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PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program focuses on the many nurses who deserve recognition for the dedication, sacrifice, and resilience they bring to work every day. For the inaugural Nurses of Note Awards, we have the privilege of highlighting a new level of commitment, strength, and integrity in nurses from around the country who have battled on the front lines of the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.
The actions of this diverse group of nurses highlight the extraordinary among us. Their stories give us a glimpse into the unique ways our nurses have fought this pandemic and made a difference in the lives of their patients and the communities they serve. Out of hundreds of nominations, we selected three nurses and one team of providers to spotlight as recipients of this award.
Honoree 3: Missam “Sam” Merchant, MBA, BSN, RN, CCRN, PCCN, RN-BC, NE-BC; Hospital Supervisor for University Health System (San Antonio, TX)
Missam Merchant—who goes by Sam—wanted to be a doctor at a young age. His family could not afford that educational path, but Sam still found his way to a career in healthcare; nurses were needed in the United States, so his family agreed that nursing school would be his best bet. In school, he realized he could change the world by helping one person at a time, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Sam’s nominator described him as someone who shows humanity to every patient regardless of identity or background. He started to appreciate the impact he could have on the lives of others after providing care for a homeless man facing diabetic complications during nursing school. Since that moment, Sam has been utterly dedicated to helping his community and those who are underserved. In the past two years, he spearheaded many campaigns and fundraisers that provided donations for the homeless. He has conducted fundraising to the tune of more than $16,000 for blankets, hygiene kits, and more to support the homeless population and many shelters in San Antonio.
Even though it’s not what drives him, Sam is no stranger to recognition for the services he provides to his patients and coworkers—he has received many awards for his work. To name a few: The Weezie’s Angel Healthcare Hero Award, Best 25 Nurses of South Central Texas, and the 20 for 2020 Nurse Award (given by the Texas Nursing Association). As a leader, speaker, coach, and mentor, Sam is also a major proponent of higher learning and continued education.
Even with the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, Sam was still able to help launch the San Antonio Indian Nurses Association (SAINA), a not-for-profit organization with over 300 nurse members intended to serve as “a professional body and resource for all licensed professional nurses of Indian descent/origin and heritage” in the United States. In fact, in the past year alone, he has given speeches, served as a mentor, submitted journals for publication, and founded not one, but two organizations. He also works to give free certifications to nurses in leadership and professional development (he’s taught 17 classes this year), equipping them with the training needed to move the needle on healthcare and education policy at the county and state levels.
A true advocate for diversity in nursing, education, and leadership, Sam is active in many diversity-centered associations and boards. He serves as president for SAINA, director for the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio (AAASA), is a member of the governing board for the National Association of Indian Nurses of America (NAINA), and is involved with many others. Sam provides safe and educational forums for nurses to collaborate on practices and how to best serve their communities.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
Nursing fell into my lap in India in 2003. I had a light bulb moment when I took care of a homeless patient who suffered from severe diabetes and had not received foot care for a year. I treated this patient, and at the end of the procedure, he gave me 10 rupees—the equivalent of about 14 cents. I realized how much impact I had on this one patient, who felt cared for and loved and was willing to give me his most valuable possession in return. 15 years later, I am proud and humbled to be a nurse who can continue to make a difference in patients’ lives.
What’s one piece of advice for nursing students entering the field?
Right from the beginning of your career, find a mentor who you can trust. The mentor will help you see things that you cannot see for yourself and will help to motivate you through feelings of burnout. Nursing is not easy; it requires ongoing learning, hard work, commitment, and selfless service.
What would you like to see change for nursing in the future?
The future of nursing is bright. Nurses are fighting for safe staffing, better access to care, and a healthy environment—both for themselves and for their patients. I want to see two things in the future of nursing: greater diversity and leadership. Diversity, equity, and leadership in nursing is the key to sustainability. The ability to compassionately care for our communities is the wave of the future.
How do you combat burnout in your professional life?
Burnout is real, but it’s seldom addressed by leadership and often ignored by nurses themselves. It then manifests itself in poor care, poor relationships, and broken homes. There are three levels to curbing personal and group burnout: Organization, microsystem, and personal. The organization level is a commitment from senior management to acknowledge burnout and put prevention measures in place. The microsystem level focuses on your team and team leader understanding workflow as a whole—how that workflow can lead to burnout when not managed well or when things are not adjusted when needed. This level can be managed by staffing correctly, promoting teamwork, creating acuity plans, and other leadership and organizational work. The personal level is an inward look at being mindful of when we are feeling burnout. Know the signs your body gives, know how to take mental health breaks, and know how to separate work and home life.
What’s your passion outside of nursing?
Working for non-profit organizations and impacting lives. I have been involved with various non-nursing organizations that are involved in early childhood education, alliance for minorities, and others. These organizations have made a big impact on my community.
If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?
“Firework” by Katy Perry. I am a nurse that believes in empowerment; inspiring the next generation of nurses to not give up and to push through to make a difference. Everyone is unique, and everyone needs to be able to shine in nursing and life.
Thank you, Sam!
Sam, through your commitment and dedication, you certainly light up other peoples’ lives—just like a firework. Thank you for your continued service to your patients, your fellow nurses, and your community, and congratulations for being named a 2021 Nurse of Note.