Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin School of Nurs­ing

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - RECOGNIZING NURSES - By Drew Carr

For Leigh Gold­stein, the jour­ney to be­com­ing a nurse be­gan many years be­fore nurs­ing school. Leigh’s story be­gins in Chinle, Ari­zona, where she grew up on an In­dian Reser­va­tion. Specif­i­cally, it was a sim­ple act of kind­ness while Leigh was very ill that put the en­tire story into mo­tion.

“When I was a lit­tle girl grow­ing up on the In­dian Reser­va­tion, I con­tracted a re­ally se­vere form of sal­monella,” said Leigh. “I was very, very ill and had to be hos­pi­tal­ized.”

Leigh was taken to a mis­sion hos­pi­tal in Ari­zona where she spent sev­eral weeks fight­ing se­vere symp­toms. She was 7 years old.

“I was throw­ing up, I was mess­ing up my bed, and I couldn’t help it,” said Leigh.

It was dur­ing this time that Leigh met some­one who would im­pact not only her stay at the hos­pi­tal, but her life and ca­reer.

“Every evening, this nurse would come in,” said Leigh. “Wear­ing the old-timey white uni­form, the starched white cap with the stripe in it.”

Since both of Leigh’s par­ents worked, she was alone at the hos­pi­tal alone most of the time, and it was this oneon-one time with her nurse that made the dif­fer­ence.

“She’d come in and play tic­tac-toe with me,” said Leigh. “It re­ally was al­most angelic. I don’t re­mem­ber her face or any­thing, but I re­mem­ber the white uni­form walk­ing to­ward me to play our evening tic­tac-toe game. It made me feel so much bet­ter.”

Leigh said this in­ter­ac­tion kept her con­nected with the world dur­ing her re­cov­ery, and even after she left the hos­pi­tal, her ad­mi­ra­tion for nurses con­tin­ued to grow.

“Later on, as I grew older, I al­ways ad­mired nurses,” said Leigh. “I’d see nurses on TV, and I had the chance to take care of my grand­mother after she had surgery my fresh­man year in high school.”

Leigh said it was this ex­pe­ri­ence with her grand­mother that re­ally ce­mented her de­sire to go to nurs­ing school. But the road through nurs­ing school wouldn’t be easy. It was a hard and of­ten lonely jour­ney; one of the most dif­fi­cult Leigh would ever face. When Leigh be­gan nurs­ing school, she was a sin­gle mom with a 7-month-old, she had no child sup­port, and was liv­ing on pub­lic as­sis­tance. For­tu­nately, Leigh would get by with her per­se­ver­ance and a lit­tle help.

“It was one of the hard­est times of my life,” said Leigh. “The only rea­son I re­ally made it through nurs­ing school was be­cause of the pro­fes­sors I had. They un­der­stood me, and they sup­ported me.”

Leigh said that in ad­di­tion to teach­ing, her pro­fes­sors al­ways lent her a help­ing hand, keep­ing her sched­ule and course­work in mind.

“If I needed an ex­tra day on some­thing, or if I needed ex­tra help on some­thing, they were there,” said Leigh. “They re­ally wanted to pro­duce a great nurse, but they un­der­stood about my life out­side of nurs­ing school.” Now, as an As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor in Clin­i­cal Nurs­ing and the Di­rec­tor of Learn­ing En­hance­ment and Aca­demic Progress Cen­ter (LEAP) at The Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin School of Nurs­ing, Leigh im­ple­ments the same un­der­stand­ing, kind­ness and sup­port with her own stu­dents to­day. “Every stu­dent comes with

some­thing,” said Leigh. “They come with bag­gage. And if we aren’t will­ing to take part of that stu­dent’s ex­pe­ri­ence and make it work for them, so they can be­come that great nurse, then we’re re­ally short­chang­ing our coun­try.” As for be­ing nom­i­nated for Rec­og­niz­ing Nurses, Leigh said she’s hon­ored.

“I’m im­mensely flat­tered,” said Leigh. “It’s a very hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, and it re­ally helps ce­ment the fact that I’m do­ing what I’m meant to do.”

Name: Leigh Gold­stein Home­town: Chinle, AZ Fa­vorite color scrubs: Navy Blue Break­fast tacos or

bar­be­cue: Break­fast tacos Cof­fee or tea: Tea AM or PM shifts: AM Pico, queso or gua­camole: Queso Bar­ton Springs or Lake Travis: Bar­ton Springs Fa­vorite med­i­cal drama: Call The Mid­wife

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