From Forestry and Carpentry to Nursing: Meet Thaona

How long have you been a nurse and what area of nursing do you currently work in?  Crazy to believe it has been a year already. I have learned and grown so much! I decided to pursue nursing after a variety of other life experiences. Nursing was a career I had contemplated while pursuing my first degree but the college I attended did not offer a nursing program. Instead I received a bachelors in Biology with minors in Environmental Studies and business. That track lead me many different directions including pharmacy tech, ski instructor, fisheries, forest inventory, ski industry marketing, and Carpentry in Antarctica. With time I realized I was ready to become a Nurse. I graduated from nursing school in May of 2014. My first position was with the University of Utah in their Critical Care Internship program. After 6 months of rotating through 6 different Critical care units I was invited to join the Burn Trauma ICU.

What do you love most about nursing?  I love the deep connection that is created with my patients and their families. I enjoy helping others learn the pathophysiology of burn recovery. I am constantly impressed by the body’s ability to heal. I am also impressed at the strength, patience, and resilience that patients find within themselves as they re-learn to stand with erect posture, bend their knees and stretch their skin's limits as they increase their range of motion again.

Tell me your biggest pet peeves about nursing.  The challenges of bedside nursing that are most difficult for me to cope with are at the system level. The hospital bedside nurse is expected to work as hard as they can for 13 hours; deeply caring for patients, ensuring their safety, tending to patients and family’s emotional needs while also ensuring the patients health is progressing in the best direction possible. Meanwhile nurses do not get true breaks through the day or a real lunch. There are very few industries outside of nursing that allow this practice given the acuity of the jobs we do. Many studies have shown the importance of scheduled downtime during the day and its effects on functionality and moral. If units could schedule a person to break individuals for lunch and through the day I believe that we all could provide better care through the day to our patients.

What throws you off balance and how do you know you are out of balance?     I know I am thrown off balance when I do not get exercise or adequate rest at night. I can tell my level of resiliency is low. I wake up and know that there is not enough coffee to pick me back up. My patience wanes, I set expectations that may be unreachable, my introverted side comes out and I become short with myself and those around me.

What brings you back into balance?  When I am off balance I know I need to prioritize my sleep and take some personal time. For me this means a mountain bike ride, a little meditation, yoga, or hike with my dog, Slider . However when it occurs in the midst of a shift, I will take a drink of fresh ice water, grab a health snack, and remind myself to take a deep breath. This gives me the opportunity to calm my mind.  

Tell me your most unusual or interesting story as a nurse.  I recently had the opportunity to take care of a patient who had an amputation of his leg from the hip down due to a spider bite. I helped care for him while intubated and sedated and again when he was alert and conscious. He and his wife had an amazing resilient spirit. They took the situation and truly worked to make the best of it. They would place a teddy bear at the location his former foot would be on the wheel chair or in bed and call it his “bear foot.” They made light of the situation and in return allowed for a greater amount of healing to occur because the loss of a limb could be discussed in an open manner. I was honored to be their nurse and watch him cope with the loss of his leg. I was honored to be able to help him stand for the first time on one leg. The facial emotions he expressed from fear, to determination, then pure joy; helped me see a special aspect of nursing I did not expect.

What advice would you give to new grads starting out? 

Expose yourself to as much as you can. Be willing to push yourself while your have a preceptor.

Ask as many questions as you can about pathophysiology, patient-family interactions etc.

Make sure your understand any intervention you are doing and WHY your are doing it. The more your understand is directly related to the more power you have.

Don't worry about coming across as a bother to other nurses or worrying about not knowing everything you need to know. Ultimately you will earn their respect as a knowledgeable, competent capable nurse that is eager to provide the best care to patients as possible.

As you are taking it all in remember to listen to yourself and the internal gut feeling. Even with minimal experience you need to trust yourself; soon you will be on your own completely. Listening to yourself is powerful. Even if your internal voice is saying you need to take a minute for yourself.