Why I Pay Tribute to Nurses

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by Anna Jeter |

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accommodations, birthday, survival, nurses

Having grown up with a complex diagnosis that includes pulmonary hypertension, I was always interested in the field of healthcare.

I still remember being 10 years old and telling people I wanted to be a pediatric anesthesiologist when I grew up. This was because of the anesthesiologists who had been by my head during my many hospital procedures. They were the one person in the operating room who always made me feel incredibly safe.

I was eager to give that gift to other children who may be scared as they, too, drift off into the unknown.

Later, the same concept soon shifted in my head toward nursing.

My nurses through the years have been my idols. They were more like friends or big sisters. A couple of nurses even painted my nails and did my hair before an appointment to make sure I looked nice for my well-dressed New York City doctor.

After a lifetime of influence, it wasn’t surprising that I would find myself on track for a nursing degree at Bethel University in Minnesota, in 2013.

Anna, left, and a classmate proudly display acceptance letters for the Bethel University nursing program. (Courtesy of Anna Jeter)

It still amazes me that I had the endurance for nursing school. During those four years, I fought aggressive pulmonary hypertension, which was sending me into severe heart failure. Still, I was able to attend classes and didn’t miss a single clinical rotation. In my opinion, this was an act of God. Somehow, I excelled.

Anna, far right, and classmates wear scrubs for their first clinical rotation. (Courtesy of Anna Jeter)

Then, I was offered my dream job a few weeks before graduation: working as a floor nurse for the high level neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

It was a bit prestigious to be offered a specialty position pre-grad, a time when one is still considered an untested, not-quite-there-yet nurse. I eagerly accepted. To this day, I am proud of that job, despite never starting the position.

My nursing boards were scheduled for the end of June that year, and I had planned to begin training for the job in late July. Yet as I sat with friends to study for days, I couldn’t stop worrying. My pulmonary hypertension was critical, and transplant was looming. Was it really fair for a hospital to invest time and money onboarding me if I would desert them a few months later?

I ended up calling the floor manager to decline the job offer. It was heartbreaking, but to this day, I know it was the right decision. During the year that followed, I was committed to preparing for transplant. That was a journey with outcomes that made a nursing career far from practical.

My nursing license expired in 2019, and I now work as an artist and photographer instead.

With National Nurses Week coming to a close yesterday, my social media accounts had been flooded with peers and professors celebrating their careers and discussing the sacrifices and rewards of their profession. All of it left me wondering: What was the point of my education?

I don’t have to look far to be reminded of the answer. Not only does my nursing knowledge allow me to care for my body in an informed manner, but it also lessened the mystery of my complicated transplant journey.

When I endured multiple intubations after surgery, I didn’t fear the impending reality of a tracheostomy. I knew it would help me more than it would hurt me.

When I had my PICC line dressings changed, I could visualize the process before it happened.

When an abnormal lab value comes up, I am able to have educated conversations with my doctor about what might be wrong.

In many ways, my nursing education could be a big part of why I’m still alive, and I do not take that for granted.

Anna delivers a keynote speech in 2020 at her alma mater for an upcoming nursing class. (Courtesy of Anna Jeter)

There is, of course, another side of this week that is so important to me: celebrating the nurses who have carried me through this journey since I was 4.

There is a reason that nurses are the most trusted profession. Over the years, I have relied on nurses to bathe me, administer my complicated medications, and take and assess my vitals, and the list goes on and on.

My nurses encouraged me to keep my spirits up, and they reassured me that everything would be OK.

During my transplant hospitalization, I even had a nurse who painted my toenails for me, just as my nurses in New York had done all of those years ago.

Nursing is an irreplaceable job, which we’ve all become acutely aware of in the past year. I am thankful I got to know the nursing profession from both sides. It is a profound honor and will be a part of me forever.

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Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

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