Chicken soup for the nur.., p.2
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       Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, p.2

           Jack Canfield
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  A tremendous thank-you to Mark, LeAnn’s graphic designer, webmaster, technical-support technician, editor, soul mate and husband of thirty-one years: “Couldn’t do it without you; wouldn’t want to try.” And to Angela, Christie and Mitch who believed in their mom even before she did.

  And mostly to God, for his divine guidance.


  How many times over our years of working with patients have we exclaimed, “I could write a book!” Well, now, together, we have. Nearly three thousand health caregivers from all over the world shared their stories—their hearts, their souls. While we at Chicken Soup have been compiling stories for three years, they have been a lifetime in the making. Now your book, Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, shares the love, the challenges and the joys of being a nurse.

  Most of us didn’t choose this career because of the great hours, pay and working conditions! This book reminds us why we did. Stories from students help us recall why we entered this profession in the first place. Stories from seasoned nurses reveal why we stay. Some stories reflect on the “good old days” (many of which didn’t seem all that good at the time!), but all of them give us hope for the future.

  Regardless of our ages or areas of practice, all of us in health care will find our own hearts and souls in these pages. We’ll see the universality of what we do—the power of our skillful hands and devoted hearts.

  These stories, like nursing, celebrate life and death. Read them one at a time, savoring the hope, the healing, the happiness they offer. We envision this book in every break room (or bathroom—some days they’re the same thing!). Or after a long, hectic day (or night!), we recommend a prescription of a little “Chicken Soup,” prn, ad lib.

  We honor you for your ministry to humankind and offer this book as our gift to you. It is our sincere wish that Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul gives back to you a portion of the love and caring you’ve given to others. We hope it inspires you to continue your compassionate service. The world needs you.

  The Florence

  Nightingale Pledge

  I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.

  I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.

  I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.

  With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

  Share with Us

  We would love to hear your reactions to the stories in this book. Please let us know what your favorite stories were and how they affected you.

  We also invite you to send us stories you would like to see published in future editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Please send submissions to:

  Chicken Soup for the Soul

  P.O. Box 30880

  Santa Barbara, CA 93130

  fax: 805-563-2945

  You can also visit or access e-mail at the Chicken Soup for the Soul sites at and

  We hope you enjoy reading this book as much as we enjoyed compiling, editing and writing it.





  Many persons have the wrong idea about what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

  Helen Keller

  Reprinted by permission of © Hallmark Licensing, Inc.

  Working Christmas Day

  If a man loves the labor of his trade, apart from any questions of success or fame, the gods have called him.

  Robert Louis Stevenson

  It was an unusually quiet day in the emergency room on December twenty-fifth. Quiet, that is, except for the nurses who were standing around the nurses’ station grumbling about having to work Christmas Day.

  I was triage nurse that day and had just been out to the waiting room to clean up. Since there were no patients waiting to be seen at the time, I came back to the nurses’ station for a cup of hot cider from the crockpot someone had brought in for Christmas. Just then an admitting clerk came back and told me I had five patients waiting to be evaluated.

  I whined, “Five, how did I get five? I was just out there and no one was in the waiting room.”

  “Well, there are five signed in.” So I went straight out and called the first name. Five bodies showed up at my triage desk, a pale petite woman and four small children in somewhat rumpled clothing.

  “Are you all sick?” I asked suspiciously.

  “Yes,” she said weakly and lowered her head.

  “Okay,” I replied, unconvinced, “who’s first?” One by one they sat down, and I asked the usual preliminary questions. When it came to descriptions of their presenting problems, things got a little vague. Two of the children had headaches, but the headaches weren’t accompanied by the normal body language of holding the head or trying to keep it still or squinting or grimacing. Two children had earaches, but only one could tell me which ear was affected. The mother complained of a cough but seemed to work to produce it.

  Something was wrong with the picture. Our hospital policy, however, was not to turn away any patient, so we would see them. When I explained to the mother that it might be a little while before a doctor saw her because, even though the waiting room was empty, ambulances had brought in several, more critical patients, in the back, she responded, “Take your time; it’s warm in here.” She turned and, with a smile, guided her brood into the waiting room.

  On a hunch (call it nursing judgment), I checked the chart after the admitting clerk had finished registering the family. No address—they were homeless. The waiting room was warm.

  I looked out at the family huddled by the Christmas tree. The littlest one was pointing at the television and exclaiming something to her mother. The oldest one was looking at her reflection in an ornament on the Christmas tree.

  I went back to the nurses’ station and mentioned we had a homeless family in the waiting room—a mother and four children between four and ten years of age. The nurses, grumbling about working Christmas, turned to compassion for a family just trying to get warm on Christmas. The team went into action, much as we do when there’s a medical emergency. But this one was a Christmas emergency.

  We were all offered a free meal in the hospital cafeteria on Christmas Day, so we claimed that meal and prepared a banquet for our Christmas guests.

  We needed presents. We put together oranges and apples in a basket one of our vendors had brought the department for Christmas. We made little goodie bags of stickers we borrowed from the X-ray department, candy that one of the doctors had brought the nurses, crayons the hospital had from a recent coloring contest, nurse bear buttons the hospital had given the nurses at annual training day and little fuzzy bears that nurses clipped onto their stethoscopes. We also found a mug, a package of powdered cocoa and a few other odds and ends. We pulled ribbon and wrapping paper and bells off the department’s decorations that we had all contributed to. As seriously as we met the physical needs of the patients that came to us that day, our team worked to meet the needs, and exceed the expectations, of a family who just wanted to be warm on Christmas Day.

  We took turns joining the Christmas party in the waiting room. Each nurse took his or her lunch break with the family, choosing to spend his or her “off-duty” time with these people whose laughter and delightful chatter became quite contagious.

  When it was my turn, I sat with them at the little banquet table we had created in the waiting room. We talked for a while about dreams. The four children were telling me about what they wanted to be when they grow up. The six-year-old started the conversation. “I want to be a nu
rse and help people,” she declared.

  After the four children had shared their dreams, I looked at the mom. She smiled and said, “I just want my family to be safe, warm and content—just like they are right now.”

  The “party” lasted most of the shift, before we were able to locate a shelter that would take the family in on Christmas Day. The mother had asked that their charts be pulled, so these patients were not seen that day in the emergency department. But they were treated.

  As they walked to the door to leave, the four-year-old came running back, gave me a hug and whispered, “Thanks for being our angels today.” As she ran back to join her family, they all waved one more time before the door closed. I turned around slowly to get back to work, a little embarrassed for the tears in my eyes. There stood a group of my coworkers, one with a box of tissues, which she passed around to each nurse who worked a Christmas Day she will never forget.

  Victoria Schlintz

  Reprinted by permission of Benita Epstein.

  Proud to Be a Nurse

  How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

  Anne Frank

  I just saw another television show where the nurse was portrayed as an overly sexed bimbo. It’s obvious the image of the nursing profession still needs some good public relations. Once in a while, we have an unexpected opportunity to educate the public to what nursing is all about.

  My chance came on a warm Saturday morning when I had a coveted weekend off from my job in a long-term care facility. My husband and I headed for the Cubs ballpark via the train. Just as the train arrived at the final station, the conductor curtly shouted for all the passengers to immediately leave the car. He hustled us toward the door. On the way, I glimpsed some people huddled around a man lying limply in his seat.

  The conductor talked excitedly into his walkie-talkie. I heard fragments of “emergency” and “ambulance.” Surprising myself, I approached him and said, “I’m a nurse. Could I be of any help?”

  “I don’t need a nurse,” he rudely snapped back, loud enough for the crowd to hear. “I need a medic!”

  His public put-down to nurses was a punch in the stomach. I was incensed. My adrenaline kicked in, and I abruptly elbowed my way through the crowd, past the insulting conductor and back on the train.

  Three men were standing like statues staring at a young man crumpled over in the seat. His face was the color of a ripe plum. Fortunately, the ABCs of cardiopulmonary resuscitation clicked into my brain. The man was obviously obstructing his own airway. I was relieved to find a pulse.

  “He had a seizure,” one man offered.

  “Help me sit him up,” I instructed the bystanders, as I loosened his collar and tie. We hoisted him to an upright position, and I quickly did a jaw thrust and tilted his head to the side. Mucous and blood oozed out. With a wadded tissue from my pocket I cleared more thick mucous from his mouth and throat. A thump on the shoulder caused him to take in a big breath of air. Within seconds, his color changed to pink and his eyes opened. His tongue was bruised and cut from biting it, but he was breathing well.

  I heard the ambulance siren in the background.

  Shaking now, I returned to my husband, praying the man didn’t have AIDS and searching for something to wipe my sticky hands on.

  “Hey, you did a good job,” one of the men who had been a bystander called to me.

  “Thanks,” I replied with a pleased smile, as I stared directly at the conductor who still clutched his walkie-talkie and looked surprised. He stammered, “I guess a nurse is what I needed after all.”

  Triumphantly, I marched off, hoping at least one person had a new insight into the capabilities of the nursing profession. Because, at that moment, I was especially proud to be a nurse.

  Barbara A. Brady

  “Do you want to speak to the man in charge—or the nurse who knows what’s going on?”

  Reprinted by permission of Chris S. Patterson.


  Children are God’s apostles sent forth day by day to preach of love, hope and peace.

  J. R. Lowell

  Nellie was only two years old, the only child of a single mother whose boyfriend walked out when he found out she was pregnant. Not an unusual story in an inner city— but Nellie was unusual. She wrapped your heart around her little finger the moment you met her. Her eyes, huge ovals and black as shiny metal, looked out of a pale, round face. I was told her hair was once dark and curly, but when we met she was bald from chemotherapy.

  Nellie had leukemia. During her six months in the hospital, doctors had tried one chemotherapy regimen after another, trying to save her life. I was Nellie’s primary nurse at a time when primary nursing was not the norm. We all felt Nellie needed someone constant in her life. Her mother, unable to cope with Nellie’s devastating illness, rarely visited. Whenever a care conference was scheduled to discuss the next mode of treatment, Nellie’s mother came to be included in decisions. She wanted to make sure everything possible was being done for her daughter. But she just couldn’t visit. I always thought she had already said good-bye.

  When I first met Nellie she had just started the fifth round of chemotherapy. Her face and body were swollen from steroids. She had a Broviac line in her chest for medications and IV fluids; she had severe stomatitis and was unable to take anything orally; her perirectal area was red and raw from constant diarrhea. Yet she had the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, reaching all the way to her eyes. I wondered when she had decided that pain was just a part of everyday life and decided to smile anyway.

  Two things made Nellie happy: being rocked while I sang soft lullabies, and going bye-bye in the red wagon. With a fireman’s cap on her head, a face mask on to protect her from anyone else’s germs, and the red light flashing on the wagon’s front end, we walked around and around the unit saying “hi” to all the “’ick babies.” Nellie had a problem with her S’s.

  And she had a faith in God only a child could have. “Unless you become as little children . . . “ Nellie bowed her head each time she said his name. She called him “’oly God.” H’s were a problem, too. When I would finish doing her morning bath and dressing her in a soft fuzzy sleeper, she would snuggle into my lap and ask me about “’oly God.”

  “Is his ’ouse big?” she would ask with wonder in her voice. “How big is it?” Then, “Tell me again about the ’treets of gold.” She remembered all the children’s Bible stories her mother had read to her.

  One morning she surprised me with the simplicity of her trust. “Pretty soon I go to ’oly God’s house.”

  “Everyone will go to Holy God’s house someday,” I replied, trying to deny the truth that she had already accepted.

  “I know that,” she said with all the assurance of a two-year-old who understands the mysteries of the universe, “but I’m going firstest.”

  “How do you know that?” I asked, choking back tears.

  “’Oly God. He told me,” she said matter-of-factly. When the fifth series of chemotherapy drugs failed to have the desired effect, the doctors coordinated a care conference. Nellie’s mother was coming and the plan was to get permission to try a new set of experimental drugs, not yet approved for use in pediatric patients. I was surprised at my angry response. “When are we going to say that’s enough? It’s time to let Nellie go.” I couldn’t believe this was me speaking. I never thought there would come a time when I would think it was not only okay, but the only right thing to do, to stop treatment on a child. I was more pro-life than the Pope, yet in the deepest part of my spirit I knew someone needed to fight for Nellie’s right to die.

  My worry was needless. When I returned to work the next night, Nellie was off all drugs. The plan was to keep her as comfortable as possible. She was my only patient that night. In the past twenty-four hours, her already swollen body had become even more edematous. I’m not sure why, but for the first time, Nellie didn’t want to be held or rocked. I sat along
side her crib and stroked her puffy face. The short stubble of hair on her head was scratchy under my fingers. Nellie laid awake the first part of the night. I never left her side.

  Somewhere around three in the morning, she turned and said, “You hold Nellie now. Nellie going bye-bye.”

  “The wagons are put away for the night, Nellie,” I said, clinging to my denial.

  “You hold Nellie now,” she repeated. “Nellie going bye-bye.”

  Gently, I lifted her fragile body from the crib and cradled her in my arms. I held her on my chest with her head resting on my shoulder, her warm breath on my neck. We rocked back and forth, back and forth, as I stroked her and sang, “Jesus loves the little children.”

  After several minutes, Nellie lifted her head, using all the strength she had left and said, “He’s here,” then lay her head back down on my shoulder. I could no longer feel her soft breath on my neck. I’m not sure exactly how long I held and rocked her as the tears ran down my cheeks. Finally, I put on the call light to let someone know that Nellie had gone bye-bye with ’oly God.

  Joan Filbin

  All in a Day’s Work

  If I can ease one life the


  Or cool one pain,

  Or help one fainting robin

  Unto his nest again,

  I shall not live in vain.

  Emily Dickinson

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