Recently retired from her position as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in Geriatrics at University Hospitals Medical Center, Bette Kiyoko Idemoto, PhD, APRN-BC, shares her personal history and explains how that influenced her life and values. During her career she served as president of the Northeast Ohio CNS Affiliate NEOCNS. In retirement, Dr. Idemoto is a nursing research volunteer at the Louis Stokes Veteran Administration Medical Center.
In addition to being a wife, mother and grandmother, I am also very proud to be a nurse for almost 50 years. December 7, 1941, will always be recalled as the day that America was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt called the unprovoked attack a “date which will live in infamy.” Telling my story, particularly today, has special significance for me. Although I don’t think about it often, obviously this event is important in my personal history as well as that of my ancestors. Even though they were born in California, my parents were not viewed as Americans during World War II and were put in concentration camps. Because of these hardships, coupled with the Japanese tradition of a matriarchal society, my mother was my greatest influence. She encouraged me to do my best my entire life—in school, in Girl Scouts, and in everything I did. I learned essential life lessons early.
When I was in the 8th grade, my teacher asked me to tell the class about the internment camps in America. At that time, I had no idea what that meant. I had heard about “camps” and I assumed it was like Y camp—not what they really were. He sent me home to ask my parents, and when they explained it to me, I was surprised that my parents weren’t bitter. They taught me the values of dignity for all people, even though the camp had robbed them of my heritage. I have no family heirlooms just like some of our immigrants at the borders today.
Then in high school, my mother was adamant that I should go away to college to learn who I was, so I went to The Ohio State University to learn more about being independent and on my own. I became so independent that I got married because my husband was being sent to Viet Nam. We had our first child before I finished nursing school. But again, my mother insisted that I finish, so with her help I graduated. Then I worked per diem every other weekend at Fairview General in Cleveland and participated in the new ICU stepdown on 2North. The ICU had just been created. Our first ICU had four beds–with ventilators, and even CVP lines on the regular floor. This encouraged my love of intensive care nursing.
My passion for critically ill patients led to advanced practice education, when I supported the work of Dr. Barbara Daly in developing the first acute care nurse practitioner Master’s program as its clinical coordinator.
My mother lived life and believed in the dignity of people—this influenced my decision to become a nurse. The dignity of patients is so vital. Today our nurses demonstrate the human value of dignity when caring for people who can’t breathe and place a great deal of trust on the nurse. Especially now during the pandemic, nursing is a profession people trust to care for their loved ones who are totally dependent on nurses. That takes a great deal of trust.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve in leadership positions such as the ANA Ethics Board, which supports nurses to affirm the dignity of every human being. All my life experiences, including the influence of my mother, helped me see how nurses everywhere can work to ensure the dignity of all people. My nursing career has spanned almost a half century during which I was a bedside nurse and CNS. I have had the privilege of mentoring new graduates as well as returning “old” nurses to support their work in providing the best care to ensure the best outcomes possible. As I look back, I see that I have gained the wisdom to use my knowledge, skills, empathy, experiences, and my whole self to share the best aspects of our nursing profession.