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Meet Mary Jane: A Nurse’s Story of 43 Years

Iora Primary Care is celebrating Older Americans Month with senior Stories of Strength. We are sharing these stories from our patients to offer hope, share their wisdom, and connect one another virtually.

Follow #StoriesofStrength on Facebook and Instagram to see all of the featured senior stories.

We are closing out National Nurses Week with nurse stories from Iora’s very own, Mary Jane, RN—a team nurse from our Avery Heights, Hartford, Connecticut office. Happy Nurses Week, Mary Jane, and all of our other wonderful nurses—we couldn’t do it without you!

Here’s Mary Jane’s story:

“Last month I turned 70. This month I will have been an RN for 43 years. With lots of plans and some sadness, I am retiring. 

When I graduated from high school in 1968, there were fewer career choices for women than today, but that wasn’t why I became a nurse. From the time I was a little kid that was what I wanted to do. My dad didn’t like the idea and tried to dissuade me, pointing out all the bodily fluids I would surely encounter. His admonitions worked at least temporarily. By the time I was 24, however, I had discarded being a waitress, medical secretary, legal secretary, and office manager. I told my dad I was tough. I was going to be a nurse. 

In nursing school, I loved learning how the body functions and I was excited to teach that to my patients. It has always baffled me that as children in school we are taught so little about this body we ask so much of and ideally remain in for a very long time. 

Yes,  I love to teach but, for me, the real magic in nursing is about relationships. It’s when I can sit with a patient because I have the time to do that, they know I am listening, and they feel heard. 

It happens when I can solve a problem like advocating for needed equipment or services. When the patient feels that their time with me was well spent, my work is a joy. 

It’s knowing they trust me enough to be ready to make a positive change.

It’s laughing together or holding their hand when there’s nothing to say. 

This will be my second attempt at retirement. At 65, I retired from many years in Hospice and before that, in Emergency nursing. I lasted 15 months before deciding I wasn’t finished being a nurse. 

For years I had been curious about primary care but the reports weren’t good. I didn’t want the frantic pace of Emergency again or a new patient every 15 minutes in an office. 

I wanted to work with people who recognized the value of relationships and that it takes time to make a difference. This time I wanted the elusive work/life balance. 

With a lot of luck and some persistence, I became a nurse at Iora Primary Care and a three-month temporary position turned into three and a half years. This would be my last job and I quickly realized I’d saved the best for last. I found this group of creative, caring, passionate, talented, and fun people who “walk the talk”, who are committed to improving care not only for patients but also for us as caregivers. 

I’m writing this on National Nurses Day. This pandemic has awakened the world to the daily sacrifices that medical professionals make to keep us safe. People banging pots and pans, cheering from their windows and placing handmade hearts in front yards in appreciation, regularly moves me to tears. 

Myself, my family, and my friends hope nurses will be there for all of us when we need them. That will only happen if the critical nursing shortage is addressed. People smarter than me have creative ideas to attract and retain nurses. There needs to be money and legislation to support that. 

When I’m asked what matters to me from people who want my vote, this is high on my list. I hope one outcome of this challenging time is that it lands on a lot of lists. 

Mary Jane is seen riding her electric bike

In the meantime, with physical distancing in mind, I’m going to do whatever it takes to put off needing that nurse. I will treasure this retirement, ride my new electric bike, walk with my husband, and look forward to the time when we can safely gather again.”

– Mary Jane

To read more inspiring senior stories, visit our Stories of Strength.

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