Nurses help in many ways. Sometimes they help strangers in a hospital, health center, clinic or other setting. Sometimes, they help strangers on their day off, like Abigail Bamber. It´s just part of the vocation of nursing, isn’t it.

A heroic off-duty nurse battled to save a man's life after he was stabbed. "I was just doing my job," said Abigail Bamber, 26. The 41-year-old victim was walking in the middle of the road covered in blood before he collapsed in Bristol, UK, in May, 2016. Abigail stepped in and began performing life-saving first aid before paramedics arrived. Abigail is a staff nurse and was off work for her birthday. As she was passing by in a car with a friend when she saw the man stumbling across the road.

The man was clearly in bad shape and Abigail asked her friend to pull over. She jumped straight into "nurse mode." When the man momentarily stopped breathing, Abigail started performing CPR, but despite her bravery, the nurse dismissed suggestions she is a hero.

Back on duty, Abigail said: ""By the time I got there, he was already on the floor…I started administering CPR. I can't remember how long I did it for. I stopped when the ambulance team got there.” Once the ambulance team arrived, they took over and started doing their bit. The victim was rushed to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, in a life-threatening condition and was in a critical but stable condition soon afterwards.

Abigail´s friend said: "No one wanted to help at all but [Abigail] helped within seconds. He was passing away but she kept it up. I don't know how he is getting on now but he would have died if she wasn't there.” Abigail says she´s not a hero and the fact she was off-duty would never stop her from helping someone in need. She adds: "I think most nurses go into nursing because it is a vocation - not a job.”

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Some nursing leadership trends emerged quietly this year, but are nonetheless provocative for how they force us to think about nursing and how they force nurses to think about themselves as caregivers and healthcare leaders. Clearly, nurses themselves are very much aware of need for improvement of patient care since only 41% of nurses describe the hospital they work in as "safe." And barely more than half (57%) believe that the patient safety programs in their hospitals are effective, according to a survey of 900 practicing registered nurses by the ANA and GE Healthcare found early this year (2014).

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The Humanitarian Side of MSN Leadership and Education

Nursing has never been an easy job, though many modern day nurses enjoy privileges nurses from WWI would never have even dreamed of. It´s heartwarming to look back and remember the brave nurses from the past.

Lenah Higbee was one of the first nurses to join the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, when it was established in 1908. This move required sacrifice and perseverance, as many members of the Navy considered female nurses unwelcome and they were not even given rank. Lenah Higbee really put her all into navy nursing, and was quickly appointed Chief Nurse. Just a few years later, she was promoted to Superintendent of the Nurse Corps, and became the second woman to ever hold this position. Higbee was the first female to be awarded the Navy Cross for her absolute devotion to duty during WWI. After her death, a naval combat ship was named USS Higbee in her honor.

Linnie Leckrone has always been one of the unsung heroes of WWI. She was part of a small gas and shock team that worked tirelessly in France during the conflict. Despite displaying extraordinary bravery while caring for the wounded after an extremely violent artillery attack, her return home went unmarked. There was no parade and no welcome-home ceremony for Linnie Leckrone.

Although Leckrone was in line to be awarded a Citation Star for her efforts, she was discharged from the army before it was formally presented. Her courageous service was finally recognized in 2007, when her daughter accepted a Silver Star for her.

The Silver Star is the third-highest award for bravery granted by the U.S. military, and Linnie Leckrone was one of the first few women to receive one. 

Elsa Brandstrom was nicknamed “the Angel of Siberia”. The daughter of the Swedish ambassador to Tsar Nicholas II, she was in Russia during the outbreak of WWI. Determined to help, she voluntarily put her nursing skills to use in the Russian army.

In 1915, Brandstrom was in Siberia with the Swedish Red Cross helping German prisoners of war. When her Russian work permit was revoked, it didn’t stop her. She carried on traveling to Siberia illegally for two years until the Russian authorities arrested her in Omsk in 1920.

When she was released, she went straight back to Sweden and launched a campaign to help prisoners of war. She fundraised enough to found a children’s home with room for more than 200 orphans. She later moved to the United States and married, but she also dedicated herself to helping German and Austrian refugees there.

Higbee, Leckrone and Brandstrom all performed their duty and regularly exceeded it. But why? Were they destined to do humanitarian work? Did they wonder about the humanitarian side of nursing, just like you?

If you´re in the process of applying for an MSN, and a specialty in leadership and education is what you´d like to focus on, we wholeheartedly support you. Please let us know if we can help you with your personal statement of purpose.