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You may recognize the name Aimee Copeland. She is the young lady who was involved in a zip-lining accident in 2012 that changed her life forever. The 25-year-old was infected with a flesh-eating bacteria when she fell in a Georgia river and ended up a quadruple amputee. I had the privilege of hearing Aimee's powerful presentation at a conference I attended. Aimee told the group of nurses, “It was the little things the nurses did that made such a big difference.”
Aimee talked about nurses who went above and beyond. The best were those who demonstrated work was not a job but a calling. It was the nurse who saw her as a daughter, a future mother, a lover—the person she wants to be. She told the nurses in the room, “You need to know when you are caring for me, you are my best friend.” Aimee affectionately recalled the nurse who washed and blew dry her hair; the nurse who took time to braid her hair; and the nurse who put ribbons in her hair. She talked about the nurse who rigged a CamelBak, tying it to an intravenous pole so that Aimee could drink water without help. All of these little things made her feel more normal. She highlighted the nurses who saw her as a whole person and gave her options such as the right to choose to no longer take the narcotics that made her feel foggy.
Aimee said humor was huge in her recovery. The nurses who had the greatest impact were those who were positive and used humor. Aimee reminded us, “We can tell how you are feeling. We can tell when you don't want to be there.” Aimee added, “Your words can be powerful.” One nurse told her, “You are not your body.” Aimee still reminds herself of that today and believes it is not what she lost; it is about what you have gained along the way.
Aimee has completed two master's degrees and is now a licensed clinical social worker. She is working as a psychotherapist at Heartwork Counseling Center in Atlanta's Inman Park neighborhood. She has a goal of opening a handicap-accessible nature park where those with disabilities can be one with nature doing things such as hiking and kayaking. I have no doubt that she will achieve her goals!
Listening to Aimee made me proud to be a nurse. Aimee reminds us—It's the little things that make a big difference. As nurse leaders, we must recognize and reward the “little things” that nurses do. As educators, teach the importance of the “little things” that differentiate nurses from other professionals. As seasoned nurses orienting new nurses proudly demonstrate the human aspect of nursing, the part of nursing that made a difference for Aimee.
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