Few professions face daily stress like healthcare workers. On any given day, a nurse may hold the lives of several different people in their hands, sometimes in vain. Claire Storms is a cardiovascular intervention nurse at Baptist Health Louisville. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2020 and began working in July.
We reached out to Storms to ask what keeps her going.
Q: What does a “normal” day look like as a cardiovascular intervention nurse?
A: Each day looks a little different, and that’s part of what I like about it. When you show up you’ll figure out where you start that day, and from there you’ll get your report and plan your day: what patients you’ll see first, running assessments, passing out medication.
Q: What are some of the stresses you face during your job?
A: I’m a newer nurse, I graduated from Western in 2020, so I’ve been a nurse for about a year and four months. It was really hard starting out, you’re just kind of thrown into the real world, and it’s much different than school. There’s a lot of stress around learning how to talk to doctors.
New graduates usually start night shifts, so that’s been a hard thing to learn to do. You’ve gotta stay up all night and kind of get into your flow while also learning to be a nurse and gain some confidence.
I don’t work directly with COVID-19 patients, but it’s really affected our unit. We’re not supposed to have any COVID patients, especially with our open heart patient step-down as they recover. It’s really hard, because if someone’s in an emergency and having a heart attack, a COVID swab isn’t your first priority when saving someone’s life.
There have been patients that come in and get their procedure done, then we swab them when they get back and find they’re positive. At that point, they’ve potentially exposed doctors, nurses, other patients, and that’s hard to deal with.
Q: How would you describe the environment around your job?
I like the environment, I think there’s a very positive outlook on work there, but when I started working during COVID I could definitely tell there was a lot of extra strain among people working extra.
There’s a lot of challenges of having types of patients you’re not used to, and that can really weigh on you. As a nurse, when you feel like you’re not giving someone the best care, it’s really hard to do your best when it’s not up to your own standard.
Q: How do you process the difficulties of the day?
A: I always try to give people as much empathy as I can. You’ll always have patients who smoke or have unhealthy habits that contributed to them coming in.
Sometimes it’s hard because as a nurse you put in so much time into educating and helping them see that they can heal, and sometimes they just won’t give you the same energy back and they’ll continue those habits. When people are rude, I try to remind myself that many of these people are scared and at their lowest, they’re hurting and nervous, so I try not to take it personally.
As far as when I go home, it can be hard to leave your job at work as a nurse. When I was new and had to sleep during the day, I would wake up and think of all the little mistakes I made throughout the day.
Now that I’ve been a nurse for longer, I just try to tell myself “anything that didn’t get done earlier will get done eventually. You’re there for 12 hours, someone else is gonna take care of it, you can’t work 24 hours a day.”
I try to do a lot of self-care, I have pets, I try to exercise and go to the gym, I go on bike rides and all that kind of stuff just to get me away from the hospital. When you’re new, it’s easy to fixate on your job and try to be the best you can, but it’s a job, there’s more to life than work.
Q: What do you think healthcare workers, especially nurses, need right now?
A: That’s a good question… I think it’s hard as a new nurse to say “we need this” or “we deserve this,” I think a lot of new nurses have this idea of “well I haven’t been here long enough, have I really earned this.”
I feel like people respect nurses pretty highly, whenever I hadn’t seen someone for a while and told them what I was doing now they always seemed really supportive. It really makes me feel good whenever someone acknowledged the work I do beyond the actual physical work, whenever they’re like “thank you for what you do” in general.
Kind words really mean the most. There’s a lot of changes happening with the pandemic and kind words and encouragement really go a long way.