Nurses are the heart of healthcare.

They are the first clinical point of contact for most patients, and likely the last before going home.

Nurses coordinate important information surrounding patient care and work with care teams to ensure the best possible care. Often while working long hours, or in high-pressure situations.

National Nurses Week is celebrated annually, May 6 to 12 this year.

The week-long observance gives people a chance to thank a nurse who made an impact on their lives.

This celebration also gives nurses a yearly opportunity to step back and contemplate their career contributions, connections and special memories.

Finding joy on the job

Several Corewell Health nurses recently reflected on their careers and shared their greatest joys working as nurses.

Nancy Roberts (Latz), and Sue Bailey (Davidson), met on the first day of college at Butterworth School of Nursing in 1976 and became fast friends.

Both chose to stay at Butterworth Hospital after graduation in 1979 and have worked together in Labor and Delivery for 44 years.

They finished their careers together, retiring in 2023.

Latz said “all the past 44 years have been a joy. I consider myself lucky to have had the privilege of being present in the births of so many families’ newborn infants …”

Susan Hoekstra, 41+ years, Mother/Baby Unit, Butterworth Hospital, echoed Nancy’s love for caring for little ones.

“I enjoy helping new families as they learn about parenting,” she said. “Teaching moms and helping them be successful with breastfeeding is my passion.”

Denette Worden, 44 years, Surgical Services/Interventional Radiology Pre-Admission Testing​​​​​​​, Corewell Health in West Michigan, said it’s all the families and patients whose hearts she has touched along the way.

“For example, flavoring ice chips with grape juice and the patient years later remembering me and how much that small act meant to her,” she said. “Or riding an elevator with a family thanking me for the care I gave their mother, even though she passed away weeks later. Their gratitude touches my heart.”

Meaningful connections

Other Corewell Health nurses mentioned special connections when looking back.

Mary Brander, 49.5 years, 5th floor, Corewell Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, said she feels blessed to be able to make a difference in the life of a child and their family.

“It brings me joy to care for a child and have families thank me at the end of my shift for the personal care that was given to their child,” she said. “Having my son follow in my footsteps as a nurse makes me so proud. Even after almost 50 years of being a nurse I still love my job. I am blessed.”

Betty Ostafinski, 45 years, Cancer Research Consortium West Michigan, Corewell Health’s Reed City Hospital said the greatest joy in her career as a nurse is being able to show compassion to people when they are truly in need.

“To provide that patient care that shows I care … The greatest reward is simply a smile and a thank you from those patients I have taken care of,” she said. “To squeeze a patient’s hand and know they truly appreciate my help.”