By STEVEN NALLEY
Arnita Riley felt helpless on the day her father died. She said she never wanted to feel that helplessness again.
Riley, now an infection control and clinic nurse manager at OCH Regional Medical Center, said there were many reasons she chose to become a nurse, but her father’s death was the deciding factor.
“I felt like if I had known what to do for him, he would not have died,” Riley said. “I wanted to comfort people in their pain and suffering. I wanted to heal.”
Riley is one of several nurses OCH is celebrating for National Nurses’ Week and National Hospital Week, both of which run May 6-12.
According to an American Nurses Association press release, May 12 marks the birthday of Florence Nightingale, regarded as founder of modern nursing. Martha Fulcher, OCH Chief Nursing Officer, said because the two special weeks coincide, OCH is saving its celebration of nursing employees for June 15. The theme, she said, is a surprise.
“In the past, we’ve held various events such as (a) Western day, fiesta and Hawaiian luau,” Fulcher said. “These events always include a great meal along with special entertainment usually provided by ‘prominent’ hospital and nursing employees.”
Riley is not the only nurse at OCH who was motivated to join the profession by a death in the family. Kathleen Hilbun, OCH accreditation officer, said she chose nursing while losing her mother to cancer.
“At her bedside, I saw plenty of good and bad nurses,” Hilbun said. “I challenged myself to show the concern to help others with a sincere heart. My love for dealing with people and public encouraged me.”
To this day, Hilbun said it is still a challenge to comfort families during difficult times like the ones she faced, but the rewards of helping people are worthwhile. Riley said continuing her education to become a nurse was a challenge, but it was worthwhile in the end.
“There were many obstacles in the way, but with God’s guidance and the help of my friends, I was able to get my (nursing degree),” Hilbun said. “I (initially) came to OCH to stay a short while to help my daughter with her new baby. That baby is now 7 years old. I just enjoy working at OCH.”
Another nurse at OCH, Jessie Wall, said the job challenges nurses to be in multiple places at once. Nurses have to work weekends, holidays and nights, she said, and their families often have to rearrange their plans. It can be a difficult career, but she said it’s the one she’s always wanted.
“All I can ever remember wanting to do is be a nurse,” Wall said. “I always wanted to do something to help people. It is important because we make a difference for people. We are here to help teach them how to take care of their babies, breast-feed, how to put a baby in a car seat correctly, etc.”
Lynn Gregg, an acute care charge nurse at OCH, said what challenges her most about the job is not any task she does. The challenge, she said, lies in what she can’t do.
“To me, the most challenging part of being a nurse is working with situations where I have no control over the outcome,” Gregg said. “It is very hard to see the pain the patients and family go through in the death and dying process.
“National Nurses Week makes me feel appreciated for all the hard work we as nurses do,” Gregg added. “It is also an opportunity to let me express to my fellow nurses how much I appreciate them.”
Karen Tiffin, perinatal nurse manager at OCH, said nursing has changed since she was a student in the 1970s. Patients face more challenging illnesses, public expectations are higher, and nurses are more involved in federal documentation, she said.
What has not changed, she said, is the level of respect society has for the nursing profession.
“When a patient is hospitalized, that is when he or she needs compassion, caring and the nurses’ expertise the most,” Tiffin said. “Nursing is still important to me after all the years for the same reasons I initially went into nursing. We nurses can make a difference in this world of uncertainty, pain, and suffering.
“National Nurses Week is a time to reflect on why the profession is still highly regarded and well respected,” Tiffin added. “It is a time set apart to offer appreciation to my staff of excellent nurses who truly do care, are compassionate and demonstrate their expertise on a daily basis.”