When Agnes Kirton, BSN, RN, CMSRN, was growing up, she’d ride along with her father to pick up her mom from work. Her mom worked as a nurse in a small nonprofit hospital in the Philippines, and seeing her caring for patients left a strong impression on the young girl.
“She never left on time, so I would wait and watch my mom and what she would do, from a distance of course,” explained Agnes. “I could feel the compassion from her and how the patients responded to her.”
It was because of her mother’s influence that Agnes decided to become a nurse, too. She saw firsthand the impact her mom had. The patients at that hospital were poor, yet a few months after receiving care, they would visit Agnes’s home with thank-you gifts. “Fresh vegetables, anything from their garden. Anything that would give her a sense of appreciation,” Agnes remembered. “I think that’s just amazing.”
Like her mother, Agnes is dedicated to helping others. She first came to America in the early 1980s through a nurse recruitment center, starting at Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital and then transferring to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital a few years later. She has now been part of the St. Mary’s Hospital family for more than thirty years.
A culture of compassion
Agnes believes that having a culture of compassion helps patients heal.
“You have to care to be able to heal. It makes a difference,” she said. “That’s what it means to be a Bon Secours nurse. The core of nursing comes from the heart.” In fact, a philosophy of holistic caring is the central tenet of the professional nursing practice model at St. Mary’s Hospital.
Part of that caring means embracing people from different walks of life and diverse cultures — not only patients but colleagues as well.
“Diversity and inclusion are alive at Bon Secours!” said Agnes, who is president of the Richmond, Virginia, chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America. She added, “It makes the environment rich to have various cultures intermingling with each other. This is why I like to travel. It makes you a different person in a good way – more understanding, more tolerant, more appreciative and full of gratitude.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about people. Nursing is a challenging but rewarding career, and in the Women’s Specialty Unit, Agnes spends much of her time with patients who are fighting for their lives. Being able to bring her patients and their family members closer in the midst of their battle — often against cancer — gives her a sense of pride.
“When patients are in the last days of their lives, the family feels the pain,” Agnes said. “They almost distance themselves from what is going on. Capturing the hearts of the family members who are suffering from anguish and uncertainty about their loved ones, gaining their trust and building a human connection with them — that in itself makes me proud as a nurse.” It’s also a reflection of the Bon Secours Mission. “The Mission of Bon Secours — to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and to bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved — Bon Secours lives that. They really practice that,” said Agnes. “That’s why people come to St. Mary’s.”