Nurses Appreciation Week: Interview with an ER-C Nurse at Jackson Memorial

During my last months at Nursing School I had the chance to work at ER-C, Jackson Memorial Hospital. I was lucky enough to get one of the best preceptors a...

During my last months at Nursing School I had the chance to work at ER-C, Jackson Memorial Hospital. I was lucky enough to get one of the best preceptors a nurse student could ask for. I will not mention her name in order to respect her privacy. I can only tell you that she contributed enormously to the growing respect I feel for nurses anytime, anywhere. Following is an interview I conducted with her last December. I want to share it with you because I feel we can all learn something from her wisdom, regardless of your profession.

We chose a career we can feel proud of. We chose a career that is noble, fulfilling and rewarding.

Congratulations to all nurses, whatever your specialty is, whatever hospital or setting you work for. Whatever you gender, race, or religion is.

Interview with a Registered Nurse at ER-C, Jackson Memorial (December, 2010)

Q. What was the most difficult part of the transition from a student nurse to a RN?

A. Being on your own, delegation and medications. Being on your own because you need to build the confidence in yourself. Delegation because you really need to move up a level and understand that it is your responsibility to delegate to techs, secretaries, nurse assistants, etc. It is not an easy task and usually it is not picked up in just one day. Medications were kind of a mix bag since I knew that I could look everything up. As a student you learn that you are not supposed to give anything if you are not sure of what you are doing and here we usually do so if not absolutely sure. Sometimes someone else will know and working as a team really helps.

Q. When looking for a job in the health care field, which strategies would you recommend when trying to get a position as a RN?

A. Always show your concern for patients and choose and area where you can develop your passion. My passion is preventive care. What can I do for the patient to avoid a readmission to the hospital? What can I teach my patients so that they learn to take care of themselves better and better every day? When you can establish what your passion is, it shows during an interview, and it gives shape to your answers and approach to the new job at hand.

Q. Mention three positive and rewarding aspects of being a RN.

A. I think it is very rewarding when patients get to understand their medical condition and this prevents future episodes from happening. I think it is rewarding when patients are physically able to get up and walk out of a hospital; and I think that it is positive that nurses are well rounded enough to be able to help patients not only mentally, and physically but also help families and execute multiple roles.

Q. Mention three negative aspects of being a RN

A. Not always the nurse gets recognition for what they do. Many times the nurse is seen as forcing the patient to do what the nurse wants them to do, even though you are helping the patient, they do not see it that way. And it is also negative that nurses do not get pay what they deserve for the work they do. Do not get me wrong, you get paid good, but not enough for your value.

Q. What are your strategies for keeping up with continuing education requirements?

A. Our job provides us with CEUs option all year. They have requirement that they have us meet every year. We also have conferences that we can attend to get CEUs. These can be tailored to your personal interests. You can find them on the Internet.

Q. Within the scope of practice of the RN, which specialization path do you consider would be most rewarding?

A. The only path you can take is the one that is personally rewarding to you. ER is my passion, so that would be my first choice no matter what. Some people like OR, some people like Oncology. I like ER and it is part of who I’m. Here at Jackson, any path you choose would have the same financial rewards, no matter where you are, what you do, here at Jackson you grow at the same rate as everybody else. Different hospitals might be different. I have always worked at Jackson, so I would not be able to tell you how it works at Palmetto, for example.

Q. What were the most useful and successful strategies you employed when studying for the NCLEX-RN exam?

A. Answering lots and lots of questions. I took the Kaplan program and I feel that it really helped. I would answer 300 questions a day. Some of them, I read the rationales, if I wasn’t sure. If I knew the answer, I would just move on to the next question.

Q. When signing a contract with a hospital or health care provider in general, what are classical pitfalls to look for hidden in the small print?

A. We do not really have to sign a contract here at Jackson, so I would not be able to tell you. We just kind of get hired. Benefits are standards throughout our hospital. If I had to look at a contract like the one you are describing I would pay special attention to sick time, personal time and scheduling.

Q. How do you cope with the emotional involvement and human suffering you are exposed to every time you go to work?

A. I pray. You have to pray. It is easier in the ER to distance yourself from a patient since you do not have them for a long period of time. When I get close to a patient because I have been taking care of them for a while and something bad happens, I always go back and ask myself: Ok. Did you do everything you could for your patient, would you have done something different to change this outcome? Did you try your best? If you do not do this then you have to deal with your guilt. Sometimes you have to put things into perspective and if the person was suffering, you need to understand that maybe passing away was the best thing that could have happened to them. I think church helps you come to terms with human suffering and find spiritual answers to the kind of things we see every day.

I’m also a solver opposed to a contributor. If you come to me with a problem or situation my answer is always going to be: What do you want to do about it? How can we make it better? I do not like to argue, I diffuse situations by finding out what can we do to make it work. I get calmer and calmer throughout the day.

Q. How has the nursing scheduling (12 hour shifts, weekends, night shifts, etc) affected your personal life and what strategies have you use to deal with it?

A. I love the 12 hours shifts. I’m here all day for three days and then I’m gone for four, for example. You can plan vacation, trips, etc. Most of the time people do not work three days on a row. This way you can have enough rest.


One thing is to hear about the work done by a burse and a very different one is to witness it. During that month and a half I learned more about nursing than during all my other clinical time put together. The ER at Jackson Memorial Hospital is a great place to really understand why we, nurses do what we do day in and out and without being properly appreciated most of the time.

After interviewing my preceptor it was easy to understand and appreciate the human quality of most nurses. She is simple and modest, but she is smart and compassionate. She showed me, first hand, the importance of treating patients with dignity. She showed me the importance of loving what you do and do what you love. She showed me that as in many careers, choosing your professional path is a matter of doing something you really care about. She is passionate about the ER and she shows it with her actions and professionalism.

My preceptor also taught me how important human interaction can be. She explained in simple terms why it is so rewarding to know that we made a difference in someone’s life with a professional and caring attitude. Working with her I got a better understanding of the fact that we not only care for our patients, but also for their families. They are usually vulnerable and in a fragile position that requires that nurses adjust to a comprehensive and complete plan for dealing with tensions, personalities, human suffering and imperfections.

She shared with me tips and strategies to be successful when taking the NCLEX test. She also shared pointers for later, when we enter the workforce and really need to prove ourselves. I learned about scheduling, continuous education, and the workplace relationship with co-workers. From her attitude I learned that is always better to find a compromise, and understand that it is always more important to find a solution than to find a culprit. She is now working towards becoming an ARNP and I strongly believe that she is a role model to follow and emulate.

About Will

Graphic and web designer, art director and photographer. Registered Nurse (at Miami Children's Hospital). College professor (Miami Dade College). Bilingual (English and Spanish)