Whatís it like to work in the nursing industry?
Bobbi Palmer is a board-certified family nurse practitioner (FNP-BC) at Saint Francis Healthcare System. She previously taught at the Southeast Hospital College of Nursing and Southeast Missouri State University. She is an advanced practice nurse (APRN) with a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN).
Chelsey Becker is a board certified advanced aesthetics nurse practitioner with a Masters of Science in Nursing. She recently opened Aurora Medical Spa in Cape Girardeau. Aurora is a chain of medical spas based out of St. Louis offering medical and personal care services from botox to facials. She previously worked as a nurse in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.
Desma Reno boasts a decades-long career in nursing. She is the southeast regional chairwoman of the Missouri Nurses Association and currently works as a nurse consultant. She also works part time as a COVID-19 contact tracer for Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO). She worked for the Saint Francis Medical System for more than 30 years and taught nursing at Southeast Missouri State. She is an APRN and gerontological clinical nurse specialist.
Tonya Mikels began her nursing career as a certified nurses assistant (CNA) at a nursing home as she worked her way through school to become a licensed nurse practitioner (LPN). She is currently a registered nurse in the emergency room at Southeast Hospital.
Ashley Seabaugh is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is the director of training and development at Saint Francis Healthcare System.
How did you begin your career in nursing?
Palmer: My mother wanted me to be a nurse. She watched a TV show that had nurses, and she liked the uniforms.
I was a first-generation college student. I always knew I wanted to go to college, but didnít really know what I wanted to do. I went to two-year community college and decided to go from there. I grew up in Southern Illinois and the closest nursing program was Southeast Missouri State (SEMO). It was very competitive at the time, but I got in.
Becker: I graduated from SEMO with a degree in speech pathology and then received a full ride to Washington University in St Louis for a degree in audiology.
During my clinicals, I realized audiology wasnít where my heart was, but I got to see nurses in the hospital I was at. I liked the patient interaction they had. So, I applied to the one-year accelerated Bachelors of Nursing program at Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish.
Reno: My obsession with being a nurse began early in life. My mother worked in surgery for 50 years and on occasion she took me to work with her while she worked on a case. I remember sitting in the medical library looking at the medical books and observing nurses who worked in the operating room. It was because of my mother, the surgeons and nurses and rest of the surgical crew that I pursued a career in nursing. This past May, I celebrated 47 years as a nurse.
Mikels: My very first experience in nursing was at a nursing home. I worked in a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant and fell in love with the people.
Seabaugh: From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something where I could help people and make a difference. My grandma cared for one of her sisters as well as her mom when they got sick later in their lives. Nursing didnít seem like a job, more like a calling.
What are your key responsibilities?
Palmer: I work as a primary care provider, so I see patients by appointment. I see what we sometimes call ďwomb to tomb,Ē newborns to the end of life. I take care of everything from earaches to urinary tract infections, hypertension to diabetes, high cholesterol to acute abdominal pain. I think if you take care of people like you would want somebody to take care of your family, people tend to be happy and healthy.
Reno: First, my reason for becoming a nurse educator was a career choice not a job. Nurse educators are registered nurses with advanced education who also serve as teachers. Most nurse educators work as nurses before dedicating their careers to educating the future nursing workforce.
Nursing education was a perfect career choice for me because I liked to learn new knowledge. Each time I learn something new, I learn just how much more knowledge is out there that I donít know about.
Becoming a nurse educator allowed for me to serve as a role model for future nurses and provide the leadership needed to implement evidence-based nursing practice that strengthens the nursing profession.
Becker: At Aurora, we do Botox, fillers, lasers, diamond glows, hydrafacials, overall skin care. As a nurse practitioner, my days are usually filled with Botox and fillers.
Mikels: Itís a nurseís job to be a patient advocate. Part of my biggest responsibility is to figure out why the patient is in the emergency room and what they want. When a new patient comes in, we do triage and find out what their concerns and vital signs are. From that, thatís where we put the patient into what we call a triage level. That will tell us how sick they are, how fast they need to be treated and what services they require.
There is no typical day in the emergency room, so my job changes from day to day.
Seabaugh: As a nursing director, I work really close with nurse managers and frontline staff. Weíre responsible for a variety of different things. First and foremost, we want to make sure our patients get quality care. I help design processes to ensure our patientsí needs are being met. My job really hinges on that ó making sure we have safe, quality care delivered to our patients.
How would you say your job or the industry as a whole has changed through the years?
Palmer: Autonomy. If nurses are willing to pursue an advanced education, they have significant increases to their level of autonomy. There are a lot more nurses doing that these days.
Reno: The most significant change has been the use of technology and the advancement of education. Nursing has changed to reflect the health care priorities of the population, becoming more varied and diverse.
In the future, increased use of telehealth will directly influence the nursing field. Nurses are already expected to adapt to new technology as it comes, and hospitals and organizations will need to continue to provide ongoing training to ensure their staff keeps up with rapidly changing technology.
Mikels: When I started in the emergency room, we mightíve had one overdose or drug affiliated patient a day. Now, weíre seeing multiples per day. Itís very sad, and we have to be careful not to get cold to it. I feel like drugs are our biggest thing in the emergency room, whether it be because the drugs caused heart problems, depression, overdoses or suicidal ideation.
Seabaugh: Change really is the name and game of health care. I donít think thereís a nurse you would talk to who would say COVID-19 hasnít affected nursing in some way, especially with nursing students that are coming out of school. Hospitals let fewer people inside during the pandemic, and thatís definitely impacted the opportunities students have been able to take advantage of in school.
What would you say is the biggest challenge nurses face right now?
Reno: Nurses just navigated through the biggest public health emergency of the century. I feel we face an array of challenges including burnout, compassion fatigue and nursing shortages.
Nurses have been the backbone of the health care system throughout history. Nursesí response to the pandemic has shown their value to the world. Leaders in health care need to recognize nursesí impact on our communities and their potential to drive meaningful change.
Mikels: Thereís a lot of burnout. Nurses have to be very careful to avoid it. Coworkers are so important to avoid that. Not just their skill level but their friendship.
Seabaugh: Itís hard for people to see through the eyes of a nurse. Some people donít really appreciate what itís like to be a nurse on a day-to-day basis. You have to be able to take care of your patients and think critically while also taking care of yourself.
What do you think makes working in nursing worth it?
Palmer: Iím very, very happy. I have great patients. That doesnít mean theyíre always easy, but it wouldnít be great if they were always easy, right? Everybody needs a challenge.
Reno: Nursing is one of the most professionally, personally, and spiritually rewarding careers there is. The most rewarding thing about being a nurse is making a difference in the lives of others. It may be your patients, their families, the community, or your students.
I have been a nurse for 47 years and after many years and many advanced degrees, I still love being able to advocate and care for people at all stages of life.
As an advanced practice nurse, I have gained a deeper understanding of the health care system and how advocacy can make a difference in our lives. Advocacy is a daily part of nursing practice and have found that sharing my voice has helped to shape the nursing profession and the future of health care. My role in nursing as a leader, educator, and political advocate with my desire to help others is what has shaped me into the person I am today. Is being a nurse worth it? Absolutely!
Becker: This job is rewarding in so many different ways. I develop friendships with almost all of my patients. Most come back every three months. I get to know them and they get to know me. This Aurora location opened in August, but I have so many patients from St. Louis who drive down here just to see me. They obviously trust me with their face, but thereís a lot of relationship building in this side of the nursing field.
Mikels: I love nursing. I donít think thereís anything about my job that makes me happier than working with patients. Meeting new people, getting to hear veterans tell their stories about when they were in war or getting to see grandmas and grandpas who were married 60-plus years is absolutely heartwarming.
Nursing can be that way, but itís not going to be like that 100% of the time because thereís always those moments when things get hard. But I always begin my day with the idea that thereís going to be a patient or patients Iíll see that day that give me a reason to put my scrubs on.
Seabaugh: We have the challenge as well as the privilege of helping patients and families transition to the end of life. While that can be difficult as a nurse, I think itís also rewarding as well.
Iíve had a lot of moments in my career where Iíve been at the bedside with patients and their families and been able to provide comfort by praying with them.
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