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Published on September 16, 2019

Nursing staff celebrates patient as honorary nurse

Nursing staff celebrates patient as honorary nurse

Iris Abbott listened as her colleague called out numbers on a bag of platelets, verifying information before a patient's transfusion.

"Are you doing OK?" Allie Strom, RN, asked.

Iris nodded.

While it was her first time participating in the procedure—and her first day on the job—Iris didn't feel any butterflies as they hung the honey-colored liquid. After all, she already knew many of her co-workers well. She was familiar with Medical Oncology at Gundersen Health System, too.

As someone with cancer, Iris has spent significant amounts of time in the hospital. Throughout it all, the 18-year-old has dreamed of being on the other side of the bed.

"I've always wanted to be a nurse," Iris said.

Maybe a flight nurse, helping people through emergencies. Perhaps an international nurse, serving children in developing countries. For certain, caring for those in need.

In May, Iris was able to mark the goal complete, thanks to the perseverance of some Gundersen nurses, who couldn't imagine not welcoming Iris into their ranks for a day. As illuminated on a name badge, clipped to a white jacket embroidered with Gundersen's logo, Iris spent the afternoon rounding as an honorary nurse.

"At first, I was like I can't believe I'm doing this," Iris said, reviewing orders alongside Allie. "Then, I realized I'm caring for people, and that's what matters."

Iris' interest in nursing was piqued at age 7 while dealing with Crohn's disease. After being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, her desire to join the profession grew.

"I've always seen a lot of my own nurses as friends," Iris said. "Besides, I really love people, and I love to get to know them. I get to do that today."

First up was the patient in need of platelets. After helping start the transfusion, Iris and Allie sat down at a computer to review lab results of other people in their care.

"She's so eager to learn," Allie said, turning toward Iris. "I feel lucky and special that you chose to spend the day with me."
After several hours on the job, what stuck out most to Iris wasn't the fast-paced environment required of nursing. Or the exorbitant amounts of information. Or the mandatory attention to detail.

It was something innate:

"Nursing is about treating people with kindness and wanting them to know they're being cared for," Iris said. "It's about making people feel comfortable and letting them know they can trust you."

Every day, throughout the many locations that make up Gundersen Health System, staff deliver world-class care plus a little something extra – we call it Love + Medicine. If this story inspires you to share a story of your own go to

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