When my first-grade teacher, Ms. Whiteside, had us write about what we wanted to do when we grew up, I did so without hesitation. We read our papers aloud and most of the kids decided they were going to be “famous.” I proudly told everyone that I was “going to be a nurse.”
My mom has been a Hematology & Oncology nurse at Scottish Rite for more than 35 years. Inspired by her willingness to help children who were fighting to overcome unimaginable odds, I followed her example.
In nursing school, there were many times when I wondered if I could do it. But upon my graduation, my mother presented me with the paper she’d saved from Ms. Whiteside’s class, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude—and affirmation.
As a Hematology & Oncology Nurse at Aflac Cancer Center, I’m inspired by the children and my colleagues every day. In between labs and planning, we have the privilege of connecting with these brave children, who, even in their youth, have already figured out what’s important in life. I’m constantly amazed at the ways they support one another and the strength of their families.
Following eight years in the field, the talent among my coworkers has had a profound effect on my life. I’ve learned that to be a good nurse, you need genuine compassion, courage to do the right thing, a strong work ethic, acceptance that you’re never going to know it all, and most of all, a sense of humor. These traits can transcend the robotic academia and help you and those you care for get through dark, seemingly impossible times.
I still carry my notes from nursing school as a reminder of how little we know when we start something new, how far we can go in an environment that helps us thrive, and how much we have to learn. I’m fortunate to have learned so much from so many inspiring people at Children’s.
Like everyone I work with, I want to make a difference for our children. Sometimes, I’ll sing to the kids (albeit not too well) or I’ll pull out a “Frozen” video on my phone to lift their spirits. I take time to really connect with our teenagers and show them I care. And while I may not have perfect pitch, as long as we keep encouraging these kids to give it their all, in their eyes, we’re all rockstars.
Written on behalf of Jackie Cirilli
Jackie Cirilli is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Laura Snitzer-Boozer award honoring nurses who’ve demonstrated professional excellence and leadership in Oncology/Hematology care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.