America's Nurses: Meet Critical Care Nurse, Heidi

NursingJanuary 17, 2014


Heidi B. is a critical care nurse who became interested in nursing when she took an anatomy and physiology course in high school. "I became fascinated with how the body works, and I also loved teaching others about their body, so I went in that direction," she said. "I was never in the hospital setting before becoming a nurse. I just knew I wanted to do it."

Following high school, Heidi pursued her bachelor's degree in nursing, and quickly found a job as a medical-surgical nurse. From there, she was able to gain experience and move into the ICU. "We are a kind of catch-all unit, so we see GI bleeds, sepsis, MODS (multi-organ dysfunction syndrome) overdoses and occasionally some trauma victims. We also get some random syndromes that are pretty rare, so I am continually learning about the body and how it works. It's a challenge, but I like that aspect of critical care nursing."

In an ICU setting, patients are so ill that nurses only take care of one or two of them at a time. While that is fewer than the average patient load for a med-surg nurse, the physical exertion of taking care of patients can be demanding. "There are a lot of high emotions and taxing physical requirements in the ICU because these patients are totally dependent on me. But that motivates me to try to implement changes in the hospital setting. Right now, we are trying to get ceiling lifts installed to help save nurses from back strain when trying to move patients."

Even though it is challenging to be a critical care nurse, Heidi's favorite part of being a nurse is the patient interaction, especially when she has the opportunity to help a patient take control of their health and make positive changes. "I am constantly learning how to understand people, and how they are motivated to do things," she said. When I understand that, I can help them take charge of their own health."

One patient especially made an impact on Heidi's career as a critical care nurse. The patient was suddenly diagnosed with metastasized uterine cancer. After doing extensive surgery to remove the tumors, her recovery became understandably problematic. "She was unable to have a bowel movement because of the surgery, so she was unable to eat. She was miserable. So as nurses, we developed a little routine of exercises that would strengthen her muscles, and get things moving. Within a few days, everything was working again, and she was able to eat." As a sign of her gratitude to Heidi and the critical care nursing team, she wrote a letter to the nursing board, and bought cupcakes for the whole floor. Heidi received a bonus for her efforts.

"I love being a nurse and I will always be a nurse, but I am looking into going back to school part-time for interior design, because I really enjoy it. I also like to play sports, read, and I am really getting into cooking. Nursing gives me the flexibility to pursue my other interests, while still doing what I love."

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons