What Matters Most Reflections of a Pediatric Nurse

I started my nursing career some 20 years ago on the fourth floor of UW Hospital, which was then known as UW Children's Hospital. As a nursing student starting on that floor, I was inspired by the multidisciplinary approach and teamwork it took to care for these complex pediatric patients. I saw the impact the team made and I knew that was where I wanted to be. In caring for these patients I realized that our job was and is to heal on so many different levels. However, healing does not always mean curing. This is when it is trying and tough.


"I choose this profession every day because I am able to make a difference in the lives of others," says Carrie.My heart breaks for every family that walks through our doors. They are completely unprepared to fight the biggest battle of their lives. It is our job to help guide, teach and support them through every phase. Showing them they can be parents again and that their child is still their child.


It means being a shoulder they can cry on and recognizing when they are at their breaking point. We open our hearts, we are vulnerable, and we become an extended part of their family. Sharing in the joys of their child reaching milestones…their first steps…first bites of food post bone marrow transplant…or walking down a hallway full of bubbles blown by nurses in celebration after a long hospitalization and completion of chemotherapy.


It has given me a unique perspective on life. When a school-aged patient asks you if his parents will be ok after he goes to heaven…watching a child take his last breath…helping a teenage patient get ready for her first homecoming dance in her hospital room…praying for no fever or nausea that would spoil her attempt to feel normal again for just one night.


I look for the glimmers of normalcy in the face of all that is not. Times filled with rigorous chemotherapy, blood products and antibiotics. It also consists of kid tattoos, nail polish and conversations about race cars. These are all moments of clarity for me and why I do what I do. When I see what matters most. These times are physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. They make me even more invested in the fight against cancer.


I look back at the family who I had the privilege of caring for their infant sons, both born with a form of immune deficiency syndrome that required bone marrow transplant to survive. The significance I played in that family's life was incomprehensible to me in my early years of my nursing career. I could only appreciate after becoming a mother myself, the significant role I had in their lives. The act of feeding their infant his first bites of solid food off the grandmother's wedding ring—an Indian tradition in their family—was given to me. The trust she had in me and the bond I felt with that family is forever etched on my heart.


I attended the funeral for one of the sons and celebrate survival of the other in the yearly New Year's card I receive from the family who 15 years later, still thank me for the care I gave both of their sons.


I choose this profession every day because I am able to make a difference in the lives of others. That's how I do what I do. I hate cancer and seeing sick children as much as anyone could, but cancer doesn't win…ever. Life is precious and worth living to the fullest. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I am committed to these families. When they walk through our doors they become family and family sticks together.