I love people and I love helping people. And nursing is the perfect profession for that.
For anyone who thinks nurses don't have pull doesn't know Jack or, in this case, Ruth.
Ruth Salathe, an associate nurse manager for a 24-bed Neuroscience ICU at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, was bitten by the nursing bug early and often. When she says she always wanted to be a nurse, she means it even if it meant traveling halfway around the globe and surviving a harrowing experience in the process.
"When I was 4 years old," she recalled, "I was very sick and was in the hospital for a good length of time two or three weeks, I think, which, for someone that young is like a lifetime. But it was such a great experience for me, to see the nurses at work. They were so friendly to me. I was never in pain; when I was lonely they sat next to me; they played with me.
"When I was doing better they allowed me to do little wound dressing changes and little things on other kids. To this day, I don't know if they were really needing dressing changes or they just made it up to entertain the kids, the one that had the dressing and the one that did the dressing. I don't know, but it worked. So after I was released and went home I told my parents I was going to be a nurse. And after that, as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be one. Always, always, always.
"I remember when I got home from the hospital I started taking care of all the neighborhood kids whenever they had any injury. Anything; little bruises here or there from climbing trees or riding bikes. I took care of them. So I guess that was the beginning of being a nurse."
Not that it was an easy journey Ruth grew up in Switzerland, and her resolve to be a nurse was tested more than once.
"My mom was very much against it. She thought I was too fragile, that nursing was not for me, and that I should find something else for a career. I thought about being a stewardess or teaching, but I always came back to nursing. Every time I would wonder if I would do something else if I had to start again, I would always end up back in nursing. I always think, No, nursing, that's it."
But Ruth has another reason for being a nurse
"I'm just a people person, she explained. "I love people and I love helping people. And nursing is the perfect profession for that."
It’s a career that has spanned almost 35 years and afforded Ruth the opportunity to hone those people skills while providing care to her patients. Along the way, there has been plenty of frustration and heartbreak but moments that serve as validation for having made the right career choice.
“I think there are a lot of these meaningful moments over the course of a career,” she said. “I think every patient is giving us something in one way or the other, even if the outcome is not positive. We still benefit for the next patient.
“But one patient that comes to mind was a young kid that had suffered a car accident, and over the course of the time he was there he lost both legs, had a brain injury; we didn’t know if he would make it … we approached the family about end-of-life care, and his mom always said, ‘No, he would want to live, and he will live, and he will pull through.’
“And we honored that, and we kept doing whatever needed to be done and about three months later he left our unit, and the mom had to promise us to come back with him before he went home. So he went to rehab, and then he didn’t come back. But then, about a half-year later, he came to visit us. Nobody recognized him, because he looked like a different young man. He had two prosthetic legs, walked in and said who he was, and we were like really stunned, and he thanked us for all the good work we did with him, that we didn’t give up, and he said that he’d enrolled in a community college for the semester. So we all felt that was like so great that we really kept going and didn’t give up. It’s moments like those that are so great, that add so much.”
Expertise, Knowledge and Caring
She is clear when asked what it is that nurses bring to the table – or, in their case, the bedside.
“I think what we nurses bring to the bedside is the knowledge, the expertise and the caring part. I think all three are needed to have good outcomes. And all good nurses supply them, all the time.
“There is no profession that can compare to nursing. There is always something you can give to a patient. Always. I love nursing.”
But everyone needs support and resources to help further the career, enhance learning, keep up-to-date on latest technology and knowledge and, sometimes, just to share. Ruth has found all of them with AACN.
“AACN has absolutely been a source of support and resources,” she said. “And the NTI conference has always been incredible. It affords us an opportunity to bring nurses together, to hear fascinating talks, learn so much, to take part in this special community. I love it, and it helps us kind of re-energize – you feel it in your spine.”
But one gets the feeling talking with Ruth that she doesn’t need a whole lot of help re-energizing.
“I love to be outside,” she explained. “I love to ski. I love hiking – we have hiked all over some beautiful places, like Antarctica, the Peruvian Andes, the Swiss Alps. And I run – 5Ks and 10Ks. When I run it clears my mind, and that is so important, because there is so much to do for our patients."
And, by the way, the mother who’d once upon a time tried to steer Ruth away from nursing? When Ruth became a nurse, her mother’s face told a different story.
“Once I saw her face,” Ruth said. “I could see she was so proud.”
Of course she was. Her daughter was – and is – a nurse.