In memoriam: Jerald Lee Gordon

An ER nurse on a mission

This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of The Washington Nurse.

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Jerald Gordon with his daughter Erinn Gordon, who followed in his footsteps to work in the emergency room at Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane.

Jerald Lee Gordon, who had a vibrant nursing career of 30 years, died June 17, 2022, in a motorcycle accident.

For the last 13 years, he worked as an emergency room nurse at Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, and his colleagues have submitted the lessons and legacy he left.

He leaves behind a wife of 40 years, six children, and 10 grandchildren. Two of his daughters followed in his footsteps to become nurses. One works at the emergency room at Holy Family, and another worked at the Spokane Valley Hospital for 10 years.

His obituary, in part, read: “Jerald was passionate about being compassionate. He provided skillful nursing care and was beloved by his co-workers and his patients for his warm, fatherly presence, and his beautiful voice as he sang throughout his work.

He was amazing in a crisis, which made nursing the perfect fit for him. He did a lot of in-hospital training showing newly minted nurses the ropes.”

His daughters said during times of crisis, their dad would appear on the scene and invest the very best version of himself into whatever was happening … their knight in shining armor.”

In his eulogy, he was called a hard worker, provider, and protector of his family. “He loved taking backpacking trips in the mountains, homesteading on his property, and singing on stage with Northwoods Performing Arts several times a year. Jerald’s life was defined by his journey of faith and his desire to know God well and to live in a way that brought glory to God. He raised his family with this heart for reaching all people with the love of God.”

Jerald received his LPN diploma at Clover Park Technical College in Tacoma, his associate degree to become an RN from New York University, and his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Governor’s University.

He also worked at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Colville, Wash., and Newport Hospital in Newport, Wash. He spent about a year doing home healthcare through Providence Visiting Nurses Association, which was one of his favorite positions, as he loved providing compassionate personal care for people at the end of their lives.

His personal mission statement as a nurse:

My mission as a nurse is to meet people in their place of vulnerability and provide competent care to meet their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, in the moment. I will accomplish this with the utmost respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of their social, economic, or other status in society, recognizing that each one has been imbued by their Creator with an inherent value and worth. Working in the emergency department as I do, I am often confronted with humanity at its worst, with those who have been cast off, disenfranchised, or stressed beyond their means of coping. This personal mission statement serves to remind me during times of chaos and confusion just who I am and who I choose to be to this world. It reminds me that it is my privilege to meet great need with compassion and empathy, striving to be redemptive in times of dissolution. This is who I am — I am a Nurse.”

Lessons learned from a 30-year nurse

Jerald Gordon had a nursing career of over three decades before he passed away. His daughter, Erinn Gordon, also an emergency room nurse at the same hospital as her father — Providence Holy Family Hospital in Spokane — said co-workers started sharing stories of how much he taught them. Now, everyone can learn lessons from a seasoned nurse.

“Jerald taught me that when starting an IV (or doing any procedure), always ‘set up for success!’ Set up everything you will need, every time, and you are more likely to be successful with the procedure.”

“Jerald was somehow always able to establish rapport with his patients and get them telling the most random amazing stories from 40+ years ago. He had a magnificent bedside manner. I aspire to be able to establish that kind of rapport so quickly with those whom I care for.”

“Jerald had an ability to create a happy and feel-good environment and make every patient and co-worker laugh, no matter the day or situation. He spread joy, no matter his role in the department that day. I seek to do this, too, because he showed me it is possible”

“Jerald taught me what the TRUE minimum amount of blood is for a blood culture, not what lab tries to convince us it is!”

“He taught me to never give up on someone I am precepting. He told me once, ‘The others don’t think she’s going to make it in the ER, but I know she can, and I’m going to push her and help her and get her there.’ I think of this example often when I am precepting someone who is struggling.”

“Jerald taught me to try hard to take every day as it comes.”

“Jerald taught me that in the work we do and the challenging patients, take care of yourself first and purposely make time for yourself.”

Jerald taught me how to go from coding one patient and giving your all for their life to going into the next room and kindly and genuinely giving your all for that patient.”

“Jerald was such a team player. He was the first to get the job done and then pitched in to help his coworkers. He was ALWAYS there if someone needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to make them laugh.”

“One of our new techs recently told me that I was the first person in the department to be kind to them. This made me want to cry. He was always a favorite of the techs because he treated them kindly, with respect, and did not order them around. He was the first to actually show me how to properly care for a patient.”

“He taught me to fight for change. I have memories all through my childhood of him going to work on his days off to meet with our unit-based council to advocate for change in the department. Now that I work in the hospital too, I have followed his example and work on the council to fight for the same changes he was working for.”

“He was always singing. On a bad day and on a good day, there were hymns or anthems or jingles or famous hits floating through the air. He knew just the right song to make a 90-year-old woman smile, just the right song to calm a confused dementia patient, and just the right song to make us giggle. I miss his music.”