Nurses eat their young, they say. But I met my nurse superhero when I needed one most!

Where would a nurse be without supportive peers and colleagues? How different would your work have been without that fellow nurse who pulled you through, when you really needed the back-up?

When we asked you who your nursing superhero is, Ja’el Mitten got in touch to tell us this moving story about hers. Ja’el is a Registered Nurse in Florida, and her nursing superhero is Karen Lewin, a Diabetic Nurse Educator at the largest hospital in Palm Beach County. For good reason!

In every nursing career, you will come across the good, the bad and the ugly; and if you ever struggled as a young nurse, chances are you will be all too able to relate to Ja’el’s story about why Karen was her saving grace.

And the lesson she drew from it? It’s one we should all take to heart!

I was a graduate nurse, working the oncology floor and fresh out of school. My preceptor was a smart, emotionally distant, seasoned yet embittered nurse. Some days she could be extremely helpful, but other days she was cold and unpleasant as she let me struggle through my insecurities. Not a day would go by that I didn’t want to quit nursing and didn’t have to go to the restroom at some point to cry my eyes out in an attempt to relieve my overwhelming anxiety.

For those of you who have never worked medical-surgery-oncology, it is a very difficult floor for a variety of reasons. Our patients are repeat customers, and they come to the hospital for an acute exacerbation of a chronic illness. Every single patient is on a crazy amount of medications including blood/plasma/platelet transfusions, and each nurse has seven, sometimes eight patients.

Photo: Ja'el Mitten

Ja’el Mitten, RN, nominated Karen Lewin as her nursing superhero

One day, approximately four weeks into my first job and still on preceptorship, I had a patient come up from the ED in severe DKA. I had never experienced this before, but I remembered the symptoms from school. I was flustered and after finding him an emesis bin and taking his vitals, I rushed to find my preceptor for guidance on my next steps. She was lounging at the nurses’ station and told me that she was busy. I turned to my charge nurse, who was also my preceptor’s best friend, but she pretended to ignore me. Humbly, I set aside my personal feelings at this inexcusable and unforgettable situation, and continued to advocate for my patient and request help. At this moment, my preceptor expressed her annoyance at me by rolling her eyes and stating she needed a break, walking off the floor and leaving me alone. [She later got written up for this; not that it made any difference, because the Nurse Manager was also a good friend.]

This all happened very quickly, and I was still aware of my crashing patient in a nearby room. But my emotions had suddenly overtaken me, because I felt completely alone and I’m not embarrassed to say that the young nurse in me started to cry. I dashed into a computer room, just off the nurses’ station and tried to compose myself and figure out my next steps. That was the memorable moment when I met my Nurse Superhero.

All of a sudden this stranger took over. Her name was Karen and, ironically, she was the hospital’s Diabetic Nurse Educator who just happened to be rounding on our floor. She calmed me down, listened to my story, came in to see my patient and took care of everything in the process, teaching my patient and me in the process, with the utmost respect. Her calm confidence and brilliant intelligence was superhuman.

As long as I live, I will never forget my Nurse Superhero. Her and I have since become true friends. It’s been almost ten years since I have told this story and it still brings tears to my eyes. While nurses still continue to eat their young, there do exist superheroes whose good deeds have the power to supersede everything. Because of my superhero, I mentor new nurses and encourage them to “pay it forward”.

Do you have a personal nursing hero? Would you like to let them know? Write us about it! We have already sent out a dozen free Superman-inspired “RN superhero” t-shirts from our brand new Nurse Swag site to help people say “thank you” to their nursing superheroes!

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This story is true of the dilemma of bedside nursing unfortunately mostly prevelent in the western world. I do not understand the reason for these acts of insensitivity and cruelty but I believe that nursing has matured enough to begin to seriously address these issues. We have talked, debated, published and advertised the issues. However untill we find real solutions to eliminate these rampant cruelties that have unfortunately become the norms in nursing, poor job satisfaction, job ineffectiveness due to emotional turmoil, rapid nurse turnover , poor patient outcome and safety will continue to be the cumulative effects. Enough of Talking, Let’s get to Action!.