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AHHD Newsletter Story Graphics (7).png wishes to #honoranurse: Lessons Learned in Nine Decades of Nursing

In this installment of Honor a Nurse, we honor not one, but three registered nurses who all hail from the same family. By Guest Contributor Laura Herman, Dementia and Eldercare Professional.

The Gramcko family has learned a lot over the last few decades about nursing, about taking care of others, and about taking care of themselves in the process. I sat down to listen as they shared their stories and wisdom.


Featuring three RNs, the Gramcko family has a combined ninety-four years of nursing experience. Shortly after Jackie Gramcko (then Jackie Beam) graduated from nursing school in 1971 she worked in the hospital’s very first intensive care unit (ICU).  “The ICU’s computer was the size of an entire room,” she recalls. “The equipment was very different then. We only had a few monitors, and we had to share them with the cardiac care unit. It wasn’t like today, where every bed has its own monitors.” 


Jackie spent her career in the hospital, and though she occasionally spent time in other departments, she always came home to critical care nursing. “The work could be tense, but I enjoyed having to use my brain. I was always learning new skills and techniques. Even the doctors treated us with respect in the ICU. They knew that we knew our stuff, and that felt good.”


It was at work that Jackie met and fell in love with Mark Gramcko. Mark was one of the few male nurses around when he graduated from nursing school in 1979. Mark had been recruited into a role as an orderly at a nursing home and found the job to be surprisingly satisfying. “It was easy,” Mark recalls. “It was pleasant. I enjoyed the teamwork and cooperation. I loved getting paid just for being nice to people.” 


Mark also enjoyed pursuing the opportunities for advancement that seemed to be around every corner in the nursing world, and eventually he had completed his education as a registered nurse. 


Because male nurses were so few and far between, many of Mark’s patients assumed he was on his way to becoming a doctor. And it wasn’t only his patients. In 1985, their daughter Casey told her kindergarten class that her dad was a nurse. “Boys aren’t nurses,” the teacher corrected her gently. “Boys are doctors. Your dad’s a doctor.”


Twenty years later, in 2005, Casey Souza joined her parents among the ranks of registered nurses, celebrating her own graduation from nursing school. 


All three Gramcko nurses spent their careers in hospitals, primarily in critical care settings, where patients’ severe health needs require intensive attention, specialized equipment, and highly skilled care. All enjoyed the mentally stimulating work, the opportunities for continuous growth and learning, and the fact that every day held something new – it never grew monotonous. However, more than that, each of the Gramckos agree that the best part of nursing was the other nurses. 


“Nurses are just really special people,” Jackie reflects. “They all seem to understand the importance of teamwork. They’re full of encouragement and good spirits.”


Casey agrees. “They tend to be honest, kind, trustworthy…just generally good people. I don’t think you find that in any random sample of society.”


However, some of these very characteristics can actually predispose nurses to a higher risk of burnout when they push themselves beyond their capacity in order to meet the sometimes impossibly high demands of the job. 


“Nurses are givers,” Jackie explains. “They’ll pick up shifts even when they’re too exhausted because they know their patients and co-workers will be in trouble if they don’t. The hospital just runs short-staffed if no one’s there.”


“That was disappointing for me to learn,” Mark frowns. “Humanity is out of hospital care. Now they’re run by bean counters as a money-making operation. When I first started, the hospital management would take care of its staff. If you needed healthcare the hospital would provide it.” 


“It feels more adversarial now,” Jackie agrees. “There are nursing unions and demands and negotiations…It would be hard to start now in this environment.”


“It makes caring for yourself all the more important now,” Mark points out and the women voice their agreement emphatically. 


“I struggled with taking care of myself,” Jackie admits. “I would put everyone else’s needs first—my family, my patients, my coworkers—there wasn’t much left over for myself. I think my generation was very influenced by our parents’ expectations. Women were supposed to take care of everyone around them without advocating for themselves or complaining. But you can’t be the strength of the family if you feel broken.”


“That makes sense,” nods Mark. “I didn’t really find it that hard to take care of myself first. Like how a fireman can’t go rushing into a burning building. He won’t be able to help anyone if he gets hurt. I recognized that being ‘selfish’ was not only okay—it was necessary.”


“Above all else,” Casey adds, “you have to protect your body. Use your ergonomics, use your equipment, and don’t put yourself at risk for injuries. It’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re constantly hurting.”


Mark agrees. “I’ve known many, many people who have had life-changing injuries. I made sure to insist on doing things safely every time. I wouldn’t let patients grab my neck to stand up. I would insist on having the proper number of people, and the right equipment. If I couldn’t do something safely I didn’t do it until I could.” 


“Absolutely!” emphasizes Jackie. “New nurses are often young and vibrant and think they can’t be damaged. They don’t realize how easy it is to be seriously and permanently injured.”


“The other thing I’d advise people considering a career in nursing is to find a position with good job satisfaction,” Casey notes. “You won’t last long if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. But there are a million types of nursing jobs out there. Get some exposure and experience in the field so you know what you’re getting into.”


Her parents concur. “My experience as an orderly put me lightyears ahead of the other nursing students in my class,” recalls Mark. 


“I wish I had had hospital experience prior to nursing school,” Jackie remarks. “Starting out as a nurse’s aide is a great idea.”


“When I was in nursing school,” Casey recollects, “they said the average time for nurses to burn out was five years… now it’s closer to two years. I appreciate how much potential for satisfaction my job offers. I get to connect with others, enjoy meaningful work and relationships, increase my knowledge, and master new skills….” Thoughtfully, she continues, “I think it’s important to find meaningful connections and grounding interactions at work – but also outside of work. You need time off to find ways to live the life you want. A life that will fulfill and recharge you.”

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

As the daughter of two registered nurses (who happen to be featured in this story), Laura Herman has lived around nurses her whole life. Rather than follow her family footsteps directly into nursing, Laura has worked “nurse adjacent” throughout her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant and dementia care coordinator. Now a dementia care writer and coach, Laura loves helping family caregivers understand their loved ones’ behavior and helping care partners feel and function at their best. Learn about her dementia support services and more read about Appreciating Behavioral Communication in her blog, ABC Dementia

Michelle Allen (3).png wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Melissa Sherman, BSN, RN, CSN-NJ, an End of Life Doula and consultant, and Certified Life Coach. She can be found at and

Melissa wanted to be a nurse from as far back as she can remember and always dreamed of helping others by easing their pain or grief. Throughout her nursing career, she says she has had the opportunity, privilege, and honor of providing nursing care to others when they were often most vulnerable. For her, the level of mutual trust and respect between a nurse and patient at the end of life creates a most special and beautiful human connection.

After twenty years as an RN, Melissa recently combined her nursing experience with Certified Life Coach and End-of-Life Doula training to create a new way for her to provide care.

At this stage of her nursing career, she says she is most passionate about mentoring. Her goal is to contribute by volunteering as an ANA and Sigma Theta Tau Mentor: "I feel helping Mentees learn, grow, transition, and ultimately succeed is quite possibly the most incredible, worthwhile investment that can be made for the future of our beloved nursing profession."

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

Jean Watson (1).png wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Jean Watson, Founder, Director of the Watson Caring Science Institute.

Jean Watson is a Distinguished Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita of the University of Colorado Denver, College of Nursing, where she held the Endowed Chair in Caring Science at the University of Colorado, Denver and Health Sciences Center. She is the founder of the original Center for Human Caring in Colorado and an American Academy of Nursing Fellow.


Dr. Watson was inducted as a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing, its highest honor. Watson also is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the National Fetzer Institute Norman Cousins Award, an International Kellogg Fellowship in Australia, a Fulbright Research and Lecture Award in Sweden, and six international honorary doctorate degrees.


Watson is the author of more than 100 publications in Caring Science and of more than 30 books on the Science of Human Caring™, including the classic: Nursing. The Philosophy and Science of Caring which identifies the 10 core “Caritas Processes®’, universals of human caring, necessary for studying and implementing a model of Caring Science in practice. This work restores the deep-spiritual dimensions of Love with caring-healing as the foundation for preparing a new level of practitioners in Caring Science/Caring HealthCare.


For further info/press inquiries contact Julie Watson:

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

Michelle Allen (1).png wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Michelle Allen, RN

Michelle has been practicing nursing for over 10 years. Her dedication to coordinate and deliver the highest quality medical care to her patients is evident in everything she does. Her willingness to go beyond simply providing a medical solution is seen in the caring relationships she develops with her patients.


Her experience in nursing spans a range of disciplines and settings. As a graduate, Michelle entered the field of home health nursing, which quickly opened the world of travel nursing. Her career as a travel nurse has taken her to leading teaching institutions, such as the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and highly ranked adult specialty hospitals, such as Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida. She has also worked in regional referral facilities, such as the Cape Cod Hospital in Massachusetts and Forbes top-rated Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.


During the COVID pandemic, Michelle took a position as Resource Coordinator on the COVID unit at Yuma Regional Medical Center, located in Arizona near the Mexican border. During that time, she created new policies, implemented new procedures, and shared her knowledge with her nursing staff.


As a student, Michelle attended Lawrence Memorial Regis College of Nursing in Massachusetts, which in lieu of traditional paper books, used Skyscape Mobile Medical Resources. Ten years later Michelle still relies on these resources for the trusted information she needs to make critical decisions at the point-of-care.


“Quickly finding the answers I need allows me to spend more valuable time with my patients rather than searching for the answers. These tools allow me to stay flexible and knowledgeable. Skyscape has improved my ability to provide quality care.”


Currently Michelle’s nursing journey has her returning to the desert southwest where she will continue to work with the community at the Yuma Regional Medical Center.

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

Jean Paul Karangwa.png wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Jean Paul Karangwa, President/Founder/RN. Here's his amazing journey from war-torn Africa to business owner success in Boston, Massachusetts. 

In 1999, I moved to the US from Africa as a refugee. My passion to become a nurse came from a life-long journey through war-torn nations where I saw many unattended patients. I worked with the Red Cross in refugee camps doing our best to help those in need.


When I arrived in the US I held various jobs. I started out in housekeeping, which eventually led me to nursing homes. Once I got there, I became a nursing assistant and eventually a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Then I became a registered nurse (RN). From there, I pursued starting my own home healthcare agency, Caring Bees Healthcare—now going nine years strong!

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

andrea.jpeg wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurseAndrea Sonenberg, PhD, WHNP, CNM-BC, a nurse educator, health services researcher, and health equity advocate.


We salute our real-life heroes.

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

image0.png wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Sam Pehling is a compassionate young nurse now caring for COVID-19 patients. You could not ask for better.

Sam is patient, caring, attentive, above and beyond in the service to his patients at Stony Brook University hospital in New York.


Thank you, Sam, for being on the front-lines!

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

IMG_1005.JPG wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Nursing was Alice Peterson's second career, which she started at 49. She's been at Piedmont Fayette for 12 years, caring for people passionately. She also cared for her husband who recently passed away from ALS. Now she is gearing up to relieve the ICU nurses as they try to cope with the pandemic.


Thank you, Alice, for being on the front-lines!

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

Photo_edited.jpg wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Victoria Carr, who works in Maryland. She loves to travel to Belize to see her family and take care of her horse stable. She loves horses.


Thank you, Victoria, for all the lives you touch!

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

#HonorANurse at Accredited Home Healthcare Directory photo of Christy Wolf

BrightStar Care in Lafayette, CA wishes to #honoranurse:

Our Director of Nursing, Christy Wolf, RN, continuously goes above and beyond to make sure our clients and patients at BrightStar Care in Lafayette, CA (covering Alameda and Contra Costa counties CA) get the caregiving and nursing care that’s appropriate and necessary for their wellbeing. Thank you for all you do, Christy!

Jean Watson_edited.jpg wishes to #honoranurse:

We #honoranurse: Jean Watson, Founder/Director Watson Caring Science Institute, an international non-profit organization created to advance the philosophies, theories and practices of Human Caring. Thank you for all you do!

#honoranurse #accreditationmatters #elderlycare #careformom #carefordad #homecare #homehealthcare #findhomehealthcare

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