Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts of a retiring RN

It's been a good career. I started in 1973 in California. I was told by the local community college that they "weren't accepting any older students into the RN program" (Mind you I was 25 yrs old at the time). So I kept searching for a way get into a nursing program. I found a private school out of LA that had a LVN (licensed vocational nurse program). My folks helped me and paid my tuition. I was able to attend the program at Huntington Beach community hospital. We had theory and clinicals in the same location, every day Monday - Friday. It was yearlong program and then I was able to write state boards and was licensed to practice as an LVN (LPN) in other states. I continued to take a few classes towards my RN, and over the next 20 years in 1994 I finally completed the task and received my RN, from Community College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas, NV. In 2006 I finished the RN to BSN program through Grand Canyon University and received a Baccalaureate in Nursing. At the age of 60 many wondered why I would do this and my reply is that it is a personal goal, not a career move. I feel that I did achieve my educational goals and more during my nursing career.

Now the time has come, for me to retire from nursing. It was a hard decision. I enjoyed the income, but more than that I enjoyed my work, my service to others, and the joy of seeing the students I taught grasp the joy of service to others.

So it is with mixed emotions and many tears, that I say good-bye to the Nursing Career of 37 years.

My pins- LVN 1973, RN- 1994, BSN 2006
Nursing is symbolized by the traditional CAP with a stripe. Each school of nursing had a cap that was designed just for their students. In the early 80's the caps went away. Nurses felt that the caps were in the way of all the tubing, etc that can surround the patient... also we had men entering the field of nursing and they weren't about to wear one of those silly caps. However, the nurses’ cap was very meaningful to me and so I kept my cap over the years.

Thus, the following story: As I plan this retirement and to make it really official to me, I need a symbolic moment, a moment that would live in my heart and my soul. As I thought about all the things people do when they retire, I realized that I had just the right person to share my story and my journey with. Her name is Julie, a woman that had been my student. She is not a young student, but in her 40's. She is intelligent, smart and has raised her son as a single Mom. She had many struggles in her life, which I can relate too, and so I decided to speak with her about my retirement. Julie expressed to me that she would have liked to have the traditions of old play a role in her graduation ceremony.

The tradition goes something like this: Graduating nurses wear white uniforms (women in dresses), white hosiery, and white shoes. A cap with a velvet ribbon stripe adorns their head. The cap is representative of the school they attended. The diploma nurse with one stripe (which in today’s world would be the Associate degree nurse) and the Baccalaureate nurse with two stripes. Graduates walk in a procession from the back of the auditorium, the room is darkened and the nurses proceed down the aisles with lit ‘Florence Nightingale’ lanterns. After the talks and all the formalities of a graduation, the graduates are presented, not with a diploma, but with a pin- and the school name. 

I contacted Julie and we met yesterday at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson. We found a lovely spot to sit and chat in the rose garden of the hospital. I shared my thoughts about my career and my retirement and how I would want to leave my nursing legacy in her hands. I asked her to accept my cap as a symbolism of my life as a nurse. I know that she understands, more than many others, the impact of handing off of the cap to the next generation.
So from all of the nurses of the past and to all those of the future, may you walk with heads high and hearts full for the joy of service to the poor and the homeless, the rich and powerful, the dirty and the clean, those who came with injured bodies and minds, and all those who suffered loss and grief- I thank you for the many memories and lives that touched my heart and my soul.

I received the following email and a photo from Julie this morning and I would like it to be posted here: “Thank you so much for thinking of me in such a special way. You really gave me a boost I needed. I drove home in shock. I've never had someone have faith in me and say such nice things. I will keep you posted along the way and let you know when graduation will be. You are a very special person.
Thank you again,
 Thank you Julie for the kind words.  Stay in touch.  Jacquelyn


  1. I'm touched and have a tear in my eye.

  2. What a wonderful story....it brought tears to my eyes. I'm sure Julie will do you proud and pick up where you left off. I'm sure you will be greatly missed.

  3. Good morning from north central Alberta, Canada,
    I want to thank you for your many years of dedication in your nursing
    career, too often we take our nurses for granted. It breaks my heart
    now when I am in the hospital ( 6 surgeries in the past 10 years
    including a hip and both knee replacements and am now on the list for
    replacement of the other hip!) and I see a notice posted on the wall
    in the room stating that no abuse of the nurses will be tolerated.
    How could anyone carry out such an act is beyond me. I am so glad you
    explained why the cap is no longer worn and it does make sense but as
    a 76 year old gramma, I just loved the crisp look of all those uniforms.
    I'm sure you will enjoy your retirement especially with all your
    grandchildren to love, thank you again, Sue.

  4. Oh Jacquelyn, what a beautiful way to "pay it forward"! Your cap will be a talisman of success for Julie for the rest of her life! Bravo!


  5. You couldn't have picked a more deserving person to pass the "cap" on to. Julie will make you very proud. She is both capable and compassionate. Our friendship thru nursing school has certainly sustained me. We so look forward to the day we are able to put RN behind our names. Here's hoping your retirement offers you many more wonderful experiences.

    Sincerely, Joy

  6. Made me cry special lady. I hope moving forward is as special for you as the giving, caring and dedication of your yesterdays has been. I believe it will be because that is the person you are and you will be doing all those things in a different way but still continuing to share yourself. I feel very priviledged that I can be a part of that as your friend.

    Love you, Lindsey

  7. A few weeks has provided me to reflect a powerful legacy in our family~ a legacy of 3 generations of nurses~ Dad’s mother, Edna Grace; his sister Katherine; and our sister /daughter Jacquelyn DuVall.

    You may not know but Jacquelyn has completed 37 years of service as a nurse. October marked a epic event in her life and in a very private ceremony of two, Jacquelyn passed her nursing cap on to a newly graduating nurse. (see remarks below and photo of the cap)
    If I were to paint a picture of the essence of a nurse~it would be just two people: a nurse administrating to a patient in the dark hours just as dawn is surfacing; no grandstanding, no headlines on national news nor great speeches to mark the quiet service rendered in such hours. Nothing but the comfort of dawn providing warmth, so it is that our sister has been the warming dawn to virtually thousands. And it wasn’t a surprise to me that she chose to close her career in much the same matter, in a quiet setting with her giving of herself to a new generation of nurses.

    Thank you Jacquelyn for your service, comfort, expertise, compassion and shared gifts that you’ve so willingly given so freely unto the least of these…His children.
    I’m so very proud of you and love you always, Ande

  8. Let me see if I got this right -- Jackie gave her old dirty used nurse's hat to some newbie nurse? Wouldn't the girl want her own new one?

    Hey Sis.Congrats on a fulfilling vocation. I may not be as eloquent as Ande but I am as proud of you as possible for your life-time commitment, TLC and live-giving knowledge as a nurse.
    We all salute you! Old hat and all. Congratulations,
    Stewart ...and Pat (who says you'll all understand my attempt at humor)

  9. Thank you for letting me know. Jacquelyn was a ministering angel to Bonnie & me during the last months of Bonnie's life. She was by my side when I had to decide on Bonnie's final medical care. She held me in her arms as I wept for my sweet wife after her last surgery and we knew Bonnie would shortly pass from this life.

    May the Lord bless her for the service and compassion she gave to me & my children during & after that most difficult time.

    Thank you my sweet sister Jacquelyn -

    Love - John

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I became an LPN in 2000 at 31. I've been working in the profession for over 12 years. Now at 44, I will be be receiving my ADN (pinning is this Friday. Yeah!) and will begin my career as a practicing RN. It is my goal, before I leave the profession, to advance my degree as well. Your story is an inspiration, and I appreciate you for sharing it. Thank you.

  11. I just received notice of this post to my blog, I don't know who the writer was, and for some reason I am unable to add this comment to my post, so I am doing it this way: Thank you

    Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Thoughts of a retiring RN":

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I became an LPN in 2000 at 31. I've been working in the profession for over 12 years. Now at 44, I will be be receiving my ADN (pinning is this Friday. Yeah!) and will begin my career as a practicing RN. It is my goal, before I leave the profession, to advance my degree as well. Your story is an inspiration, and I appreciate you for sharing it. Thank you.