In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 29, 2015

Halloween Special Feature: Channeling the Ghosts of Nursing Past

By In the Loop

For more than a decade, Diane Salentiny Wrobleski has been dressing up as Florence Nightingale and Edith Graham Mayo to share their stories as a way to bring nursing history to life.Some people read about their heroes. Diane Salentiny Wrobleski becomes hers, channeling famous nurses as a way to educate and inspire others. “I love nursing, and I love history,” says Diane, a nursing education specialist at Mayo Clinic. She’s been combining those passions for more than a decade – dressing up as Florence Nightingale and Edith Graham Mayo (in costumes she makes herself, no less), and sharing their stories as a way to bring nursing history to life.

“I learned about Florence during nursing school and grad school,” Diane tells us. And she quickly became fascinated by the woman who has been called the mother of modern nursing. “She was born into the aristocracy and went against the culture of the time to become a nurse,” Diane says. Nightingale earned another nickname — “the Lady with the Lamp” — during the Crimean War carrying a lamp to light her way as she attended to wounded soldiers during night rounds.

Nightingale is so well remembered, Diane tells us, not only for her pioneering work but also because of the paper trail she left behind. “She documented her work and wrote books,” Diane says, including Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army and Notes on Hospitals. Diane shares some of Nightingale's stories with colleagues and students during presentations recognizing Medical/Surgical Nurses Week and National Nurses Week (which wraps up each year on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, May 12).

New Mayo nurses might also encounter “Florence,” as Diane sometimes dresses up and wanders the hallways asking questions after newbies finish their orientation. And Diane takes her show on the road, presenting to nursing students at Luther College, Augsburg College, Winona State University, and Rochester Community and Technical College. She’s also shared the history of nursing at Mayo through presentations as Edith Graham Mayo during Nursing Grand Rounds and Mayo’s 150th anniversary celebration, as well as presentations to smaller groups.

Diane’s unique methods (and more traditional contributions) were recently recognized by the March of Dimes, which presented her with a Nurse of the Year Award for her work in Education and Research. She was one of just 16 Minnesota nurses selected for recognition, an honor she tells us was “very humbling,” adding, “I don’t see that I do anything special.” (We’d beg to differ.) Diane, whose desire to become a nurse dates back to when she was just 3 years old, according to her mother, says her goal as a nurse educator is to help others understand what a special calling nursing is. “Nursing is about being a servant,” she says. “It’s a chance to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a chance to show people kindness. It’s like that quote says, ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’”

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Tags: Diane Salentiny Wrobleski, Employee Stories, Nursing

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