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When I was growing up, I dreamed of being a teacher. There were many afternoons where I had a classroom of stuffed animals and dolls learning to read and write. My students were all introverts, so classroom management was never a problem.

My plans for becoming a teacher were derailed in 1980 after my mother had a myocardial infarction and I had my first real glimpse into the world of nursing. The nurses that were taking care of her were so intelligent, but what I remember the most was how kind they were to my cantankerous mom and to my sisters and me. They explained everything they were doing to care for our mom and told us to call any time during the night if we wanted to check on how she was doing. I could tell that they loved their work and were using their knowledge not only to help my mom heal but also to make the experience the best it could be for our entire family.

I ended up choosing to be a nurse — but to be fair, nursing also chose me. After earning a Diploma in Nursing at Los Angeles County Medical Center in 1984, I began my career as an RN at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. It was there that I began to understand that patients see nurses as their lifelines. It was the nurse who was with the patient 24/7 during times of pain, sadness, frustration and sometimes joy. We had no patient satisfaction data back then, but I loved forming bonds with patients and their families.

Now it is 2017, and I have accepted my new role as Chief Nursing Officer. Over the many years since I became a nurse, I have had the privilege of caring for and teaching countless patients. Even if I had kept count of the numbers of patients I cared for, I will never truly know how many lives I have touched.  For every patient there were family members and friends that I also cared for. The truth is, our care is so integral to the patient’s well-being that the concept of increasing “patient satisfaction” is not what we strive for. Instead, we strive to improve the patient’s entire experience with healthcare. When we acknowledge and respond with empathy to the fact that today may be the worst day of a patient’s or family member’s life, we send countless ripples across lakes of despair.  We transform the patient’s experience, and each time we do this, we are transformed.  I invite you all to consider how you can impact our patients and families—no matter what your role is.

Cindy Sayre, PhD, RN, is Chief Nursing Office at UW Medical Center.


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