Nurses, Don't Be Afraid To Try Something New - Ask Lainey

Lainey and I treating patients on a medical mission in Nepal

Lainey and I treating patients on a medical mission in Nepal

I'm always amazed to learn what Nurses can accomplish during their career. My friendship with Lainey Rudolph developed while volunteering for an incredible organization in Nepal called Anatta World Health and Education. Among other things, this organization allows young women to receive education and train to be Nurse Midwives. Here is Lainey's story.

How long have you been a nurse and what specialties?  I have been a nurse for 40 years (gasp!) I started out as a Staff RN in Critical Care and Recovery Room at Roosevelt Hospital in NYC - lots of excitement, and I was grateful for the opportunity; I got burnt out however, rotating to nights every other month.  I quit after four years to work in a statistical office with Mt. Sinai Hospital, as a Nurse Data Manager for the International Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB.)  I found out that I loved computer programming and biostatistics!  

When that office moved to another state I took a role as Director of Data Management for a big cardiology study testing intra-coronary streptokinase in three hospitals. Later, I moved upstate and became a Medical Claim Review nurse in managed care for MetLife. I thought that it would be a temporary job until I could find something more interesting, but I was wrong!  I found it intellectually stimulating, as the program was a revolutionary approach to managing outpatient costs and identifying providers that were over-testing, "up-coding" and even billing in a fraudulent manner.  I worked my way up over a period of 18 years to the position of Director of Operations managing over 120 nurses across the US with 10 managers reporting to me before my position was eliminated!  As cliché as it sounds, it was the best thing that ever happened to me!  

Lainey (front row 3rd from left) with me (far right) with the young Nuns in Nepal with Anatta

Lainey (front row 3rd from left) with me (far right) with the young Nuns in Nepal with Anatta

A tidy severance package allowed me to take almost a year off as a kind of sabbatical.  I was free to pursue "mindfulness" education, silent retreats, practicing meditation and yoga, running and biking.  I became a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor, teaching small groups locally while also being, for the first time in my life, a "stay at home Mom" for my son's senior year of high school!  When I went back to work, I took a low-stress position as a Quality Improvement nurse for a local HMO - another job where I was able to use my skills in data analysis as well as creativity in finding ways to influence network providers to perform appropriate preventive care measures for their patients, e.g., mammography, colonoscopy and well visits as well as improving care of patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.  

Most importantly, I loved the people with whom I worked and we maintain a group relationship to this day - meeting for dinners together many times throughout the year.  After almost 5 years however, due to a merger, the job changed drastically and I no longer enjoyed it. I found a position as a Research Nurse at a local Gastroenterology group and identified new studies, enrolled and treated patients as determined by the studies, kept the records and grew the program until they merged with a larger group with a substantial research program and once again, my position was eliminated. (... After I trained the non-nurse replacement for my job - ouch!) 

Now I had extensive hands-on experience with Hepatitis C, Ulcerative Colitis and many other common GI diseases.  So, within 10 days, I was hired by a large contract organization to work from home to train patients and providers in the Northeast as a Nurse Educator on a new blockbuster medication for Hepatitis C.  What a fantastic opportunity to first, receive top-notch training in the pharmaceutical industry to help patients learn how to take their medications (a fairly complex, long regimen including both oral and injectable medications.)  I loved teaching and working with patients, many of whom who had failed previous treatment regimens with debilitating, sometimes brutal, side effects, now with a fair chance of cure!  The contract ended after 4 years when newer, more effective medications became available virtually making the injectable part of the regimen obsolete.  I easily found a job with another contract organization as a Manager of Nurse Educators in the Northeast for a brand new all-oral treatment regimen.  Unfortunately this drug did not do as well as they had hoped and they slashed jobs including mine, after only a year.  I did find another position as a Clinical Trial Educator, which is where I am now helping Investigators find appropriate patients for a Phase III Ulcerative Colitis study with a new drug.

What do you most love about nursing?  Being helpful to people in need is number one.  Number two is that I have found nursing to be an incredibly diverse field, with opportunities touching so many different fields and therefore intellectually satisfying.  For example, I learned computer programming, data management and biostatistics while working in an academic research setting.  With practically zero computer experience, I had to put in an afternoon each week at the Research Computing Help Desk while I was working in the Dept. of Biomathematics at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in NYC as a Data Manager for a clinical trial.  Boy, do you learn fast sitting at the Help Desk as the "Answer Man!"  I hated that boss for at least 6 months until I realized he was probably one of the greatest teachers I ever had.

What concerns do you have about the nursing profession?  It has taken a long time for nurses to get the respect, and remuneration they deserve and while we are not there yet, it has improved greatly over the past 40 years.  I'm optimistic, especially now that NPs are widely accepted providing more opportunities than ever.

What advice would you give to new graduates or nurses looking to leave traditional bedside roles?  Do your research and don't be afraid to try something new!  I had no idea how much I liked working with numbers and statistics until I was exposed to it.  The possibilities are truly limitless.

How do you know when you are out of balance and what do you do to align into balance?  I get irritable and anxious.  Sometimes the anxiety is unrelated to any specific thing - just 'free-floating' anxiety.  That means I have to get back to basics - meditation, enough sleep and exercise.  Also, metta - sending loving-kindness to myself and others.

Lainey and Susan having a good laugh at me when a baby peed on me during a photo shoot!

Lainey and Susan having a good laugh at me when a baby peed on me during a photo shoot!