“Working as a nurse in the county where your family has lived for seven generations has a social complexity that can’t be prepared for.”

The Reflections essay in the September issue of AJN isn’t focused on a dire clinical situation, a wrenching ethical quandary, or a challenging coworker or boss. Called “Coming Home to Nursing,” the essay describes the many ways becoming a nurse helped the author begin to feel a sense of belonging when she returned to her small town. Here’s the opening:

Illustration by Gingermoth for AJN. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Gingermoth for AJN. All rights reserved.

I had been taking care of people, in one way or another, for as long as I could remember, first growing up in Maine and then for 20 years in New York City. I had returned to my small town to help care for my mother, who had end-stage Parkinson’s disease. After she died, I felt a void. I looked around at this tiny place, where people are considered to be “from away” even if they’ve lived here for multiple generations. I wondered what I had to give back to the supportive community I’d grown up a part of—and I also wondered if I could fit in after 20 years away. Could I turn my love of taking care of people, which I had always done outside of work, and make it my profession?

Yes, the author discovers, she could—and the local hospital is the intersection that everyone or their relative passes through eventually.

Click the article title above to read the whole essay, which is free. In a time of fragmenting communities and impersonal corporate health care environments, the story is particularly resonant because it reminds us of the invaluable role nurses play during the most vulnerable periods in peoples’ lives—and of the deep gratitude a patient feels when he or she is treated “like a real person.”

—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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