‘Why I Became a Nurse’

May 10, 2021 9:58 AM

Nurses share why they chose to go into nursing and how they dealt with the unique challenges the pandemic presented.

nurse standing at bedside with patient with mask on
Vikas Sood, NP-C, with his patient at Michigan Medicine. Credit: Michigan Medicine

“Teamwork.” “Family.” “A common bond.”

Those are just a few of the words and phrases nurses use to describe their profession — and their colleagues.

Indeed, more than 6,000 Michigan Medicine nurses have served on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now, caring for patients — both COVID-positive and non-COVID patients — who are often isolated from their loved ones.

They have become those patients’ caretakers and friends, all while dealing with the stress of an unknown virus and, eventually, multiple pandemic surges.

A yearly recognition

Every year, from May 6 through 12, the United States honors nurses for their commitment and service — not only to the health of their patients, but also to the vitality of their communities. 

This year, though, Nurses’ Week feels particularly poignant.

It’s a time to recognize nurses as frontline workers, to appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made during a period of immense grief and trauma.

As Kathy Stewart, R.N., a nurse at the Brighton Center for Specialty Care, says, “You quit thinking about yourself as a person when you’re a nurse. I leave myself at the door, and then it becomes about patients.”

Yet that’s one of the wonderful, awe-inspiring things about nurses: They often feel as if their profession is their calling. 

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“I feel like there are some paths that are chosen for you,” says Vikas Sood, N.P., an advanced practice nurse in the Department of Internal Medicine at Michigan Medicine, “and I just felt connected.”

“To be a nurse is a privilege,” says Tammy Knuth, R.N., a nurse at BCSC. “It’s awesome that you get to step into our patients’ lives and be a part of it for the time. I feel like nurses are really the voice of the patients.”

That idea has resonated even more during the pandemic.

“I remember my first COVID patient. She took a moment to pray for me, my family, and my coworkers, for our safety,” says Faith Ponder, R.N., a nurse in Michigan Medicine’s emergency department. “That’s a moment that would carry me when I’m taking care of COVID patients is being thoughtful to that patient like how my patient was thoughtful to me.”

Lynda Portice, R.N., M.S.N., was so moved by the pandemic that she decided to temporarily come out of retirement to help vaccinate the community against COVID-19 at the University of Michigan stadium. “It’s such an honor to be able to continue to serve faculty, staff and our community in this history-making event,” she says.

For Anna Pokriefka, R.N., a nurse in the pediatric general care unit, going through COVID-19 has motivated her to encourage others to become nurses. “I think COVID has helped inspire me to want to help others choose nursing,” she says. “With the people around me, I know I can help others and really do my job well.”

Whether you’re considering a career as a nurse or interested in seeing where nurses took care of people in the past year — from operating rooms and emergency rooms to vaccination clinics — watch the video posted below. You’ll hear from some of those more than 6,000 nurses at Michigan Medicine about why they went into nursing and how they took on the unique challenges of the pandemic.

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