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Lynda Stallwood, Ph.D., CPNP-PC, Assistant Professor at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Detroit, Mich.

March 2013

Q. When did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and why?

A. As far back as I can remember my sister and I always wore matching nurse outfits. It is something I knew I wanted to do even as a young child, and as it turns out, my sister and brother also became nurses! I believe we did this partly because our mother’s dream was always to become a nurse, but she never had the opportunity to go to school. I related very well to how she cared for us when we were sick – she had a natural gift for care giving – and I always enjoyed doing the same for others.

Q. What do you enjoy most about nursing?

A. On many levels there tends to be a gap between the healthcare provider and the patient, and I believe nurses help to bridge that gap in terms of providing personalized care. While healthcare providers are dealing with issues like diagnosis and treatment options, we can work more closely with patients to determine what educational materials and support resources they may need not only while they are in the hospital, but also once they return home. Helping to establish a care plan, teaching and advocating for patients – those are the things that really get me excited about being a nurse!

Developing these kinds of plans is especially important when dealing with type I diabetes, as deliberate home care becomes more important for my patients than those with acute illnesses. I truly enjoy anticipating what their needs might be and simply being there for them as they in turn care for their own families.

Q. Why did you choose diabetes nursing as a specialty?

A. About 25 years ago, I received a new patient – a 14-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes. This sweet, young girl came into the office very calmly with her family. They gave me the impression that they were very much in control of the situation and could handle any outcomes of the diagnosis. They were an absolute delight to work with, but I could tell that they knew deep down that this was a game-changing diagnosis that would infiltrate every aspect of their lives.

While working with the family for a few days, they continued to be very understanding and seemed prepared to deal with this chronic condition with a positive attitude. Towards the end of my shift one evening, I noticed that the patient was crying. This was very different from my previous encounters with her, so I stopped in to check on her. She looked up at me, tears swelling her eyes, and asked, “Can I sit on your lap for a while?” Being only 5’2” myself, she was as tall as – if not taller than – I was at the time. Nevertheless, I sat in the rocking chair by her bed, held her and let her cry.

I didn’t have to say much; this young girl was finally able to express what was really going through her mind. She told me, “I have to be strong for my parents’ sake. I can’t let them know that I’m sad, or that I’m scared. I don’t want to have diabetes.” So I continued to sit with her until she felt a little relieved and could get a little bit of sleep.

The next time I spoke with her parents, I mentioned my experience with their daughter. I was amazed when they began crying on the phone, declaring that they felt just as afraid as she did, but that they needed to handle it with strength for her sake. This was a great time of relief for both the parents and the patient. It became a turning point for them in how they responded and dealt with the condition from that point forward, and the next time they came in together they were much more relaxed and ready to move forward together as a family.

This experience 25 years ago is still fresh in my mind and in my heart, and it is why I dedicated myself to caring for young patients with diabetes. I’ve had a lot of great experiences being a nurse, but that by far was the greatest and most life-changing one of my career.

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