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Nursing Centered is the new home for Sigma articles, member stories, videos, webinars, and podcast episodes. Here you'll find stories and nursing information from Sigma nurses and chapters worldwide, from their view, in their voice!

The pandemic brought me purpose
  • Inspirational
  • COVID-19
  • volunteering
  • Featured
Volunteering fuels my spirit. When the pandemic began, I had to find other ways to meet my social and emotional needs. After six months of vaccinating people, I have found my purpose again.

Since my retirement more than 20 years ago, I spend much of my free time volunteering in my community. I am an octogenarian retired school nurse, and volunteering fuels my spirit. When those opportunities were ripped away because of the pandemic, I struggled with my increasing isolation and inability to do what I’ve cherished doing all my life—helping others.

One of my friends (who also happens to be a seasoned school nurse) saw the toil the pandemic had on me and gave me daily homework as a challenge. I began journaling the pandemic data to help me meet my social and emotional needs. I dedicated my thinking to the group I knew best, retirees with questions I wanted to answer. My devotion to my New Jersey Retirees’ Education Association (NJREA) responsibilities kept me on my toes and it assured my family that I was just fine, although I did often wonder.

After months of isolation, I finally had an opportunity to volunteer with the Camden County Medical Reserve Corps. I would become a vaccinator as soon as COVID-19 vaccines were available. This was the spark of hope I needed to come alive during such a difficult time. Living alone during the pandemic, especially for seniors, has been very difficult. But I continued to write daily and sought out learning opportunities to keep my brain engaged. For example, I loved the contact tracing course through Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where I was introduced to the new language of pandemics.  

NJREA communications supported my work by posting articles that I wrote on the NJERA website for others to read. Some of my friends could see themselves in the scenarios that I wrote. My themes  ensured that the retirees were in the landscape of thriving and getting a form of “reaching out and being touched.” Responses brought lots of humor from the readers as the year seemed to go quickly. 

The 2020 holiday season left little to look forward to. There would be no family visitations, no church, reading books became hard, but the vaccines were becoming available in January 2021. And so, on 5 January 2021, I accepted a whole new challenge with new people, new procedures, and learning about CDC regulations and the COVID-19 virus. I became a vaccinator at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine! My world began to open up again; I was volunteering, contributing, learning, and finding my way back to doing what I love most—nursing the community. I started to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays because they were my volunteer days.

When I wasn’t at the clinic, I was reading and investigating what I would now be teaching others. I promoted positivity for others to get vaccinated as I taught vaccine after-care. I encouraged them to share their experiences with their friends and family to get vaccinated, too. Hesitancy was never an acceptable philosophy. I had confidence as a nurse educator that I could form a strong bond of hope and trust one patient at a time.

I have now completed six months of vaccinating people, some of whom were my friends—my former principal, a current administrator at my former school, and a secretary from my high school. Often there were a multitude of people willing to wait in line for me to give them their second shot. I used simple questions like, “Tell me what you have heard about getting the second shot,” which quickly opened the dialogue for me to address any of their concerns and build that trust.

As a nurse who loves the history of nursing, I have always wanted to be like the nurses who responded during previous pandemics, and now I have. In 30 years, what will be written about this time? Will it be written with a critical eye about how a virus brought out the best and the worst in us? The pandemic has ruined and taken so many lives, and I feel fortunate to say that for me, the pandemic brought me purpose again.


Jeanne Kiefner, MEd, RN, FNASN, NJ-CSN, is a retired school nurse from New Jersey. She has served as an instructor in two New Jersey university school nurse certification programs. She is a member of Sigma’s Delta Rho Chapter. 


Jeanne Kiefner
Make it through the night
  • North America
  • Inspirational
  • inspirational
  • critical care
I replay over and over in my head what I will do in each possible scenario to help this brave, little one make it through their first night.

I have worked in two very different areas of nursing now, but both with a surgical emphasis. And I’ve felt in both areas that caring for your first post-operative patient who just underwent surgery that day is almost like a universal “rite of passage”—a crucial moment of professional growth as a nurse. It is a moment that arrives generally after several months of experience on the unit with other patients first, and only once you and your trusted nurse mentors feel you are ready for this next challenge.

I currently work in the world of pediatric cardiac critical care. The small patients who have just gone through open-heart surgery (which is generally six or more hours long) are of the highest acuity and critical status on our unit. It can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult for caregivers to see their child hooked up to so many different machines, drains, pumps, and monitors, but it is our duty as nurses to try and ease that fear through education. Most importantly, we need to help families see that beneath all the wires and tubes and heavy sedation, their child is still there and still needs their love. 

I thought I was ready. I thought I was brave until I experienced a baby battling valiantly through the shock of open-heart surgery. That to me is one of the many forms of pure bravery.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
-Les Miserables

I arrive at your bedside. Your current nurse is exhausted. She sent you off to surgery, awaiting your return many hours later. Then there was the flurry of activity in your first few hours back in your room—stabilizing you, cleaning you up, and organizing the mass of tubes, wires, and drains protruding from your tiny body. And here I am to explain to your family that beneath all of that is their tiny baby.

I see you, caregivers. I see it in your eyes, and I hear it in your voices—the worry, the yearning to just be there, but overwhelmed by emotion and uncertainty, no matter how much you’ve prepared for this day. Try to trust us. Try to go and get some rest. Try to sleep. Try to replenish your energy. Take care of yourself, tonight especially. Your baby has been through so much today—but so have you. We realize that. Try and find some peace for tonight, and hear my promise to you, to your baby: This is not just any night, it is the FIRST night. The first night is going to be difficult, but we will not leave your baby’s side. She will not be alone, brave caregivers. You will not be alone, my brave little one. We are going to make it through the night.

It’s just you and me now, little one. I set to work, organizing, documenting, and assessing. No detail is too small to be acknowledged. Temporarily paralyzed and heavily sedated by medication, I look to the nuanced ways your tiny body communicates with me. Beneath the veil of medication, I know you are still in there. I know you can still feel pain, fear, and discomfort.

Am I hurting you? Are those little tears I see leaking out from the corners of your eyes? Why aren’t you breathing comfortably anymore? Is it because you don’t like laying on your left side? I know you don’t like it as much as your right side, but we have to try, just for a little while. How about if I move your little arm like this and your little pillow like this? Is that better? And now here comes a dose of extra medicine to ease that extra discomfort.

My goodness, you are so brave, little one.

Over the hours, I stare at the monitor screens in your room, vigilantly, as though I am engrossed in a captivating film. I watch the numbers change in real time, watching closely for even the slightest deviation from your baseline, repeating over and over in my head what I will do in each possible scenario that may arise tonight. Planning. Preparing.

Other nurses and doctors float in and out of your room. They ask about you, and they stand with me in silence watching the monitors. The solidarity of their presence strengthens me. They offer to relieve me, so even when I temporarily leave your side, you are not alone, little one. Just as I promised.

The hours tick by. I perch on the edge of the armchair in your room to give my aching feet a moment of reprieve. Not even on the chair by the desk just outside your door. What if something happens? It’s too far away, and she needs me.

I see your blood pressure drop. One point. Two points. Three points. A new baseline is established. Is this acceptable for her? Will her body tolerate this? I alert the doctor. He arrives at your bedside. We stand together, eyes shifting back and forth from the monitors to you. We pause, watching for another change, wondering if we need to intervene. Over and over we do this routine as the hours pass by. You wobble on a tenuous tightrope of physiologic stability. I see you, little one. You are fighting. Fighting through this night so valiantly. 

It's 5:00 a.m. I am exhausted. My head aches from the mental exertion I’ve engaged in all night: making sense of the numbers and the changes, why they’re happening, and what it all means for your little body. I remind myself of your heart’s original physiology, how exactly it caused you to struggle in those first few days of life, and how your heart has been repaired by skilled hands and sharp minds.

But we’re almost through the night. Morning is coming, at last. You are stabilizing. I pick at, primp, and rearrange your tubes, wires, and drains, adjusting your position in the crib. A swipe here and a swish there, like a painter touching up their masterpiece. You are my greatest masterpiece, little one.

I should sit down. Relax a bit. But I can’t. Not just yet. We’ve almost made it through the night.

And now that moment is here. The sun has risen. Your new nurse for the day has arrived. To them, you look comfortable, peaceful, and stable. There is a sense of calm and transient serenity in your room. But you and I know better, little one. We know what it took to reach the morning.

You are small, and you are mighty—the bravest little soul I ever did see. Each night you are in my care, I will marvel at the new strides of recovery and healing you have made.

But for now, in this moment, we have done enough, little one. Together, we made it through the night.

Isabelle “Izzy” St. John, BSN, RN, CCRN, is a pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s Wisconsin and is currently pursuing her DNP. She is a member of Sigma’s Eta Pi Chapter at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in Wisconsin, USA. A version of this article originally appeared on her blog,
The Wordy Nurse.

Isabelle St. John
Too young to be a nurse leader?
  • North America
  • Leadership
  • leadership
  • early career nurses
It’s never too early to think about your professional future. If you’re an early career nurse looking to step into a leadership position, here are five tips I wish I knew earlier.

Nursing is a diverse career path with many opportunities for growth. Whether you have been practicing for a few months or a few decades, it is never too early (or too late) to think about your professional future and the direction you want it to take. 

I began my career as a medical-surgical nurse after graduating with my BSN. I was quickly exposed to our healthcare's complex problems and challenges. With only a year of clinical experience, I decided to pursue an advanced position in nursing by obtaining my doctoral degree. I am determined to become an innovative practitioner adept at tackling these challenges and improving quality healthcare and patient outcomes. Unfortunately, I encountered a lot of resistance from my seasoned co-workers because of my “lack” of clinical experience. One comment I received was, “You are a great nurse and very smart, but you’re too young to get your DNP.” 

I countered that with something my mentor once said, “Never lose sight of the nursing leader you are now and the nursing leader you will become.” 

Investing in professional development during the first years of a nurse’s career sets the path of their leadership trajectory. During this decade, many seasoned nurse leaders will retire. That is why preparing early career nurses to become decision makers and leaders is essential to the future of global health. While clinical experience is important for leadership, it should not be the only factor in determining an individual’s leadership potential. Early career nurses can gain leadership skills and experiences through effective training. 

Early career nurses’ empowerment, development, and engagement is an end in itself, as well as a means to improving global health. We should not only support, but lead efforts to improve healthcare. Early career nurses are prepared to rise to the challenges of healthcare and drive change—provided they are empowered, engaged, and given the chance to lead. And remember, all nurse leaders were novice nurses at the beginning of their careers.

Are you an early career nurse looking to step into a leadership position? Here are five tips I wish I knew earlier: 

  • Ask for opportunities
    Do not be afraid to ask your nurse manager or supervisor about leadership opportunities. You can also identify areas where you can provide new insight or help. 
  • Seek out constructive criticism
    Find a colleague who can offer candid feedback about your performance.
  • Focus on your professional development
    Pursue advanced certifications relevant to your clinical practice area. Seek advancement opportunities, and prioritize continuing education and advanced learning opportunities.
  • Communicate and connect
    Take the time to get to know your co-workers. This will make you a better leader. 

Sigma is committed to empowering early career nurses.

Sigma recognizes early career nurses as essential partners in the creation of positive change. Sigma is committed offering multiple opportunities that empower early career nurses to gain leadership skills and experiences. For example, Sigma offers the Nightingale Challenge, which helps develop the next generation of young nurses as leaders, practitioners, and advocates in health; and the Nurse Leadership Academy for Practice, which provides a leadership development experience designed to prepare nurses at the forefront of clinical nursing practice to thrive in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. There are also several webinars about nursing leadership on Nursing Centered. 

If you have questions you can’t find answers to, though, send me a message on The Circle! I don’t know it all, but I’ll be glad to be in your corner as we look for answers together. 


Dania Itani Mousa, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, California, USA, and a DNP-FNP candidate at Loma Linda University. In addition to being the United Nations Youth Representative for Sigma, she is a member of Sigma’s Iota Eta Chapter at California State University and Gamma Alpha Chapter at Loma Linda University. 

Dania Itani Mousa
Find yourself, heal others
  • North America
  • Membership
  • main-2020-5-12
  • North America Region
  • Member Story
Chasing the promise of new opportunities, Alex’s nursing journey led him across the world and into a new passion.
Alex Aningalan’s passion for nursing started early, with family. He grew up in the Philippines around a family deeply involved in healthcare and nursing. Some lived and worked around him, and some made their way to the United States, finding further opportunities to advance their careers. Alex’s first introduction to nursing was through his grandmother, an operating room nurse. She tended to him through frequent asthma attacks as a child, and the memory of her compassionate care stayed with him throughout his life. 

Alex looks back fondly on his time growing up and learning about this field from family members both in the Philippines and abroad. “I would hear great stories about their careers [in the US] and how there are endless opportunities for the nursing profession,” he said. These stories planted the seeds that would lead him toward his eventual goal of coming to America as a nurse.

Alex gradGoing into his college years, he knew he wanted a future in healthcare but wasn’t sure about nursing yet. He completed his undergraduate degree in pharmacy, but on a trip to the United States in 2005 he saw firsthand what he terms as, “the vast potential of how it is to be a nurse in the United States.” Back in the Philippines, he returned to school, earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008. He emerged as class valedictorian and received a clinical competence award. His career path began as a medical-surgical nurse in his home country, but he later moved to the United States chasing a career in long-term care with an eventual promotion into wound care through a close mentor. 

Both caring for wounds and mentoring others deeply resonated with Alex. He now works as a Wound Ostomy Nurse Clinician at a community hospital in New York. “Skin and wounds are the first things that patients and family members will see; it also has an effect on a person's psychosocial being,” he said. “It gives me a sense of fulfillment seeing a wounded patient, or a patient with a new ostomy, come from being desperate and hopeless, to being discharged and feeling independent, able to perform self-care, and regaining their lost sense of self-confidence. That is very fulfilling.”

Because mentorship is part of what led him to this passion, he loves to mentor other nurses and always takes on opportunities to support new nurses like he was supported. “I feel their struggles, as I also struggled at one point. Adjusting to the life of being a nurse is hard—and we all need to nurture our new nurses,” said Alex. 

Alex outsideYears of nursing in New York inspired Alex to continue his nursing education. In 2020, he earned an MSN in Nursing Leadership and Management just as COVID-19 began shutting down the world. And in March 2021, he began his journey towards a Doctorate in Nursing for Healthcare Systems Leadership. While earning his master’s degree, Alex was encouraged to apply as a Nurse Leader for his local Sigma chapter and was inducted last year. He quickly involved himself with the Sigma community, citing his excitement to further involve himself in professional networking, volunteering, and scholarship activities. His love for the nursing community is apparent through his philosophy of investing in individual nurses and the field as a whole. “[Nurses] are the heart of healthcare. They are the first and last contact of patients and families,” said Alex. “They keep the whole system connected.”

It’s clear that the further Alex goes into his nursing career and the more accolades he achieves, the more his passion for the profession shines. He hopes to continue his current trajectory in wound care with sights on future opportunities for leadership and education. His message to other nurses and Sigma members is this: “The hardest thing is to start on a new goal or a new dream. The toughest part is to leave your comfort zone and cross the point of no return. But once you do, always aim for the best, give it your best, and do your best. Sigma is here to support you to become the best nurse you can be.”

Alex Aningalan, MSN, RN, CWON, WCC, DAPWCA, FACCWS, is Wound and Ostomy Nurse Clinician at a community hospital in New York. He is a member of Sigma's Phi Pi Chapter in North America.
Alex Aningalan

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