Recently I found out that one of my instructors from Nursing school, Jason Kurtz, RN, BSN, CMSRN, had passed away, losing his fight with cancer. It really shook me up as he was one of the biggest influences in my nursing life. He set an example that I still try to live up to.
He was my CNA instructor who pushed his students to be the very best. He held us to standards and expected us to adhere to those. He was a guy who wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. On the day before clinicals he said, “And whatever you do, shower. I say it because people haven’t and came in smelling worse than the patients.” He used so much of his personal experience to color our thinking about the care we provided. Having been both a patient and a nurse he reminded us that these were real people we were going to be taking care of, with all the complex issues real people have. Even though he could be hard, he had a forgiving side, even when I mistakenly called it, “perennial care” versus “perineal care.” He just joked, “So you only do it once a year? Glad I’m not your patient!”
Later, he was my boss. He hired me as an extern on his unit. I saw him in good times, when the cancer was in remission, and in bad as he was preparing for a bone marrow transplant. I saw his “O” face after another nurse had given him some demerol to finally knock down the pain he was experiencing. Not something of your boss’s that you want to see. And as uncomfortable as it was, I even had to bladder scan him, which he took in a completely professional way.
After school ended, he had offered me a permanent job on his unit. I knew that he wanted me to be there. It felt like he felt we were kindred spirits, or that he was trying to mold me in his image. On my last day as an extern we had conversation where we talked about my future. I told him I was considering moving back to the Northwest. To which he told me that he would love to have me on his unit, but understood my need to head home. It was a professional send-off, which I greatly appreciated.
His was an example that I strove to achieve. I tired my hardest as an extern both for myself and because he inspired me to do better. He knew that I would be a great nurse, told me as much, but expected that I live up to that expectation. On that last say, he told me that,”You’ve lived up to the expectation of you. I never regretted picking you.”
Here was a guy who was fighting cancer, running a busy tele unit, living his life, who always told the nurses that if any of their patients received a new diagnosis of cancer, he was more than willing to talk with the patient, even if it was a day off. He gave himself to the unit, the hospital and community. He received Nurse of the Year Leadership award at Flagstaff Medical Center and nominated for a March of Dimes Nursing Leadership award.
He was a hero to me. I know that his guidance, all the way from those first awkward moments of clinicals to graduation day helped forge me into the nurse I am. He will be missed.