VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Our Nurses: Making A World of Difference

Today is Nurses Day 2016, so I want to take a moment to appreciate all the nurses of UMMC.  Of all the members of the health-care team, these women and men are at the very center of our work with and for patients.

nurses week artNearly 3,000 nurses - approaching a third of our labor force - work at UMMC, including at our hospitals in Lexington and Grenada.  They have 67 different titles and hold many non-traditional roles.  They provide care throughout the patients' life spans, from preemies to palliative care for the terminally ill. 

While we normally think of nurses as “putting the care in health care,” they are also leaders in our efforts to change and improve the health-care system, playing a crucial role in outcomes, access, care coordination, quality improvement and waste reduction.  We've had a history of capable leadership in clinical nursing, going back to Machiel Perkins and Florence King, and more recently Drs. Janet Harris, Terri Gillespie and a very strong team around them.   

My appreciation extends to our own School of Nursing, which I consider to be one of the most vibrant and innovative in the country.  The first baccalaureate nursing program in Mississippi, our nursing school has also been blessed by strong leaders, from the early years of Christine Oglevee to Dr. Edrie George and right up to the present day with Dr. Kim Hoover.  

While we are fortunate to be able to “grow our own” nurses, I'm grateful for our excellent nurses from whatever school they attended.  We embrace them all and couldn't do without them.

My personal experience with nursing began when I was here as a medical student.  One of my close friends, also a medical student, was a nurse. She was the member of our study group who always knew more than the rest of us and had a strong grasp of material early. Her background in nursing gave her an advantage and at times seemed almost magical. During our third year, she was our "tour guide" around the hospital and the clinics. 

As a medical student and resident, I was never the smartest person in the class, but I was smart enough to know almost intuitively that working well with the nurses was key. They are the ones who take care of the patients.  Nurses are the constant interface between the patient and the rest of the world. 

Here are a few things I've learned about nurses from my own personal observation and experience.

  • Nurses will sit and hold a patient's hand.


  • Nurses will cry with a patient.



  • Nurses will talk to patients even when no one knows if the patient can hear and understand. 



  • Nurses will bear the brunt of hurt, confusion and anger directed at them by patients and families and still care for the patient.



  • Nurses will endure the hurriedness, anger, disrespect and disdain from other health-care “professionals” and still care for and stand up for patients.



  • Nurses will put in long hours of sometimes back-breaking work that is devoid of glamour - all because they care for patients. 


As many of you know, my mother has been treated here at UMMC for three years by the cardiology and oncology services. She has wonderful physicians, but the nurses who have cared for her have become like family members.  When I ask her how an appointment went, she first tells me about her nurses and what they talked about. 

When my mother was in the hospital two years ago, my daughter Olivia stayed with her and spent time talking to the nurses about their work. She saw what a difference their hands-on care made to her grandmother. She saw who answered the call button when her grandmother needed something. She saw nursing care in its most intimate and purest form. She decided then that nursing was what she wanted to do with her life.  I could not be more proud.

I'm thankful for our wonderful nurses at UMMC.  They are the vanguard, leading with their hearts and minds, as we strive to achieve A Healthier Mississippi.

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