Mary Ann Murray
Recipient of Dr. Dorothy J. Kergin Award (2007)
When I was a little girl, my father was a park ranger with Parks Canada, so I grew up in some very beautiful but very remote places. Friends were rare and television was usually unavailable. As you can imagine, books became my friends. I spent many childhood days in nature curled up under a tree and lost in the magic of a book.
Two of the books I fell in love with as a young girl were a biography of Florence Nightingale and a small hardcover volume titled Great Nurses Over the Centuries. Those books inspired me by age eight to want to become a nurse.
When I finished high school I completed my nursing diploma and began my practice. Over the next 20 years, I grew into a capable, caring and highly competent nurse. I was proud of my work and never doubted my career choice.
But as I matured as a nurse, I started to question the way things were done. I knew that there must be better ways to help families whose loved ones were dying or to help patients contribute to their own healing and recovery.
That’s when I decided to go to university to get my Bachelor of Nursing Degree. I completed my degree in just 18 months. Then there was no stopping me. I went on to do a Master’s degree, and then a PhD. Not satisfied yet, I even completed a post-doctoral degree.
As my knowledge of nursing – and its huge potential – deepened, my interest in research specific to nursing practice grew. One of the issues that concerned me greatly was how women come to terms with ovarian cancer, a disease that is almost always fatal.
In my nursing practice, I’ve watched women struggle with the sudden realization that the end was near and I felt intuitively that we as nurses should be able to help them with the end of their life journey.
I applied for, and was awarded, a research grant that allowed me to develop a structured process that nurses can use to help their patients make those crucial end-of-life decisions. This tool now helps nurses to guide patients through fundamental choices like whether to stay in the hospital, move to a hospice or go back home for the remaining weeks or months of life.
We nurses are what I like to call ‘intimate strangers.’ I can think of no other profession where you become so deeply involved in the deeply personal aspects of the lives of people you’ve just begun to know. Nurses are there during the transcendent moments of birth and death – and the high and low points in between. Our patients grant us trust and intimacy, both of which are rare and precious gifts.
What other vocation is more deeply rooted in the principles of compassion and humanity? Nursing is a noble calling. I am so fortunate to be among the community of nurses who give so freely to those entrusted to our care and to undertake research that improves the daily care each one of us provides.
Recipient of Nursing Care Partnership research award