Our Stories

Saraa Adelson, RN

Saraa Adelson, RN, Calvary Outreach Department

Saraa Adelson

“Caring for a person and their family at the end of their life is not only an honor, it is a privilege.”

Q: What inspired you to become a nurse?

A: My mom was a nurse. When I was a young girl, she would tell my sister and me about her nursing experiences. I identified with her stories of caring for people who were not well or who needed care. Instead of playing house, I played nurse.

My dolls became my patients. I must admit, those dolls went through a lot! They had make-believe surgeries, and then long recuperation periods from their head traumas, and other illnesses. Their heads, arms and legs would be wrapped in toilet paper after their surgeries.

I was their nurse who was able to help them back to health. While my friends were busy reading the Nancy Drew Mystery series, I attached myself to Cherry Ames who became the childhood role model of the nurse I would eventually become.

Q: What brought you to Calvary?

A: I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in psychology and my goal was to be a therapist. The three tracts that I could have taken; PhD in Psychology, MSW or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, the nursing route seemed to suit me best. I applied to nursing school and was awarded a scholarship.

During my second year of nursing school, I was assigned to work with a forty-year-old woman who had end-stage breast cancer. I can remember walking into her room as if it was yesterday. She was dying but able to speak. She wasn’t that much older than I was at the time. She had children and a husband, I did not.

I was afraid of what she might tell me, but I sat with her and held her hand. She too, admitted that she was scared to die, leaving her husband and her kids. Our conversation was deep, and honest. She spoke of what was real to her, to me, someone she never met before.

She wondered if her husband might remarry, and if he did, that his new wife would treat their children with love and respect. In that moment, I knew I had found my niche. I shifted my goals and decided to become an oncology nurse.

Q: Why did you decide to work with patients at the end of life?

A: I completed my LPN and began my search for the right nursing job. Calvary Hospital hired me. That was back when Calvary had many Dominican Sisters working as nurses. It was and remains today an amazing place to work. Calvary nurses are team players; it is nursing at its best. Everyone at Calvary Hospital encourages success as the loving, caring professionals we are.

When people hear that I am a nurse, they become curious and ask me what kind of nursing I do, and where do I work. I tell them that I work with end-of-life patients for Calvary Hospital at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“Isn’t that depressing?” they usually ask. I tell them, “No. It is not easy. Loss is always sad, but it isn’t depressing.”

Caring for a person and their family at the end of their life is not only an honor, it is a privilege. To be with someone as they transition to their final resting place, can be transformative for everyone involved; the patient, their family, and the staff caring for the patient. People at the end-of their life can be more open and honest, then they may have been before. Their feelings and thoughts are present with nurse they barely knew. I believe these people are here to teach us many important lessons.

Q: What qualities are essential to be a Calvary nurse?

A: The Calvary nurse is open, honest, has a sense of humor, and is not afraid to care for those who are close to death, or dying. We are compassionate, empathetic and open to caring for all patients without judgments. They need our help and we need them as they complete their life’s journey. Some people say we are doing G-d’s work at Calvary. All one must do, is walk into Calvary to feel his presence. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a Calvary nurse.

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