel more comfortable sharing important things about their health that will help you provide even better care.”
In addition to his busy schedule, Bascom is attending graduate school to become a family nurse practitioner. “This next step is very important to me because I will be able to do even more for the community and patient population.”
For TMC Nurse Manager Veronica Riesgo, her dedication to patients and her coworkers goes beyond the profession and is part of her passion to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
Riesgo’s first priority and first career was her family. “I was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years,” she said. “But I always had a desire to help others and I always thought about pursuing work in nursing.”
When her children reached ages in double-digits, Riesgo volunteered at a local hospital to see if the desire was still there. “The passion was stronger than ever,” she said. “Soon I was enrolled in nursing school and working full-time as a patient care technician (PCT).”
After graduating and becoming an RN, Riesgo never slowed down – working in cardo-thoracic, transplant, ICU and other high-acuity units.
With remarkable stress and a dizzying pace, high-acuity units have a reputation for burn-out. For Riesgo, a unique outlook has helped her thrive in the demanding environment and kept her coming back, day-after-day.
“It’s a dedication to people, not just the profession,” she said. “A dedication to the patients and the incredible nurses I work with. We know that no matter what happens or how hard the day is, we’re going to make it happen, together.”
In her 40-plus year career as a nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Julie Seidl has undoubtedly had an impact on the lives of hundreds of infants and parents. But in all that time, including 20 years spent at the bedside, one set of triplets and their parents made a lasting and indelible mark on her.
“The triplets will be 21 in April and I’ve been best friends with their mom since we met in the NICU,” said Seidl.
The youngest of the triplets, all born at just over two pounds, turned out to be her very last patient at the bedside before transitioning to a new role in the hospital. “They are my legacy. It’s a privilege that I have been able to share their whole life,” she said. “They are great examples of what the future can hold for premature babies.”
Another piece of her career legacy is the innovative Infant After Care Program she developed, along with TMC Pediatric Outpatient Therapies, to provide ongoing follow-up care for premature babies for their first two years. “To be ready to enter the world, the promise of Mother Nature is 40 weeks in the womb,” she explained. “When you come early, you’re not ready in body or in brain development. And the brain is the piece that often gets overlooked. With the After Care Program, we can spot those little hiccups and work to rewire the brain before it’s a bigger problem.”
The TMC Infant After Care Program is free to any infant born before 36 weeks of gestation at TMC thanks to a grant from the TMC Foundation.
“This program is the best thing that I could do at the end of my career,” says Seidl. Not that she’s going anywhere any time soon. “I truly love what I do.”
It never occurred to Sherilyn Wollman that she’d be a nurse.
She went into the military as an IS specialist and a young mother. When her tour of duty was up, she made plans to become an elementary teacher, which was a job she had always yearned to do.
But her sister at the time encouraged her to enroll in a class to become a certified nursing assistant and asked her to just try it.
“On my first day, it was where I knew I belonged,” she recalled. “It was that whole experience of being able to make a difference in someone’s life, even if you’re just touching someone for that one day when they really need help.”
She remembers the moment she decided she wanted to continue her education and become a nurse. A patient had come in, alone and restless and in the final stages of dying. Wollman and the nurse talked with her and reassured her. “It was deeply moving to be there with her during that transition, because it was clear she knew we were there for her. It made me look differently at everything I do.”
Over the course of many years, she continued working on her skills and career, eventually obtaining her masters of nursing.
Ultimately, Wollman was able to marry her goal of teaching with her passion for nursing by becoming a clinical educator and helping other staff members with skills development and career advancement. “I’m no longer at the bedside, but I feel like I am still making a difference in a different way,” said Wollman, who has been at TMC for 13 years. “What I’m able to provide helps them provide great care at the bedside.”
Damiana Cohen, manager of the Mother Baby and Women’s Care Units at Tucson Medical Center took an interest in birth when she was 12 and happened upon a book about midwifery. The road to nursing didn’t come right after high school though; she took a non-traditional path and along the way collected a number of experiences, from three years of college, to travel in South America, to driving a school bus and waiting tables.
But she never lost that fascination with the stories of birth, and she went to school to become a licensed midwife, ultimately spending more than 12 years with families who wanted to have birth experiences at home.
When it was time for a new chapter, Cohen went to nursing school – a decision she’s never regretted because of the experiences that unfolded from there, from working with marginalized populations to teenagers finding their way in the world.
Cohen spent 12 years working as a forensic nurse performing post-sexual assault exams and on that time she reflects, “That really and truly was my passion. Not always, but a lot of times, it’s the marginalized people in a society who are victimized. And in some ways, it was a bit like being a midwife, because you’re there with somebody, one-on-one, helping them through this very intense situation. It’s smart, autonomous nursing, it’s scientific, it’s about human rights and a person’s dignity – and I would go home and feel like I really impacted someone’s life.”
Cohen spent three years working as a school nurse with pregnant and parenting teenagers. “Hardly any of them had a parent figure in their lives, so I could be that presence to tell them what so few had a chance to hear: That they mattered and I cared. I wanted them to be empowered to be parents while still having their lives and finishing their education.” She still connects from time to time with some of those students; many of whom were inspired to become nurses.
“I think I’ve enjoyed my nursing career because I’ve done so many different things,” Cohen said. “Life has offered me opportunities that I haven’t foreseen. And I’ve always believed that when something comes your way, it’s good to reflect on what the universe is offering you and take a moment to listen.”
Just as she’s had many careers, she has many facets outside of work – a mom to her sons, now 25 and 29, a runner, a hiker, an organic gardener, a film fanatic, a reader, a cat lover, a supporter of women and equality, a birdwatcher and nature lover, a lifelong learner, a traveler, a thinker, a seeker, and a sister and a friend.
And through all that, her underlying motto is, “Be a good human.”
“I find that when I do that, everything else seems to fall into place.”
TMC Intensive Care Unit nurse Jenna Carbone approaches her work with intense focus and singular caring for many of the most critically ill patients on her unit.
A nurse for six years, Carbone always knew she was meant to be a nurse.
“Even as a little girl, when my dad would come home from biking with cactus in his legs, I would get out my light and tweezers and pick each one out,” she recalled.
Since then, she not only graduated with honors, but also holds Critical Care and NIH stroke certifications to enable her to provide care to the highest acuity patients, including those with neurologic injuries. She’s also dedicated thousands of hours over the years to new graduate and student nurses.
Carbone, who is close to her parents and her family, credits her great grandfather, who was a stubborn, hard-headed kind of guy, with teaching her patience. And she has a deep commitment to getting to know the people she is serving in the Intensive Care Unit.
“It’s really great to get to know the families,” she said. “You know what you are fighting for. They are able to tell you about the patient and their personality.”
As much as she fights for her patients, she has had to learn that not every patient can be saved. She has been with patients at their deaths and participated in ceremonies at the end of their lives. “Because of my faith, I am comfortable with death and it is an honor to serve someone who is at the end of their life.”