Students, I remember my induction many years ago into the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI). I was humbled and honored. I thought about what my future would hold and what impact I would have on the nursing world.
I have had an amazing career. I started off as a nurse intern in an obstetrics department at Alexian Brothers Hospital. Upon graduation, I was hired as a labor and delivery nurse, working days, full time, and I went on to provide orientation for other nurses. I was a charge nurse and a clinician, advancing within the hospital’s clinical ladder program. Years later, I completed my master’s in nursing and obtained an additional license as an advanced practice nurse, becoming a clinical nurse specialist.
In addition to working in hospitals, I have cared for women and children in health departments, Planned Parenthood clinics, and doctor’s offices. I hold certifications in fetal monitoring, inpatient obstetrics, and prenatal instruction. A few years ago, I was part of a team at Rush Copley Medical Center that contributed to its becoming the first hospital in the nation to be certified by The Joint Commission in maternal-child nursing. I have taught in an associate-degree nursing program and currently teach in the BSN program offered at Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Addison Campus
.In May 2014, I graduated from Rush University with a doctorate in nursing.
My point in sharing this is to illustrate how much you can accomplish in your careers. You have the ability to change the world of nursing for the better, and you have so many options.
When I told my children that I would be speaking to you—my daughter, Hayley, is 10, and my son, Ryan, is 8—I explained what STTI’s mission meant and tried to apply it to their lives. After our conversation ended, I felt I had learned more from them than what they learned from me. My children are my biggest inspirations, so I’m going to share with you the analogies they shared with me. I will start with service.
Service: Act of helping or doing work for someone
I told my children that time helping others is time well-spent and explained that, as nurses, we can give of ourselves in the community. I have visited Hayley’s and Ryan’s classrooms for career days. I have helped Girl Scouts complete their first-aid patches. As a support group facilitator, I have helped new moms work through postpartum depression and have taken blood pressures at church for members of my community. As I explained what service meant, my kids quickly interrupted me and said, “It’s like our races!”
Both of my children are good at running, my daughter especially. Hayley is in a running club and can run a 5K in 26 minutes. She doesn’t get her running skills from me, that’s for sure. In the last year, she has run six 5K races, and she reminded me that, each time I registered her for a race, I talked to her about running for a cause. She has raised money for fighting breast cancer, children’s cancer (Cal’s Angels
), animal shelters, and wounded veterans of war.
As nurses, we must represent nursing in a positive light in our communities, give back to others, volunteer, maybe run a race, raise money—there are so many service options out there.
Leadership: Act or instance of leading, offering guidance or direction.
We must all find opportunities to lead others. You can be on a hospital committee, help a new orientee, or organize unit-based initiatives. Don’t wait to be asked; offer to help. Request a new challenge. I shared with my children the importance of advocating for patients. This is a form of leadership. If you have the details—situation, background, assessment, and recommendation, all based on patient data—an SBAR can make a world of difference. Don’t be afraid to speak up on behalf of your patient. Guide other caregivers. Provide information they need to make decisions. Always be on the patient’s side. I remind my kids that it takes more courage to be a leader. It can be tough, but it’s worth it when you make your patient’s life better.
My daughter just finished the book Wonder. It’s about a fourth-grade boy named August Pullman—Auggie, they call him—who has a craniofacial deformity. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it. After being homeschooled for many years, Auggie starts attending a private school. He has to deal with classmates who are afraid of his deformity and very judgmental. Most days, no one stands up for him or helps him, but a sweet girl named Summer has the courage to sit with Auggie in the lunchroom when no one else will.
My daughter said, “Mom, Summer is a leader.” I agreed. Summer was brave; she was more concerned about Auggie and his feelings than what others might say about her. Our patients deserve someone like Summer. Think of all of the Auggies in this world. They need nurses who are leaders—people who will advocate for them.
Scholarship: Knowledge resulting from study and research in a particular field
It is important, I told my kids, that nurses never stop learning. We must ask why and how and if there is a better way. Don’t rely on what is, unless you know it really is the best method or process.
There is such power in knowledge. Patients will rely on you to have answers to their questions. Keep practicing, keep studying, and pursue even higher education. This will also support the honor society’s mission.
When I woke Ryan up the morning after we chatted about scholarship, I found him sleeping with one of his hockey sticks. He is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and playing hockey is his favorite thing to do. When he is not being a second-grade student, he is either on the ice or shooting his puck into a makeshift net in our garage. He watches replays of game highlights every Saturday morning on YouTube and analyzes how players do things.
I asked him why the hockey stick was in his bed. He said it helps him dream about playing. He told me that he plans to be Patrick Kane’s
replacement someday, and he needs to keep getting better with his skating and shooting. “It’s like that ‘S’ word,” he said. (Scholarship, I reminded him.) “Yes, that thing you were telling me about. I always have to keep trying to be better and learn new skills.”
I responded, “Yes, Ryan, that is scholarship!”
Congratulations, inductees. Go out and change our nursing world for the better.
Nicole Giancaterino, DNP, MSN, CNS/APN, RNC-OB, is a curriculum and instruction specialist in the Academics Department of Chamberlain College of Nursing, Addison Campus.