National Nurses Week: What It Means To Tammy Purcell, MSN, RNC-OB

National Nurses Week May 6-12 honors the four million registered nurses in the U.S. with its 2019 theme “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate,” recognizing the vast contributions nurses deliver in improving patient care and transforming healthcare. With a focus on rewards and challenges, we asked several of our outstanding nursing executives to share their journeys and perspectives about the nursing profession.

Happy Nurses Week

One of those nurses is Tammy Purcell, MSN, RNC-OB, Elsevier Clinical Nurse Executive, who collaborates with hospitals, healthcare systems, academic centers and physician practices, seeking ways to reduce care variations for improved patient outcomes. To do so, she leverages evidence-based decision support and her solid background in patient/provider education programs. Here, she shares why she chose nursing, how she feels about the future of her profession and what National Nurses Week means to her.

Q: Why did you become a nurse?

A: From the time, I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a nurse.  My mother and grandmother were both schoolteachers and were both very involved in our local communities, so education, compassion and giving back were all significant parts of our family values.  While I knew I wanted to be like them, I also knew I wanted to carry those traits outside of the classroom.

I remember at the beginning of every school year, my mom would fill out a little booklet where you would list your favorite color, your best friends, your favorite subject in school and what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Without fail, what I wanted to be when I grew up never wavered…that blank line was always filled in with my childish handwriting indicating year after year, I wanted to be a nurse.

Many people continued to support and nurture that choice over the years.  My parents and grandparents ensured I had a library filled with health-related books. They even borrowed college level textbooks for me to look through as I got older.  They introduced me to friends of theirs in the healthcare industry who allowed me to talk with them and even shadow them in their various roles.  They signed me up for age-appropriate Red Cross healthcare classes. My first stethoscope and manual blood pressure cuff came from my parents as a Christmas gift when I was still in elementary school. So, my dream of becoming a nurse never faded; it simply got stronger.

I chose to be a nurse to help people live their best life, to experience life to the fullest physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Early in my nursing career, I began to learn more about holistic nursing and it continues to be the underpinning of my practice today.  I am obsessed with the research and science behind nursing and why our bodies work the way they do and that is why continued education throughout my career is imperative.  Nursing is challenging, and career-long learning must never stop.  I also love the simple beauty of nursing and the gift of interaction with others.  I am honored to be a part of some of the happiest and some of the most difficult moments in a patient and their family’s life.  To laugh with them, and cry with them, to learn about the heart of that family…that’s the true gift…and three decades later, those are the moments I will never forget, and I will cherish always.

Nursing is without a doubt my heart and soul.  I cannot imagine my life without being a nurse. It is the hardest, most challenging journey and yet the most fulfilling and rewarding choice too.  I know the work I do matters and that makes me incredibly happy.  No matter the dream, nothing should stand in the way of chasing it!  So, even though it seems I knew forever that I wanted to be a nurse, it took a whole lot of hard work, determination, dedication and the love and support from my family to make that dream come true.  I simply wouldn’t change a thing.

Q: What does National Nurses Week mean to you?

A: National Nurses Week means that as nurses we pause to celebrate and recognize the incredible work of the professional nurses who have dedicated their lives to the care of others.  It means that we have a chance to pause and share many of the thousands of success stories that happen day after day.  We have a chance to step out of the routine and celebrate the work that truly matters! Whether the success stories include improvements in patient outcomes at the local hospital because of the involvement of shared governance councils, or changes in national healthcare policies because of nurse advocacy, or contributions to communities through volunteer work by serving on a local or foreign missions experience, National Nurses Week is a time to celebrate them all!

Q: Where do you see the future of nursing?

A: Although, yes, there will certainly be challenges ahead, I believe the future of nursing is filled with optimism and excitement.  More than ever, nurses are raising the professional bar and seeking higher education.  Expecting more of themselves educationally, nurses can deliver more to the field of nursing by discovering more evidence-based research that can lead us to better patient care delivery and better work and career experiences for nurses. Technology will continue to influence nursing, but how we embrace technology and use it to our benefit to improve patient care and the nurse experience will be key. Creating more opportunities for professional growth, whether that is in a more traditional leadership role, or it is in something such as an additional certification in a nursing specialty, as nurses look to move more quickly from competence to confidence the desire for professional growth is stronger than ever and is an opportunity in the future of nursing.  Patient engagement will continue to be important as we look to the future and as such, expanding the patient care plan to be more inclusive of holistic healthcare, and planning education and interventions for issues such as financial impact, home situation, education, etc. will also be important as we look to the future.

Q: What is one self-care tip for nurses?

A: We’ve heard it all before, but it really is still the best advice.  When we take better care of ourselves, we can take better care of others.  So, be kind to yourself, treat yourself the way you treat others, give yourself the gift of time and choose to eat healthy, get plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated, exercise, go outside, get some sunshine, spend time daily just being quiet and centering your mind, embrace the gift of today and never, ever take one moment for granted.

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