Why I became a nurse: The summer of ’62

Toward the end of my sophomore year in high school, my best friend asked if I would consider becoming a “candy striper” at a local hospital. At the time my plans were to become a math teacher. After much coaxing on her part and for lack of anything better to do that summer, I finally agreed.

I remember those first days of being in the hospital as if they were yesterday. My duties were to deliver ice water to patients’ rooms, feed and transport patients and assist the nurses with errands.

I was immediately awestruck and captivated with what I saw within the walls of the hospital. I found a place where there was challenge, endless learning opportunities and a sense of camaraderie. I loved meeting new people every day. For the first time in my life I knew what it meant to feel needed and was heart-warmed by how appreciative patients could be.

The nurses I worked with served as role models. They nurtured and taught me, and I was like a little sponge absorbing everything I could. That summer, I could hardly stay away from the hospital and knew, without question nursing would always be my passion.

At the beginning of my junior year I was asked to become a nurse’s aide at $1 per hour! I was thrilled with this honor. I was trained and acquired more responsibilities in direct, hands-on patient care, which I relished.

Throughout my junior and sophomore years I worked every weekend, and any time off from school was at the hospital, saving every dime for nursing school. My goal was to attend Douglas College — the most prestigious school in New Jersey at the time — to obtain my BSN.

There was just one problem, and that was a major one. My father blatantly refused to support me in any way to become a nurse. Obtaining a BSN was no longer a tangible goal. Since I would have to support myself, I had to find a way to become a nurse and to do it quickly. I applied and was accepted into a two-year diploma program in New York and fortuitously received two scholarships and acquired two part-time jobs.

My patients’ appreciation for the simplest acts of kindness still touches my heart Click To Tweet

Shortly after graduation I moved to Miami Beach and began classes toward my BSN. Unfortunately, I married a man who insisted I withdraw from school. It wasn’t until 1976, as a single parent working in the MICU/CCU at Houston Methodist Hospital, that I resumed my education. With the financial backing of our hospital and the support of my manager, I finally received my degree in 1979.

Joy Shiller started her nursing career 52 years ago as a candy striper (left) and has been with Houston Methodist for 44 years (right).

I met many obstacles in my nursing education and did it the hard way. But that was good. I sincerely believe had it not been that way I would have never appreciated my career as much as I do.

Throughout my 44 years at Houston Methodist I have been offered many opportunities to move into other positions. I have denied each one because I love bedside nursing. It’s hard to believe it has been more than half a century since my days as a candy striper. Yet, every day when I come to work I still feel challenged, have learning opportunities and a sense of camaraderie.

I still enjoy meeting new people every day and to know that I am needed. My patients’ appreciation for the simplest acts of kindness still touches my heart. I will always be grateful for that summer of ’62. My life has been incredibly blessed because of it.

Beyond bedside care: Meet a patient liaison

“I meet and greet the rich and the famous and the poor and unknown,” said Marilyn Myers-Lumpkin, a patient liaison at Houston Methodist Hospital. She reaches into a drawer filled with an array of baseball caps and stuffed animals, readying herself to deliver the gifts and make the morning rounds.

I had the pleasure of shadowing Marilyn on a rainy day, although I must admit our time spent together was anything but gloomy. Her infectious smile was a shining light in every hallway and patient doorway. As the first line of communication between patients and the hospital, liaisons have the challenge of establishing positive relationships and trust early on.

“It’s rewarding every day because we are able to display a servant’s attitude to all staff and patients,” Marilyn said. “I start with an attitude of appreciation for choosing Houston Methodist, so I go in with the mind of I’m here for you.”

Although no day is structured, she divides her time between patient visits and census alerts, and each morning begins the same way — with prayer and devotion.

As a patient liasion at Houston Methodist, Marilyn works with patients to make sure their care is personalized.

Marilyn says the foundation of her 31-year career at Houston Methodist is prayer, submission and humility. Through the years she has witnessed the many transformations of the hospital through personnel changes, facility renovations and expansions.

Her career began in 1983 when she started as a secretary. From there, Marilyn was promoted to executive assistant, where she remained until 2004 when she assumed the role of patient liaison.

Much like the White House symbolizes leadership; our liaisons strive to be leaders for both patients and health care providers.

She reflects joyfully upon a memorable patient, an elderly woman who remained jovial despite illness.

“She reminded me to rejoice in all things,” Marilyn said. “It could easily be me or one of my loved ones in the hospital.”

I meet and greet the rich and the famous and the poor and unknown Click To Tweet

When dealing with those who are  terminally ill, Marilyn acknowledges that it’s more important to focus on what can be done for them in that moment to alleviate any anxieties, rather than focusing on the illness.

For the patients, having a liaison is just another element of personalized care. Along with their team of nurses and physicians, a patient liaison is another person who has an empathetic and genuine ear to hear their concerns.

Lending a helping hand isn’t just a day job for Marilyn, but a way of life as she delivers care packages to the homeless and is active in community outreach through her church.

I do believe in giving myself, whether it’s at work or to people on the street. My integrity is who I am. The loyalty to this institution is my integrity. Simply because of who I am, I can make a difference in someone’s life.

As her motto goes, she just shows up for the unknown.

Patient liaisons act as patient advocates. They are the liaisons between Houston Methodist administration and patients, physicians and other hospital personnel to ensure a satisfying hospital experience for patients from admission through discharge. The liaisons enable patients and their families to obtain solutions to problems by acting on their behalf. If you have a concern, need or complaint during your stay, a representative from our patient liaison program may be able to assist you.