Back at the end of April, I was honored to receive the UCLA School of Nursing 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Clinical Care, Nightingale Nurse at the SON’s 70th Anniversary Gala. Much of me is still in disbelief as I see and admire so many other nurses from whom I have so much to learn, but I am grateful for the ways that my contributions to this very special profession have been found valuable and worth recognizing – really not for my sake, but for the sake of shining a greater spotlight on the things I talk and write about: the oft hidden work that nurses do on a deeper heart level and the even more hidden burdens that we bear.
Behind every award is not only a lot of hard work, but also loved ones and mentors who stayed with me, encouraged me, and extended opportunities to me even when it meant they were taking a chance on me.
God is the giver of all good things, all gifts, all talents, all opportunities. He is the One who shows me through Jesus what it is to love, serve, and respect all persons. His grace alone has carried me when I have not been award-worthy, when I have felt weak and lacking in my ability to give to others. He has been my Foundation.
My husband is a quiet man, usually understated but incredibly generous in his support of what I do. He is not in healthcare, but his heart is wide open to the hard things I come home from work with. He has taken time off of work to watch the kids so that I could go on personal retreats when I felt in need of greater time and space to grieve, rest and recharge. He has stood by me and shown grace when I have had moments of crumbling under the weight of my responsibilities and pursuits. He has been the rock of stability for our family as my work in nursing has at times pulled me on wild roller coaster rides.
My parents have generously given of their time, energy, long commute and gas money to come watch the kids as early as 6:00am when I’ve had various speaking events. Theirs is the ultimate immigrant story. They’ve allowed me to go through all of my schooling debt-free. They will forever be one core reason why I’ve ever had any opportunity to do any of the things I have done.
I am fortunate enough to have incredibly supportive managers who go out of their way to support us, and coworkers whom I respect, admire, and learn from every day. I do not take it for granted that I work in a healthy workplace as a nurse, something I realize not every nurse can claim.
Last but most not at all least, the mentors in my life have shown me what it means to invest generously in those younger in the profession who may not be as experienced, knowledgable or well-known, but who show potential to carry on the work of leadership in nursing. Carol Pavlish has been my professor and is now a beloved mentor and friend. She has invited me so graciously to co-present with her at conferences and co-author a chapter on “Finding Meaning in the Work of Caring” in the newly published Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work. It was Carol who nominated me for this incredible award, and I continue to be so humbled by her belief in this work I do.
Katherine Brown-Saltzman is another mentor who has taken chances on me, particularly when she heard Anna Dermenchyan pitch my name as a possibility to be the closing speaker for the National Nursing Ethics Conference. Katherine and the rest of the planning committee took a risk, and it was a tremendous opportunity. Something in my heart came alive with fire as I closed that conference. Katherine’s wise encouragement to wait patiently for the ongoing unfolding of my story with this work has helped me keep perspective.
Finally, in conjunction with posting the photos from the Gala, the UCLA SON also published online their 2019 Spring Magazine. On pages 34-35, you can read my brief answers to this fun 4-question interview:
“What inspired you to become a nurse?”
“Share a favorite UCLA School of Nursing memory.”
“Advice you’d give future nurses/nursing students?”
“What’s your proudest professional accomplishment?”
No nurse can do this job alone. This holds true at the bedside, and it holds true when the work extends to writing, speaking and any other pursuits to build this profession. I received the award, but by no means did I do this work alone.