I worked in various nursing positions at my area's largest state hospital serving the chronically, mentally disabled for over 15 years, from 1983 to 1999. I met some remarkable men and women who have inspired me--teaching me some amazing life lessons along the way.
My eight years of progressive management positions were some of the most challenging and enriching years of my career. One man in particular took the chance and the time to believe in me. His name is Al, and he served as Superintendent.
I met Al in 1990 when I was a Clinical Nurse Specialist. While I should have been intimidated by his position, he made me feel right at home by greeting me with a big bear hug!
It wasn't long before Al called me into his office. Even at the age of 29, I still got really anxious, but Al had a way of putting me right at ease.
By the time I left his office, I agreed to take my first management job! This was way outside of my clinical comfort zone, yet Al assured me 'I'd be fine'. Oh yeah, I would also be assigned to the Assaultive Management Program, with a census of 120 psychotic patients, with serious assault histories. Thanks to some amazing staff, I quickly fell in love with this unnerving assignment!
I returned to Al's office many times. With each challenge/change of assignment, I gained even more experience managing other units, including the Nursing Education and Staff Orientation Department.
In retrospect, I think Al had a master plan after all, as he encouraged me to apply for the position of Director of Nursing, also known as the Assistant Superintendent for Nursing Services in 1995.
This position was an opportunity and a panic all rolled up into one! It helped to know that Al had confidence in me. Indeed, I became the youngest A.S.N.S. in the history of Pennsylvania at the age of 35 in 1995 for 600 patients and 600 nursing staff. I'm not sure of anyone else who would have given me the opportunity that Al did.
While Al retired in 1996, we continued to keep in touch. He cried with me in 1999 and understood why I had to finally leave this position. We have attended funerals together. We have lunched. He still considers me 'his nurse' when he has a question.
'To Sir With Love' is the perfect song to celebrate one of the most inspirational men in my life.
Over the years,
You took my fears,
Grew past the tears,
Strength did appear.
Helped me to soar,
Taught me for sure,
Then to endure.
Allowed me to nurse,
Loved to converse,
Never to coerce,
Commit and immerse.
With me a chance,
For an entrance,
Took a proud stance.
Al will have my forever gratitude for showing me how much in charge I am the very thing that matters the most--my own, ethical behavior.
Boss, teacher, mentor and friend--wishing Al a Happy Birthday today, January 15th and sending wishes for a fulfilling and healthy 2017.
Until next time, tell someone how much they have inspired you.
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