Touch: The Journal of Healing


This cinquain was written for my colleague, friend, and mentor, Jo Ann Allen, R.N., whom I have known her entire career.  It was presented to her during her going away luncheon in the staff lounge of the Emergency Department at the hospital where we worked together.  After twenty-two years of dedication to the hospital,

Jo Ann’s position as Nurse Manager was eliminated.

Jo Ann epitomizes the voice of Touch: The Journal of Healing through her kind and giving heart, her generosity of spirit, and her dedication to the comfort and care of patients.  She is one of the strongest advocates for patients’ rights I have ever known and has always treated people with dignity, respect, and generosity, even those who would do her harm.  Jo Ann is one of those leaders who never seeks the spotlight, never draws attention to herself, rather, she radiates a strength through her quiet presence, she just is, and was, always there.

I realized that even though we had worked together for many years, we never talked on a philosophical level or about our deepest beliefs.  In the emergency department, there just isn't that much time and when there is time to talk, it is on a superficial level.  I recently had the opportunity to talk at length with Jo Ann about her philosophy of life and how it is reflected in her nursing career.

The following is a synopsis of her thoughts during that conversation:

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse, even though I didn't understand what that entailed.  During high school, I didn't think about it at all.  I was focused on my boyfriend, then I got married and we started a family.  For the next ten years or so my family and raising my children were my focus, but then I began to think about what I wanted to do in life and my memories of nursing returned.  So at the age of 31, I talked with my husband about a career in nursing and he encouraged me to return to college to get my degree.  My career began in medical-surgical nursing and then moved to the emergency department after one year, where it remained until just a few months ago.

I entered nursing because I wanted to care for people, to teach and touch them even as they leave this earth, but I have come to realize that we learn much more from patients than we can ever teach them.  I have learned patience and reverence, and that there is a dignity in life and in dying.  I have learned that because of the memories people carry, whether they are rich or

poor, and whether those memories are good or bad, people are the better for them, and that something better is coming.

Since leaving the hospital, I work in home healthcare.  Many of my patients are elderly, some in their 90's, and many of them are lonely.  They want to talk about their lives and about their children.  More of my work is in ministering to them psychosocially than medically.  They are happy to have someone come to visit with them, and because I bring newness, new information, and a new perspective to their world, I am able to enrich their lives, but it is also a two way street.  They enrich and uplift me as much or more than I am able to enrich or uplift them.

Nursing is a calling not just a career.  In nursing there is a respect given to patients and their families as well as all members of the health care community regardless of their field of practice and whether or not it is reciprocated.  It is the nursing profession that holds the healthcare system together, really holds it all together.  There is no other discipline that remains with a patient around the clock, and there is no other discipline that is responsible for a patient during the entire course of their stay within the system.

Nurses must stand up for themselves and for each other.  We must do better in communicating our knowledge to patients and to the public.  Nursing is about communicating, and if we don't share what knowledge we have, we will lose the respect we have remaining.

We should never be afraid to show our humanity to patients and families.  I have cried with patients when they've received devastating news, and I have cried with family members when they have lost a loved one.  It is in showing our humanity that we communicate at our deepest level.  We must emulate how nurses should live the profession of nursing, really live it.  Nursing is a way of being, not of acting.

During our conversation I realized how close our philosophies of life and nursing are.

As I wrote in "Touch: The Story," I believe nursing is a vocation, a calling, and a way of life, Jo Ann just used different words.  This is why I have come to admire and respect her and all she is, and why I find her to be a kindred spirit.

And so, I dedicate the debut issue of this journal to Jo Ann Allen, R.N., my colleague, friend, and mentor.

O.P.W. Fredericks, Editor




    the minds that burn,

    the hearts who bid retreat,

    the souls unsettled searching blind;

    touch nurse.

O.P.W. Fredericks


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Touch: The Journal of Healing

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