If you look up the definition of hero, you’ll see one described as a person “admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” (If the definition describes one as a submarine sandwich, you’re looking at the wrong hero). And with that definition in mind, it’s easy to see why most people unanimously agree that nurses are heroes. But when you hear the word “superhero”, you probably don’t think of nurses first. You probably think of superpowered beings in tights fighting villains and aliens on the big screen or in comic books. But once you meet nurse Tobin Matthew, that all may change.
12 years ago, Tobin graduated from nursing school and went to work at Chicago’s Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he called his job of caring for infants and small children “the best job in the world”. On his very first day, Tobin wore a superhero t-shirt during his shift, not knowing that he’d just begun a 12-year tradition that would one day attract a national spotlight.
“I guess it sort of happened organically,” Tobin told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m really into super heroes. As a kid, I would grow up reading comic books and watching super hero movies. When I started at what was called Children’s Memorial back then, I found that the kids that I took care of seemed to be into the same stuff that I was. So I was like ‘OK, I’m going to start wearing super hero shirts,’ and sort of just spiraled from there … I would say kids and parents get about equally excited now, which is really cool.”
Since then, his costumes have ranged from Superman to the Hulk to the Ninja Turtles. And on holidays such as Halloween and Christmas, when being in a hospital is especially difficult for kids, he’ll make up to five wardrobe changes to bring as much light as possible to his young patients. He’s raced down halls as the Flash, hung upside down as Spider-man, and there’s no telling where his heart or creativity will take him next.
Because of his efforts, and the impact he’s had on so many of his patients, Tobin was recently featured on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (you can watch the story here). He was also awarded the 2017 American Red Cross Nurse Hero award, an award given each year to a nurse who “exhibited heroism either in their response to an emergency situation or through an ongoing commitment to the community through acts of kindness, courage or unselfishness in response to an identified need.”
“The biggest compliment that you can receive is a family trusting you with their kids, the most important thing in their lives,” says Tobin. “Dressing as a superhero helps me to motivate myself to be the absolute best I can be for my families at the hospital. Some of the patients you take care of for months and years. It is my job to let them be kids, let them know I care and make that time as special as possible.”
And there is no shortage of literal compliments for Tobin’s care, either. On the hospital’s Facebook page, one mother writes “Tobin was my son Isaac’s nurse many days when he was admitted in May and June with a mysterious illness that left him in isolation with facial lesions! We can’t say thank you enough to this superhero nurse for all that he did to help us during some very difficult days. Thank you, Tobin!!”
So a big thanks to Tobin and the many other nurses out there like him who daily go above and beyond for the people in their care. You may not be in tights and a cape, but you qualify as superheroes in our book. (Besides, scrubs look a lot more comfortable).
If you’d like information on starting your own career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many nursing and medical assistant programs.