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Transcript of interview of pediatric nurse Kelli Anderson
Jamie: Kelli, welcome to Nursing Notes Live.
Kelli: Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me today.
Jamie: I wanted to ask you a little bit – to get started, how you got into nursing? What made you choose that as a career path and what educational process did you use to get your RN?
Kelli: Well, I was one of the youngest in my nursing program. Actually, I was 22, the youngest of my graduating class. The average age was in the thirties. It was very challenging. I went right from high school into a four-year nursing program at University of Colorado. I really value that education. I went up the ladder pretty quickly in nursing. I was a manager at the age of 26, if you can believe that. I felt like my Nursing Bachelor’s degree really promoted me to be prepared straight out of nursing school because it makes you think outside the box. It was very interesting when I got into management interviewing other people from different programs. I really value the four-year degree. It really helps you have more diversity in nursing. I chose pediatrics because of my nursing experience when I was in nursing school. I just have a love for children. I’m very, very passionate about that. I did start straight into adults because that’s always was encouraged at that time to have experience. I have to say, walking away, I’m glad I did because it gave me some really strong basic nursing straight out of the gate. It helped me prepare to be a pediatric nurse because it is very specialized and very challenging emotionally and physically to be a pediatric nurse. I’ve been here at Children’s Hospital for 20 years and I still love it as much as the first day I came here.
Jamie: You said that choosing pediatric nursing you made that decision while you were in nursing school. I’ve heard that from so many other nurses that it just seemed to be one of their clinical rotations clicked with them. When you made that decision, was it in a particular rotation or how did you decide that: “This is what I want to do”?
Kelli: It was that specific clinical rotation. It was my experience—it was funny—it was in Denver. The nurses didn’t even wear uniforms. They wear street clothes because they felt like it was ecologically better for the patients there. The patients varied from complexity and acuity. It’s just challenging every day. You may have a child the same age but it’s very different developmentally or what they’re going through so it’s never the same. Every day is a different day. It keeps you on your toes. I always ask nursing students that I work with today, “Why did you like it? Really pay attention to your clinical experience. Even if it isn’t what you saw that would be it. If you’re really passionate about the patients you’re taking care of, being in a different venue, a different area, so follow your heart and follow your dreams because you really needed to what you love and feel.”
Jamie: I’m glad you said that because I’d give the same advice to nursing students. When I speak to them it’s just, “Make sure you get the most out of each rotation. You may be surprised the ones that you like and the ones that maybe are more challenging. It’s not always intuitive as how that works out.”
Kelli: And that’s the beauty of nursing because if you are tired of it or you want to try something else, there’s just so many avenues that you can change, go to try and move on and move up the ladder. You could become an instructor. It’s an endless choice, but you still have to have the bottom basics of why you became a nurse. I tell people sometimes when I get off-track, “Go back to the basics of why you chose to be what you are doing.”
Jamie: Pediatric nursing, what a challenge that is because you really – you made the comment, you started out in adult nursing because that was recommended and you’re glad you got that basis. Really, pediatric nursing, you could treat almost every age-range as a separate patient type. There are so many specific demands associated with caring for them. Did you find that to be the case?
Kelli: Yes. People [unintelligible], “If I couldn’t do what you do, why pediatrics?” I always go back to: kids don’t know that they’re sick and they’re very special. My job is to help them have the best quality of life they could have whether it’s two years of life or whatever. It’s to make their quality of life the best that it can be. It’s just very intriguing and very challenging. You could have a four-month-old and a different four-month-old will be totally different than the one you just took care of. You never get tired of it. Every personality is different. Every patient is different. Every parent is different. You not only have the patient, you have the parents to take care of as well—the whole family dynamics. Overall, the package is very intriguing.
Jamie: You really provide care for the entire family when you care for a pediatric patient. I know that’s been my experience. You have to really keep the whole family in mind because they’re part of a bigger unit more so than an adult is.
Kelli: Absolutely. It’s the key to everything. It’s kind of like doing nursing as well because you’re dealing with the family and the patient’s guardians, whoever it may be. Providing them education and making them the best care provider you can have. There are lots of different family circumstances and where they come from and who’s caring for the child. That itself can be very challenging.
Jamie: We all have those patients that cause us to have those difficult moments. There are times when patients really pull at you emotionally. I think that’s why a lot of people say they can’t do pediatric nursing because they just feel like it would pull at them too hard. How do you deal with those situations where you just have those difficult moments that are going to crop up dealing with any kind of patients but specifically pediatric patients?
Kelli: That’s a hard question because there are sometimes I ask myself, “Why do you do this?” because it can be very draining at times and very hard to deal with. People ask me why on a certain patient. I can’t explain why a certain patient kind of pull at your heartstring and they do. Whether it’s a similar age to your own children or it’s a personality or it’s just an eye contact thing. You really have to balance your life and you have to have a very good balance outside of work as well as inside of work. For me the team I work with here is phenomenal and very supportive. I think you really have to have that as well as a very supportive family network on the outside away from work who when I go home and having to step outside the box and really be thankful for what you have and for life so you really have to balance it all.
Jamie: It’s so true. We, as nurses, are great of being caregivers but not always so great at caring for ourselves.
Kelli: I hear that often. [Laughter] A great advice but I don’t always follow it myself sometimes.
Jamie: It’s true. It’s one of the things that makes us good nurses is we don’t focus on ourselves, but unfortunately sometimes we need to give ourselves that time and especially in difficult situations.
Kelli: Absolutely. Sometimes you need to take a break and walk away from it so that when you come back you are very refreshed and ready to go at it again. You need to take those breaks. You need to take your vacations. You’d come back and [relay] value what you do and take care of yourself.
Jamie: Now you’ve been a pediatric nurse for 20 years now and really have seen a lot of things developed and changed. There are so many advances occurring so rapidly in the way we care for our patients and the technologies. What has been one of the most powerful changes you’ve seen in the care for your pediatric patients over the last 20 years?
Kelli: The acuity of our kids. It has increased significantly. We are taking care of much thicker children than we ever did before. It becomes very challenging when you used to keep these kids in the hospital and now you’re sending those kids out home and education requires for the family to take on that care. We do things because we can and technology has progressed so significantly that we can prolong life for our kids that never had a chance before. It’s very draining. You don’t have just a simple illness here anymore. You have the rarest thing, the one in a million. The thickest kid you could believe in and before they didn’t survive. I think that and the technologies going so far that we can save a lot of people now that weren’t savable before.
Jamie: What do you think about the opportunities for using technology to not only care for our patients but also communicate with our patients and their families and the community at large? You’re using blogging now through your hospital. You’re writing articles and information for the patients but do you see that continue to advance that it’s a necessary tool and what are you looking forward to moving on to here in the near future that continue to reach out the patients?
Kelli: Well, I think it’s very essential technology because that’s the face of the future. Everybody has his Facebook and the technology to communicate now. I think it’s a great avenue to outreach to our families because education isn’t required for them to be a parent or take care of children. Now we have resources that are available to provide them with that education and knowledge to be better parents and be more knowledgeable and understand the disease process or whatever they’re going through. I think that’s our focus here with the blogging as to we take care of such children. But there’s a whole another population out there that is just well-child care that I think sometimes gets not looked upon. It’s a very necessary tool especially for new parents. Here we’re required to be educated to drive an automobile but yet we’re not aspired to be educated to be a parent. What works for one parent may not work for another, but if you have those tools available to you then you’re going to be able to provide better care to your own child. The numbers of well-child care is so much greater. If we could be more preventative then maybe we wouldn’t have these kids then moving on to such—the first illnesses at this point.
Jamie: My experience with dealing with parents on occasion have been that sometimes they need that sanity check whether it’s a parent with a child that has special needs or a parent of a well-child that just needs to find out if this is normal. Often a nurse can just be such a powerful tool to give that reassurance that parents need.
Kelli: Absolutely. It’s imperative. Even educated people, even doctors, you have to laugh even ourselves and even other nurses. When you’re involved with your own child, your own family, you tend to lose focus and that knowledge of being a nurse because you’re now into the role of being a parent. You need whatever support and sometimes someone else to run things by and say, “No, this is normal. This is abnormal. No, you need to look at this; this is okay.” to get that sanity check or to make sure on the right pathway because that nurse or that healthcare provider has taken out the emotional part and then being able to assess a little bit better than when you’re emotionally involved.
Jamie: As you look at your career as a nurse, your 20 years in pediatric nursing and 22 years total, what has been the part of being a nurse that has impacted you in the greatest way?
Kelli: That you may make a difference on one child’s life and that’s all that matters. That you provided the care or you provided support. You provided – just a smile on the child’s face that you made a difference for that child. That’s what brings me back every day. I may have taken care of thousands of patients but there may be one patient that you helped that really made a difference with them.
Jamie: If someone’s looking to become a pediatric nurse, what advice would you give to that nursing student that’s looking at pediatrics as a career path or even that nurse that decided to change their direction in nursing and become a pediatric nurse, what advice would you offer them?
Kelli: Well, you always have to learn every day. That’s part of the challenge of pediatrics is that you learn something new every day and you have to stay true to your heart and you have to stay focused and do the best that you can. Every element of nursing is challenging. Be passionate about what you do and never lose the passion for what you’re doing.
Jamie: Kelli, I want to thank you very much for taking sometime with the listeners here at Nursing Notes Live. Also thank you for being such a great ambassador for nursing. It’s great to hear when I talk to people like you that are just so passionate about nursing care and high-quality care. I’m going to make sure we link back to your blog post and some of your topics there and we’re going to continue to follow the things you’re putting out there through your outreach in using technology and communications and the Web to reach out to patients.
Kelli: I thank you for giving me the opportunity to outreach to people because, like I said, if it helps that one family then we were successful.
– End of Interview –
12/7/10 4:09 PM