My first rotation as an intern at Grady Hospital was on the Orthopedics team. We would manage all the patients with broken bones, no matter what the age. And so it happened that our team went to the pediatrics floor on a daily basis. It was there that I met “Nurse Kay”, as her young patients called her, a very attractive young nurse, with a contagious smile. She was just completing her nurse training when we met. It was not long before I gathered my courage to ask her out.
The pediatrics ward became a favorite place for me to visit during that time so that I may catch a glimpse of Nurse Kay Bohanan. Nurse Kay would celebrate birthdays with the children unlucky enough to be hospitalized on their special day. She brought in special glasses for all of them to watch a 3D movie on television, a passing fad in television history. All the children loved her, and in time, so did I.
We were married in my fourth year of residency; we both worked very hard during those early years to be able to afford to buy a house. After she got her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree she worked at Emory, first on a regular floor, then in an Intensive Care Unit. She became lifelong friends with many of those she worked alongside. It was easy to recognize that any acquaintance might well become a lifelong friend to Kay.
In the early years of our marriage, she went back to school to get a Master’s Degree in Nursing. She put her career on hold when our children grew a bit older, to be a more devoted mother and wife, and during that time was very active in the elementary school, including being president of the PTA. When the kids got older, she went back to nursing, now as the Director Of Critical Care, and later she returned to Grady as a Vice President of Critical Care Services. Her passion for nursing led her to enroll in a Doctorate program at Massachusetts General in Boston. She obtained a Doctorate Of Nursing Practice after an arduous three years of evening & weekend studies, and frequent flights to Boston. She has since served as a Chief Nursing Officer of an Atlanta hospital.
Throughout her career, she has always portrayed leadership by example. She and two like-minded colleagues have recently developed a new model for nursing leadership. The current Coronavirus pandemic has brought with it unprecedented challenges for our nation, for health care, and for all nurse leaders. Nurse Kay and her team are currently providing online resources for nurse leaders across the country to help maintain the health, well-being, and resilience of their staff.
Thank you for reading my tribute to nurses in general, highlighting some of the nurses in my life that have empowered my career. Nurse Kay is for me the ultimate nurse, one who puts the needs of others before her own, but she has also learned the importance of self-care so she can be there for those she serves. She has also been my personal nurse this past year during my own recovery from major surgery, and had I not already fallen in love with her 35 years ago, I certainly would have now.