Local Nurses Share Insights into Their Profession

 

By Lura Jackson

 

In recognition of the upcoming National Nurses Week running from May 6th to May 12th, The Calais Advertiser sat down with three local nurses to hear their stories and what they enjoy most about their profession.

CRH Acute Care Director Krista Collins

Born and raised in Calais, Krista Collins traces the beginnings of her career back to when she took part in St. Croix Regional Technical Center’s CNA program in high school. Once she graduated, she started working at Calais Regional Hospital [CRH]. “I started here as a CNA with really no intention of going beyond that,” Collins said. “But then you kind of get into the practice and you see what every position has to offer.” When Washington County Community College’s Nursing program opened up, Collins took the opportunity to enroll and move forward in her work.

Two decades later, as the Acute Care Director, Collins now oversees the Emergency Department, the Medical Surgical unit, and the currently-suspended Rose Room infusion therapy clinic. She works with approximately 100 staff, about 60 of whom are nurses. “I wouldn’t have looked at my high school self and thought that someday I would be the director of a nursing unit,” Collins said. “But I love what I do.”

Collins finds several components of her job enjoyable, but the most rewarding moments come when she is able to fix a problem that is frustrating her staff. “That kind of process improvement is the best part of my job. The frustrating part of my job is when I have to make process improvement changes that are federally or state mandated,” Collins said, explaining that some changes that may make sense with a larger hospital in an urban area do not work as well for smaller communities.

It is the devoted staff of CRH that makes Collins’ work particularly worthwhile. She said that staff members frequently go above and beyond to care for their patients, a tendency enhanced by the nature of the small community. The pool of nurses at the hospital has a wide representation of experience levels. “We have a lot of longevity nurses, myself included. We also have a really great realm of newer nurses that have come in that have a great work ethic. They work hard every day that they’re here. We’ve had a rough go of it here and they have all really shined through that.”

Collins strongly recommends the nursing profession. “I think being a nurse is great. I specifically really love that we are in this small area.” She adds that being a nurse enables one to pursue any number of specialties and that each day offers variety. “Some days you get to take care of the grumpy old guy, if that’s what you want to do, and other days you get to take care of the sweet old lady. Then you get to play with the two-year-old that’s here and just starting to feel better. There’s so much greatness in being able to help people.”

Aspiring Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Incannella

Elizabeth Incannella knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nurse. Growing up in Connecticut, both of her grandmothers were affected by cancer. “I spent a lot of time in hospitals with them. I saw really good nurses – people I wanted to be like,” Incannella said.

With her parents originating in Calais, Incannella knew she wanted to ultimately work in Maine. She attended Husson University in Bangor to complete its nursing program as soon as she was able to. Upon graduating, she went back to Connecticut briefly to work at Yale New Haven Hospital as an oncology nurse before getting hired at Calais Regional Hospital in 2015.

For Incannella, the experience has been a joy. “I love interacting with the people. You get to meet a big group of our community by being in a hospital setting. That’s really what I like about working in a small hospital in this area. Getting to know the patients and their families, and making lasting connections with them.”

Incannella, who specializes as a medical surgical nurse, is now in the process of expanding her ability to better assist the people of the extended Calais community. She is one year into a master’s degree that will enable her to operate as a nurse practitioner. “My goal is to be a nurse practitioner in this area and help the rural and underserved populations here.”

While Incannella heartily recommends the nursing field for its opportunities of growth and education, she shares that being a nurse is not for everybody. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of persistence to be a nurse. It takes mental and emotional strength. It’s kind of like a rollercoaster you go on with your patients.”

Seasoned Nightshift Nurse Marlene Dobson

The nursing field offers the constant potential for learning and exploring new specialties, as Marlene Dobson of St. John shares. Dobson has been working as a nurse for the past 27 years, and while the field has changed on some levels in that amount of time, the variability of the career has not.

While she was in school, Dobson recalls being uncertain of what career she wanted to pursue. She considered architecture and the sciences before realizing where her passion lay. “I always enjoyed the sciences. My whole life, I knew I wanted to get into some kind of profession where I could help people with that,” she said.

After completing her nursing degree in St. John, Dobson applied to work at the nearby hospital. However, they were only offering per diem positions at the time. A year after working there on a casual basis, she took a position at Calais Regional Hospital to have better control over her schedule and her income. Happily, CRH had an opening in the maternity ward, which was Dobson’s favorite specialty in nursing. “It worked out very well. I was able to spend the next 25 years doing what I love.”

The maternity ward position was nights only, and after the initial year on the shift she became comfortable with the schedule. Night shift nurses work between 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. for three to four days a week.

Since Dobson began her career, there have been some technology-related changes that have required adaptation on her part. The first major change was the transition to computer-based charting. “I found that more difficult to adapt to than the younger people. The younger people use computers on a daily basis as tools in their schools. We did not. When I took my nursing exam, it was in the basement of a church with a pencil, paper, and an eraser.” Dobson took a typing course to learn how to efficiently use the equipment. While it took some getting used to, she quickly realized one of the system’s biggest advantages. “I find it very beneficial that the doctors put in their orders into the computers so now we don’t have to learn to read their writing.”

Another new major innovation has been the introduction of the Omnicell medication ordering system. “It has certainly, certainly cut back on medication errors,” Dobson said. “You don’t have to try to decipher the doctor’s orders – it’s printed out. Then it goes to a pharmacist, then it’s checked by nursing. There are more checks in place and less opportunity for error.”

For Dobson, the continual process of learning new techniques and equipment is a hallmark characteristic of the nursing field. “The education aspect has always been prevalent,” Dobson said. “In order to work optimally with your patient, you have to be current.”

The closure of CRH’s maternity ward left Dobson with a new opportunity to learn. Rather than leaving the hospital – the staff of which she considers to be her family, and many of whom she has formed lasting friendships with – she opted to become a night nurse in the Emergency Department. “It’s very acute, which was like labor and delivery to some extent. They come in, we assess them, we treat them, and they go somewhere else. I do like the acuteness of it and the fact that I get to learn more… Changing to another department, you can take all of your skills and all of your education and then add to it. I like keeping my brain active.”

In Dobson’s case, she has been able to incorporate one of the most important lessons in maternity into her work in the Emergency Department. “The family unit is so important. It wasn’t just the mother that I was taking care of when she was in labor, it was her, and her baby, and her significant other and her support unit. That’s just as true in acute care.”

Describing nursing as a “perpetually changing profession”, Dobson said she highly recommends it to people regardless of what their particular interests are. “There are all kinds of different things in the field of nursing that you can excel at. You can go into Home Health, you can teach, you can work in a hospital, you can work in a clinic, you can be a school nurse. There are so many different areas.”

Becoming a nurse was a defining choice for Dobson, who shares that she has never regretted it. “I’ve never ever doubted it or thought, ‘Gee, did I make a mistake?’ I’ve always been proud of my profession and happy that I continued as a nurse.”