by Jason P. Smith
LeAnn Thieman, one of the authors of "Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul," recently visited with nurses at North Suburban Medical Center. Giving inspirational presentations and sharing stories from her 34 years of nursing, Thieman helped to encourage, uplift and honor caregivers for their daily contributions and sacrifices. Many came to see Thieman speak, and after her presentations, she signed countless Chicken Soup books and gave numerous hugs.
Taking on issues such as the nursing shortage and the different stresses that go along with working in the health care industry, Thieman got nods of approval, laughter and tears as she made her points about health care.
She was brought in to speak at the hospital to help recognize the contributions those who work in health care make every day. "If more hospitals did what North Suburban does – honor and nurture their nurses and employees – we as nurses wouldn’t quit and look into other professions," Thieman said. "We wouldn’t want to quit."
Throughout her presentation, Thieman addressed the many stresses and difficulties of working as a nurse.
"You need strength – mentally, spiritually and physically to do this work," she said. "But nurses are too busy taking care of other people to take care of themselves. I can’t imagine saying to a patient: ‘I’m only going to let you eat something from a vending machine around 2 p.m.,’ but that’s what we do to ourselves all the time."
Stressing the importance of being well on all fronts, including spiritual, physical and mental health, Thieman said nurses and health care professionals would be much better off if they took the time to care for themselves as well as they do their patients.
"This is not a group that needs more mental stimulation," she said. "It’s a group that needs more time for mental relaxation."
Thieman told several stories during her presentations including her time in Vietnam. In 1975 she was given the opportunity to fly to Vietnam and bring back orphans to the U.S.
The trip started as a way to bring back just six orphans, but at about the same time she arrived in Vietnam, President Ford approved "Operation Baby Lift." As a part of that operation, Thieman helped take out 300 baby orphans.
"Nothing I had seen or done had prepared me for what I was about to witness and be a part of," she said of her experience in Vietnam. In the end, Thieman helped rescue orphans that might not have made it, and adopted one of the children herself.
"You might not be asked to rescue babies from a Third World country during a war, but God knows you rescue people every day," Thieman said to the health care providers in the audience. "Some things have changed, but not the heart of nurses. There’s not enough money to pay us for what we do – what an honor it is to work in health care. There’s no denying it, nurses and all health care workers are angels of mercy – you are the heroes."