In honor of Nurses Week, this is the second of a five part series about the nurses of VA. Read Part 1 here and visit VACareers.va.gov/NursesWeek to share your thanks.
I am a daughter of a WWII Veteran and the mother of an Iraq Veteran. I am familiar with the sacrifices that Veterans make for us – the people of the United States of America – and the people of other countries. On a daily basis as I go about my work at the VA Hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, I try to treat each one of my patients as I would want my father or son treated.
Each year when it is time for my self-evaluation, I am asked by my supervisor to list all of the things that I do for these Veterans that is above and beyond my call of duty. I find this a hard question to answer.
I think about all the extra things that I do that usually do not come to mind because it just doesn’t feel like “above and beyond”. Do I count all the times that I came in early or stayed late because a co-worker was sick? Or the time that I gave up four Saturdays in a row because a co-workers husband was ill? Is it considered above and beyond if I gave up my evening so a co-worker could attend her daughter’s graduation? Do I count the times that I did the job of two people for months because a co-worker had to leave early every day for appointments? Do I count the times that I did the job of two people because one of our Veterans was dying and alone and one of my co-workers was nice enough to sit with them and hold their hand?
I’m wondering if I count the times that I used my breaks to walk a therapy dog in the snow and rain, or to take a Veteran outside because no one else could?
Would I count the time I bought a WWII Veteran an Army hat because he said he wanted one and had nobody to get it for him? Another WWII Veteran asked me to bring him a newspaper every day. Countless times, I’ve bought a Coke or Pepsi for one of the guys because they wanted one or thought one would make their stomach feel better. Not so long ago I bought one Veteran a couple of tomatoes and a peach at the farmers market because he mentioned he was craving them.
What about the times that we’ve all pitched in and bought pizza or hot dogs for the guys on Super Bowl Sunday or Veterans Day, or just because we wanted to, does that mean we went above and beyond? Is it going above and beyond if you just be a friend and sit and talk to a Veteran who is lonely, or a family member who is nervous and scared? What if you give them a heart shaped pillow to hold close on those lonely hospital nights? Sometimes I just give them a hug and tell them everything will be all right. Is that above and beyond?
I want to know the meaning of going “above and beyond”, because I do these things all the time. It just feels like the right and human thing to do. I don’t do these things for praise and reward. I do them because I care. I hope that a nurse gave my Dad a hug the night he died, and I hope that a nurse treats my son with honor and respect when that time comes.
Written by Brenda Welch, RN, Clarksburg VA Medical Center