Celebrating National Nurses Week 2023 with Paula Starr


It’s National Nurses Week! Celebrated since 1954, National Nurses Week is an annual event held May 6-12. It is now part of the larger National Nurses Month, which has an area of focus each week: Self-Care, Recognition, Professional Development, and Community Engagement.

This year’s National Nurses Month theme is “You Make a Difference,” highlighting the positive impact nurses have on each of our lives and the communities in which they serve.

In celebration of this event, we’re sharing the story of Paula Starr, a Registered Nurse at St. Francis Health System ICU in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Paula shares how her 12-year nursing career has impacted her, what advice she would give to graduates entering the profession, and more. Here’s what she had to say:

1. What do you love most about nursing?

Knowing that I have a job with a purpose and that I can help a person to make a positive change in their life.

2. What made you decide to pursue a career in nursing?

I literally woke up one morning with the overwhelming thought that I needed to go enroll in nursing school! I was 54 when I began nursing school. It is my second career.

3. How has the nursing profession changed you as a person?

I am more open to the realization that anything can happen to anyone. I have become very nonjudgmental, which I believe to be a very positive thing. People can tell when they are being judged and that makes them more non-responsive. 

4. Have you always worked within the same environment in nursing?

Initially I worked in cardiac step-down, which is the next level down from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and then I became a travel nurse. I’ve been in the float pool for ICU, Transplant, and Cardiac at Yale University, COVID-19 in New Jersey/New York, and Neuro ICU in a lot of states. 

5. How has the nursing profession changed over the past few years?

The profession has been upgraded a lot with technology. Also, since changing to 12-hour shifts, Registered Nurse responsibilities and autonomy in the ICU have greatly increased. I would find it almost impossible to do my job within an 8-hour timeframe.

6. What do you think are the greatest challenges affecting your profession?

One of the greatest problems in Oklahoma is not getting lunch or rest breaks. When I work in states with unionized RNs, there are morning & afternoon breaks that are covered and RNs receive an hour lunch break where they are free to leave the campus.

7. What is your favorite thing about being a nurse at St. Francis in Tulsa?

I love being a nurse at Saint Francis all because of my manager. She makes all the difference and I appreciate her so much.

8. What would you say to those who are considering nursing as their career? What is your best advice for nursing graduates starting their careers?

You have to be flexible and roll with whatever crops up. Be able to multitask, and be able to speak up and advocate for your patient when necessary (you can’t be shy). For graduates starting their careers: Don’t assume anything, listen to your coworkers, and always keep learning and growing.