What made South Nashville special for you?
We chose to live in South Nashville because it allows me to be close to my work in Nashville, and my family in Spring Hill, as well as my friends in Murfreesboro. Both my boyfriend and I went to MTSU. That’s where I went for nursing school.
Where is it that you work?
I’m a registered nurse at Saint Thomas West, in the cardiac and neuro ICU. I picked Saint Thomas because when I was in nursing school, I did my clinicals there. I did six shifts at night. It was kind of weird that they had a nursing student doing night shifts, but I definitely felt like that was the one where I got to learn the most. It was the clinicals that stuck with me.
What’s your role like as a registered nurse?
We work with a lot of patients on the neuro ICU who might have just recently had a stroke or a brain tumor. And then on the cardiac ICU I work with a lot of people who just recently had a cardiac bypass or even heart transplants. Our goal is just to try to help them with pain relief, watching their blood pressures, getting them up out of bed as soon as possible. And then obviously the biggest goal is to get them out of the ICU and up to [the medical-surgical floor] where they can start their rehab and work on getting home.
How did you get into that line of work?
Actually, a lot of my family’s in the healthcare field. We have nurses, doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists… It seems like we just have a little bit of everything. I don’t think I even realized that when I was younger, but my cousin actually lived with us when she went to nursing school and it allowed me to learn more about the career in nursing. Then when I was in school, I really enjoyed learning about math, science, and anatomy the most. So, I just figured that between being able to help people, loving those specific subjects in school, and seeing my cousin go through nursing school, it seemed like nursing was a good fit for me.
How has the outbreak affected your day-to-day operations at work?
Since all this started, when you walk into the hospital, they have a little questionnaire where they ask if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, and then they take our temperatures. And then they were giving us a sticker right at the entrance and then also there are masks to wear for the shift.
Since I’m in the cardiac and neuro ICU, I have my own high-risk patients, so being on the front lines to me is a lot of wearing masks all the time, extra hand washing, and cleaning equipment. Then there also has to be people who are willing to care specifically for the coronavirus patients. I haven’t worked often in that unit, but I really appreciate the people who have worked multiple shifts in there, because it really takes a special kind of person. You have to have the full outfit, the gown, the gloves, the masks, the face shield…it was goggles for a little while…shoe covers…
Then there’s also a lot of people who have to be there, just be in that unit just to help take off all that equipment. There are almost always two nurses to a room. There’s supposed to be a clean nurse and a dirty nurse. And then there’s also somebody to help take off the PPE. You’re also recording who has been in the room, at what time, when you left the room. It’s a lot.
Why is it more important than ever for you to continue your work?
There are so many people who need healthcare, especially during this outbreak, and there’s always a shortage of nurses. I always recommend that if somebody is wanting to go into the job, to definitely give it a try. It’s very rewarding.
What about your work makes you the most proud?
I’m most proud when I’m being a patient’s advocate, especially in the ICU because people there are at their worst. It’s really worthwhile to provide care when people can’t always ask for it themselves, because a lot of our patients come in and they have to be sedated or intubated. That, or they’re just at their most fatigued or maybe they don’t understand what’s going on. It’s really awesome to be able to notice if, say, their blood pressure is different, knowing what to do for them when that happens. Or even just being able to educate them or their family while they’re in the ICU of what’s going on with their illness, why it’s happening, and what they can expect next.
What advice would you give people during the pandemic?
Just wash your hands more and wear a mask. Check on your friends and family often, even if it’s just by phone or video, to make sure that they’re okay. Being home alone so long or not being by your job, not being social… I just imagine so many people are probably getting lonely. I miss my grandparents right now, so I try to call them as much as I can.
What are you looking forward to doing most when things return to normal?
I’m a big MTSU fan, so I’d like to go to their sporting events, whenever they begin again. I also want to be able to travel some more, go camping with my family in August, and see my grandparents again. And then of course I think everyone looks forward to not wearing a mask in public.
We already consider you a hero, Alyssa. But if you got to choose one superpower, what would it be?
It would probably choose to be able to just know all languages fluently, including sign language. I like to travel a lot, so there’s been a lot of times that I’ve had difficulty with a language barrier. I’ve also had patients who spoke only Arabic or patients who spoke only Spanish, and it would just make it a lot easier and probably more comforting to a patient if you just always had somebody who could speak that language without pulling out the language phone, or trying to translate it somehow on a phone. I bet it would just be a lot more comforting.
Thank you for all that you do and taking the time to talk with us today Alyssa. Stay safe and take care.
For sacrificing her time and her own safety to continue to care for those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, we’re proud to award Alyssa with the Hardin’s Heroes title, certificate, and a donation of $500 to the Middle Tennessee Treasures dog and cat rescue organization.