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YON 2020 Day 326: Paula Spolarich, MSN, RN, CNOR

Now the Director of Perioperative Services, Southwest General Health Center, Paula Spolarich, MSN, RN, CNOR, reflects on the inspiration for her nursing journey, the vast changes she has witnessed, the importance of life-long learning, and the blessing that being a nurse truly is.

My nursing journey began with a diploma education in Pittsburgh, PA. During my 4-week rotation through surgery in the late 1970’s, the bright lights of the Operating Room (OR) shone and illuminated my path as a surgical nurse. It was through my practice as a perioperative nurse that I found joy in nursing practice. I was excited to learn from the physicians and residents in the OR, and was mentored by some wonderful nursing clinicians in an environment that is fast-paced and ever changing.


My interest in nursing was stimulated while observing the wonderful care that my brother, who is chronically ill, received by the caring nurses at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. The care and support that my brother and family received from the nursing staff was amazing, and I felt the call to become a part of this caring profession. Their enthusiasm and compassion was tangible and motivated me to choose nursing as a life vocation.


The technology that was present in the earlier part my nursing journey has changed dramatically in the OR; the nursing care of the surgical patient has evolved from care of the patient with open surgery to that of minimally invasive surgery. Life-long learning is the key to success in the realm of perioperative nursing because of this ever-changing technology. The challenge related to evolving technology and love of learning prompted me to move forward to pursue a BSN, and then an MSN. As a result, I felt called to be a facilitator of learning for other nurses. Nothing brings me more satisfaction in nursing practice than assisting another caregiver to achieve competency and efficacy in practice. I had the opportunity to serve as a clinical and lecture instructor in a school of nursing as well as serve as a perioperative educator.


Following the NCLEX for the senior students in my class, one of my students texted me to tell me she had passed her test. She told me about a story that I had used in class that helped her to remember some questions on the exam. She said that she could remember the way that I had explained a medication and its side effects and the story that I told to explain the side effect and the outcome for the patient. She thanked me and told me that I made it (nursing) real for her, and that she would always treasure my stories related to making patient care experiences real.


Supporting team members and students as an educator has allowed me to have a unique relationship with those whom I was privileged to serve. The gift of observing the outcome of competency and confidence of the students in the clinical environment brings a feeling of great joy to me as a facilitator of learning. Experience and knowledge are treasured gifts to be shared, and the act of imparting these gifts is key to the continuation of successful nursing practice as we pass on the torch to the new generation of caregivers.


I have a favorite coffee mug that says, “I am still learning….Michelangelo”.


Although I have been in various staff nurse, leadership, and education roles for over four decades, I continue to facilitate learning and learn from others every day. All that is needed to be a life-long learner is an open mind and a desire to be better for oneself and others. I continue to grow and learn in my role as a leader and value the knowledge that I acquire every day.


Nursing has provided a treasured opportunity for relationships with others that are privileged and sacred. Nurses are trusted with personal stories and health information and we keep this information private, carrying some of these stories in our hearts for the remainder of our lives. It is a blessing to have worked as a caregiver and confidante; a blessing that only a nurse can treasure.

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