America's Nurses: Trauma Nurse Has Been Saving Lives For 22 Years

NursingJanuary 06, 2014

Trauma nurse Kathy H. discusses her journey from when she was a child trying to help take care of kids on the playground to a nurse with 22 years of experience in saving lives.

Kathy has always wanted to take care of people in some way, and she naturally gravitated to those who were hurt. "When I saw kids in my class hurt themselves during recess, I was the one who brought them to the nurse," she said. "She even let me clean out their scrapes, and I loved it."

This love morphed into a degree in medical technology, but there was something missing. "I missed interaction with patients, so I decided to take an EMT course. During the course, they had us spend a few shifts in the emergency room. I was hooked from that moment. The adrenaline, the speed, the fast pace, everything. I knew I wanted to work in trauma from that experience."

Initially, Kathy considered becoming a doctor, but by this time, she had two young children and medical school wasn't a good option for her family. So she began to research how to become a trauma nurse. She decided to attend a state college in Utah to earn her associate degree in nursing, and she became an RN. After working in hospitals for a few years, Kathy returned to get her bachelor's degree.

As a trauma nurse, Kathy responds to trauma patients including victims of car crashes, falls, stabbings and gunshot wounds. As the patient is brought into the trauma bay, her role is to strip the patient to expose all possible injuries. Then, in conjunction with the patient's vital signs and status, and the details of the traumatic incident, she must anticipate what needs to be done for the patient. Since a few minutes can make the difference between life and death, Kathy's ability to anticipate the doctor's treatment for the patient can save lives.

Kathy thrives on the variety, the pace and the intensity of the trauma room. Every patient is different, and every shift brings a new challenge. Currently, Kathy is seeking her master's degree in nursing to become an acute care nurse practitioner. Her RN degree has opened doors for her to work as a trauma nurse, a helicopter flight nurse, and a trauma nurse specialist. Her options are open to teach in a nursing school, or essentially whatever catches her eye as a registered nurse.

"My favorite part is being able to see a patient and just know that there is something going on, and then to be right about it," said Kathy. She recounted a story of a man who had been in a car accident. "He was talking and said he had a little pain, but he was too pale, and I knew something else was wrong. The doctor said he was fine, but I suggested a CT scan of the abdomen to make sure." The scan revealed that the man had severe internal bleeding requiring extensive surgery, which may have cost him his life.

"I have also been able to do manual heart compressions, where I literally held someone's heart in my hands and pumped life into them. It's an incredible experience."

Clearly, trauma nurses like Kathy play an important role in saving lives. 

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons