A Passion for Nursing

Feb 09, 2018

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I truly have a passion for being a nurse and want to share and cultivate that in others.

Lynn Orser

AACN supports the concept of mentorship. Its value in the development and advancement of future nurse leaders is enormous. And Lynn Orser, a critical care clinical nurse educator at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Hamden, Connecticut, lives that idea. She loves people and loves being a mentor. In fact, she took the concept to an entirely new level with the way she mentored a nursing student — and ended up changing her life.

How did you get started in nursing or decide to become a nurse?

I have always loved to work with people. I babysat in my early teens for all the families in my neighborhood. My first real job was as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the YMCA; I also was a summer camp counselor. I loved science in high school and started college as a biology major. I realized early on I would not be happy working in a lab and wanted a career where I could work with people, and upon the suggestion of my anatomy professor I changed my major to nursing. I have not looked back once and regretted that decision. It is a privilege to care for people as a nurse.

How did you become involved in critical care?

I began my career in 1984, working nights on a medical cardiology floor that would now be considered progressive care. I loved that patient population, and cardiology fascinated me. I worked on that floor for 10 years. I got married young and started my family. I moved to the medical ICU, because I wanted to learn more, and I had friends who worked there — another decision I have never regretted. In the ICU I learned about true interprofessional collaboration and thrived in this new setting, learning complicated new nursing procedures and working with patients and their families at the most difficult time in their lives.

What fuels your passion for being a nurse?

I love to mentor and teach other nurses. I truly have a passion for being a nurse and want to share and cultivate that in others. I loved to precept new nurses at the bedside, helping them acquire new skills and grow professionally. I was honored to receive a Circle of Excellence award from AACN in 2001 for Excellence in Precepting. This passion to educate other nurses motivated me to return to school to obtain a master’s degree in nursing education while holding down a job and raising three children. I now am a critical care clinical nurse educator. I am also adjunct faculty for two local university BSN programs.

Would you share one of your mentoring experiences?

For the last two years, a college friend of my daughter’s has lived with us. Melody was a nursing student at the local college where my daughter was an education student. During college, Melody lived with us a few summer semesters. Upon graduation, Melody took a job at a local hospital, and my husband and I invited her to live with us. It was such an amazing experience to share the graduate nurse experience firsthand with her. I believe we both learned so much from the experience.

And being able to experience nursing in the first year through her eyes was a tremendous benefit for both me and Melody. She would come home and share her great achievements, her first successful IV or identifying that her patient had a change in condition and a safe transfer to the ICU. She also shared her challenges: her first code, a difficult interaction with a colleague. She would come home with questions and ready for whatever education or advice I had for her. Through this experience we both have grown tremendously and have a special relationship; she calls me her nurse mom, and she is my honorary daughter. I also had the privilege of sharing her naturalization ceremony with her as she became a U.S. citizen. Melody recently joined the ranks of AACN after taking a new position in a progressive care unit.

Do you have any fascinating/poignant/impactful cases that stand out for you?

Every patient is special, and as a bedside nurse I spent a great deal of time working with patients and families helping them sort out their choices for healthcare decisions. As an educator, helping patients and nurses with healthcare decision making is still a passion for me. As a member of my local AACN chapter, I lead our community service event that provides education to the community about healthcare decision making at a summer day festival.

At the most recent event, a woman came to our booth and described her last year as a caregiver for her father who had end-stage heart failure. As she spoke to me with tears in her eyes, it was apparent that she was struggling to help her father with comfortable and compassionate end-of-life care. She knew all the terms but did not understand what many of them meant. I patiently answered every one of her many questions. She began to understand what the terms really meant for her father. After a lengthy conversation, she left the booth with a smile and a handful of materials to share with her family. I truly felt I had helped this woman develop some clarity regarding her father’s plan of care.

We know that it is important to have a healthy work environment and a healthy life outside work. What do you do to keep the stress to a minimum in your off time?

Work-life balance is so important. I do truly love work, as nursing is my passion, but in my off time I enjoy spending time with my family, which includes my husband, three adult children, a daughter-in-law and my granddaughter. My favorite days off are the ones when I babysit for my granddaughter.

I enjoy volunteering for AACN in a variety of areas, including my local chapter. I enjoy doing most crafts, and you will probably find me knitting any opportunity I can. I also enjoy walking outdoors, taking in the local community.

What is great about being a nurse?

I love being a nurse. I feel my job has great value. I consider it a true privilege to be with people at both the beginning and end of their lives. Our job makes a difference in other people’s lives, and they always remember the nurse.