‘We’ve Come a Long Way from Florence’

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Much has changed in the professional practice of nursing in the 43 years since Lynn Sanders joined the University of Chicago Medicine. But one thing has remained the same: how she feels about her patients.

“That relationship with your patient was there when I came, and it’s the same,” she said.

Sanders, RN, was honored at the Tenured Nurses Breakfast during National Nurses Week in May as the longest serving nurse at UCM.

“But that relationship is recognized more now and has more of an importance,” she added.  “It’s being acknowledged that nurses make a difference in their patient’s outcome by impacting their environment and how they feel as they’re facing difficult times. The doctors value our opinion.”

After her first two years as a floor nurse, Sanders career path changed after watching a patient receive a kidney transplant. That sparked her interest to be a surgical nurse….something she’s been doing ever since.

“I talked to the nurse in the room and got excited about being a part of a team,” she said. “So that really made me want to move to the OR.”

Initially, Sanders thought she would miss interacting with patients the way nurses do on the floors, spending several days caring for them and building connections.

“When I look back, what has kept me here all these years is that I find it exciting to come to work and know that I’m going to make a difference in somebody’s life,” she said. “And, that person may not know how much, but I know what I did. I know I made a positive difference in their life.”

“What I found up here (in the OR), is that when you’re having surgery and I introduce myself to you, there’s this bond that happens instantly,” she said, noting that 90% of the time patients grab her hand as they’re being put out. “It makes me feel good that I know there’s a trust there.”

One of the major differences Sanders has noticed over the years is the growing roles nurses play in patient care.

“There’s no limit to what we’ll be able to do, given the way nursing is evolving and allowing us to have more education and have a more hands-on involvement with our patient’s care,” she said.

The opportunities for research in nursing have grown dramatically since her nursing school classes at South Suburban Jr. College and Purdue University.

“Nursing has expanded to such great levels….we’ve come a long way from Florence (Nightingale),” she said, adding she is working on her CNOR certification, a designation for perioperative nurses.

Technology is the other major area that has undergone the most significant change.

Among her specialties at one point was working on vascular surgeries, in particular abdominal aortic aneurysms.

“In my day, we opened up everybody to do everything,” she said. “Then, laparoscopic surgery came along and changed the way we treat our patients. It made it better for them because you don’t have those large incisions and you don’t stay in the hospital for seven or eight days.”

Technology, said the current circulating OR nurse in the DCAM, “is another reason that keeps me going. Every day I come here, it’s a change, and it’s a challenge that I’m up for.”

When she got out of school, she believed that she would eventually get bored and perhaps move onto something else.

“When I look back, what has kept me here all these years is that I find it exciting to come to work and know that I’m going to make a difference in somebody’s life,” she said. “And, that person may not know how much, but I know what I did. I know I made a positive difference in their life.”

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