Last July, Neeli Kirkendall embarked on a new journey in her nursing career. During the last 10 years, she has served Mississippi as a family nurse practitioner. “I absolutely loved my patients, but felt the stirring that there was something else I was meant to do,” Kirkendall said. “When the opportunity arose to move my family to Oxford to join the faculty at the University of Mississippi School of Nursing, I knew that although this transition would be difficult, it was my next designated challenge. I am still in awe of how amazing this year has been.”
Kirkendall said she believes all people are here for a purpose, they search their entire lives trying to find that purpose, but she is blessed to say that she never had to search for hers. “I have always been very focused on my mission, and nursing is the perfect career fit,” Kirkendall said. “I have been able to care for patients and carry out my mission all over this great state of Mississippi. From the beginning of my nursing career as a student nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to serving as a provider in Kosciusko, every day has impacted my career, leaving a valuable imprint on my life.”
While obtaining her bachelor's degree in nursing, she made many new additions to her vocabulary. Probably the most impactful was holistic. This approach to nursing encompasses healing the whole person as its goal - healing the body, mind and spirit. “How exciting to hear something I completely understood - my mission! I have desperately tried every day to embody this work into my practice in caring for patients and now students,” said Kirkendall. As part of receiving the DAISY Faculty Award, she was presented a Shona sculpture entitled “A Healer's Touch.” Kirkendall said she believes this is a powerful reminder of nurses' duty to embrace the relationships they have with their patients and students.
Kirkendall said students are the next generation of nursing heroes. In today's fast-paced society, she said she enthusiastically wants to scream, “Slow down! Look around and see what an amazing opportunity you have been given!” She said even though times, methods, protocols and practices may change, the approach to nursing should not. “Our holistic approach to our patients and students is what sets this profession apart,” Kirkendall said. “As an educator, I see every student as an awesome gift to further our purpose. Receiving the DAISY [Faculty] Award was a complete surprise. I was so honored to be nominated by my precious students. I can honestly say that I love each and every one. We all have a specific purpose and if I, in any way, can assist in nurturing that, then I have been given the greatest gift. I will never take that for granted.”
While reading the history and purpose of the DAISY Foundation, Kirkendall said she was encouraged that the nursing mission is still alive and well. The care nurses provide patients may not be best represented in a skill performed or a medication given, but a heart affected. She said she believes nursing is founded on principles like those of Florence Nightingale, who once stated, “I am certainly convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”
“I am reminded that we, as nurses, have opportunities daily to be someone's hero,” Kirkendall said. “The DAISY award is designed to honor nurses who go above and beyond and make extraordinary differences in patient and families' experiences in health care. I will strive to be the best example of this daily, and to instill these qualities into my students so that one day they will hopefully love this profession of nursing as much as I do - if that is possible.”
Other nominations were received for part-time faculty Devinna Bahadur and Debrynda Davey and full-time faculty Jeanne Fortenberry Calcote, Tina Ferrell, Dr. Kate Fouquier, Dr. Lisa Haynie, Mary Jackson, Dr. Susan Lofton, Dr. Mary McNair, Dr. Molly Moore, Gaye Ragland, Dr. Jennifer Robinson and Dr. Jean Walker. All nominees received a Daisy Foundation faculty pin.
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