America’s Most Amazing Nurse Finalists
Meet The Winner Of America's Most Amazing Nurse Search
Nurses are the heart of every hospital, medical office, and health facility in America, yet their work often goes unsung. Not anymore.Preventionhonored their ranks (nearly 4 million strong) with a contest to find .
When the nominations started rolling in, we were in awe of what we were reading. Some nurses gave up their vacations to volunteer in a developing country, while others spent their free time advocating for legislation that would make America a healthier place. A handful started nonprofits, and many implemented new programs to improve patient care. What they all did: inspire.
Our winner is forensic nurse Laura Clary. Among other accomplishments, she expanded the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Domestic Violence Programs at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center to treat the most vulnerable group—children who have been sexually assaulted or abused. As she shares here in her own words, her experiences on the job have given her new insights and changed the arc of her life. Here are five lessons her patients have taught her.
1. Judging people defines you, not them.
I started my nursing career working in the emergency room in a busy hospital in Baltimore. I treated patients from all walks of life, including many who were homeless. Let me tell you that they don't fit the stereotype. Many are fathers and grandfathers who have incredible life stories, including military service. My conversations with them have influenced how I look at situations outside my job, including my life as a mother. I have two young boys, and some moms are so quick to judge other moms. You don't know their story. If you make an assumption based on someone's appearance or a quick conversation, you may be completely off base.
MORE:5 Signs You May Be In An Abusive Relationship
THE LETTER THAT STARTED IT ALL
Last December, Joseph Clary nominated his wife, Laura, to become America's Most Amazing Nurse. After he submitted his nomination, he printed out the letter he'd written. But then their baby started crying, so he quickly folded it up and stuffed it into a desk drawer—and forgot he put it there.
Fast-forward about a month. "Laura went into the drawer to pay bills and found the letter," recalls Joseph, a firefighter in Washington, DC. She's usually fairly stoic, he says, but this touched her: "She told me how much it meant to her to read what I'd written." Among his points: "Laura has a natural talent for the field, and the nurses she manages absolutely love her." Joseph also wrote about how proud he is of Laura's ability to handle the demands of her job while also caring for her family.
"I was overwhelmed with emotion," Laura says of the moment when she read the letter. "I teared up reading how he recognized me for being a nurse and being a mom. He has a tough job himself, so to realize how much he appreciates me was incredibly special."
2. Life can change in an instant.
It sounds like a cliché, but it's true, and I see it daily in my job. I've comforted grief-stricken families whose loved ones died in car accidents. I've been in the room with inconsolable parents who lost their baby to sudden infant death syndrome. I've examined women who have been raped and children who have been abused. Dealing with the harsh reality of pain and death has made me more grateful for what I have. It's one reason I stay close to my family. I talk to my siblings every day—sometimes more than once. And on days that are especially difficult, I remind myself to look for a bright spot.
3. Listening is often better than talking.
Earlier in my career, I thought I needed to have all the answers for my patients. I would look for just the right thing to say. But I've realized that many aren't necessarily seeking advice; they just want to be heard—and they tell me how much it meant that I listened. I think we all underestimate the power of just sitting there, holding someone's hand, and letting people share how they're feeling. Your silent presence may be the best comfort for a friend who is going through a rough time. (Here's what not to say to a grieving friend, and what they really want to hear.)
4. You can't take care of others unless you care for yourself.
My field of nursing is especially prone to burnout. The hours are long, it's emotionally draining, and I often do community outreach, too. Over the years, I've learned that if I don't take time for myself, I'm not as effective as a nurse or mother. My sister and I meet up a couple of times a week at our local gym to do the circuit and box with a trainer. I feel so revitalized afterward. (Even if you only have 10 minutes a day, you can still get a great workout withPrevention's.)
5. You're stronger than you think.
We have a quote on the wall in our forensic unit: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly." It couldn't be more fitting. My patients are so much braver than they give themselves credit for. Their determination has made me and the team of passionate nurses I manage realize that we can tackle tough situations. People often ask us, "How do you do this job?" Our response is easy: "What if no one did this job? Who would be there for all these patients?" We draw strength from each other and from deep within ourselves. Everyone has an inner warrior—it just needs to come to the surface.
For her charity of choice, Clary has designated the Child Advocacy Center of Baltimore County, which will receive ,000. As our winner, she'll receive a 5-night trip for two to Iceland.
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