Wednesday, July 22, 2015

10 Years Is A Long Time!

In July of 2005, I stepped foot inside of Abbott Northwestern Hospital as an employee for the very first time. Looking back, I never could have predicted what a significant role that one single place would eventually play in my life. Within the walls of this institution, some of the most pivotal moments of my life have taken place. Its weird to think that a 2 block radius in heart of Minneapolis would be the stage where both these highs and lows would play out over the next 10 years.

Abbott Northwestern Hospital - Minneapolis, MN
My first position at ANW was as a Nursing Assistant on the Medical/Surgical/Neurological Intensive Care Unit. I worked on that unit for three years while I was in nursing school. It was while working on this unit that I got to know some of the most talented nurses in their specialty. One nurse in particular, Pam, became my mentor. I remember learning so much from her as she would patiently and colorfully explain her process of doing a dressing change, starting an IV, identifying heart rhythms and countless other medical procedures. She was encouraging, funny and very hard working. But the thing I admired most about Pam was her deep compassion and how she dealt with the families of her patients. I watched as many other nurses (who were no less technically good at what they do) brush families aside without much acknowledgment or consideration. I overheard phone calls to family that were rushed and curt. There is no exaggeration in using the word "Intensive" with this unit because it truly is an intense place to work and people are very, very ill. However, it always warmed my heart to see how Pam was SO caring and considerate of patients and their family. Even when she was incredibly busy, she made time to answer questions of family members and provide supportive reassurance. It is something I carry with me to this day and try emulate in my own nursing practice.

During the summer before my last year of nursing school, I applied for Clinical Nursing Internship at ANW. I was absolutely jazzed when I got news that I was accepted for a position on the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit. It was my plan at the time to pursue a career as an ICU nurse and I learned more than I ever imagined during my time there. It was the first time I did CPR on a human being and the first time I actively participated in a Code Blue. It was also my first taste of working 12 hour night shifts and I quickly learned that nonsense schedule was not for me! However, during the 3 months of my internship, I felt more like a nurse than ever before and the skills I learned have served me well during my career so far.

If someone would have told me that I'd end up working as a mental health nurse, I probably would have cried with laughter. However, during my last year of nursing school I found myself absolutely fascinated by the mental health lectures. Our nursing program did not have psych clinical rotations as part of our experience. So, being the true geek I am, I sought out additional clinical experience in mental health. My instructor was able to set it up for me to go in on my own time and do observation shift on an inpatient mental health unit. After that day, I knew I had found my groove. I was incredibly fortunate to be hired on as an RN at Abbott Northwestern in mental health right out of school. I've been working on the same unit for 7 years now and have not looked back!

In the spring of 2009, just 9 months after becoming an RN, I made the decision to pursue Gastric Bypass surgery. After doing a bunch of research and looking into different programs, the decision was a no-brainer after finding out that Abbott Northwestern's was one of the best. I had my surgery on the morning of April 15, 2009. A friend of mine who worked in surgery helped me select my surgical support team and I felt so much comfort in my decision to go under the knife at ANW. My surgery went incredibly smoothly and the nursing care I received afterward was exceptional. I felt very confident going into my surgery there and was not let down by any part of my experience.

In the fall of 2009, I met my first husband, Simon who happened to be born with a serious, chronic heart defect. I was actually quite relieved to learn that he went to Abbott Northwestern for all of his cardiac care. I had met several of his doctors during my internship back in 2007 and knew exactly what great hands he was in. Due to his heart complications, Simon was in the ER and admitted to the hospital at least 6 time during the first 8 months we were married. In the spring of 2011, he was admitted to the very Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where I did my internship just a few summers prior. He bounced between step-down units and the ICU for almost two weeks. However, he was on that ICU when I got the phone call saying he had gone into cardiac arrest. I knew the doctor who ran his Code Blue. I saw her walk out of his room just as I was arriving and I knew her well enough to know that it hadn't gone well. She was the one who told me that my husband didn't make it. Hearing those words from her, of course I was completely devastated. But I can tell you that there wasn't an inkling of a doubt in my mind that they did everything they could for him. My mind flashed back to the dozens of codes I had seen run by this particular doctor and I absolutely knew that he had gotten the best care possible.

I think of all the people I've met within these walls. I've made lifelong friends and have had to work with some of the most difficult people I've ever encountered. I've felt the amazing pride and exhilaration on days I've done great work. I've also left that place wondering why the hell I became a nurse in the first place. I have laughed and been amused beyond belief. I built my nursing career here and have grown into a person I feel proud to be. I've also had my life crumble before my eyes and felt devastation I've never known. Everything I've gone through there has molded me in a way that I could have never imagined possible. I am deeply grateful for my time here I would not trade the experiences that I have had within the walls of Abbott Northwestern Hospital for anything.

The timing of this report couldn't be more perfect. Just as I was finishing this blog post, a coworker of mine posted this news. Not only does it support my praise for ANW but it also speaks for itself:

U.S. News & World Report ranks Abbott Northwestern Hospital #1 in Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS 07/21/2015--Abbott Northwestern Hospital retained first place ranking for the Best Hospital in the Twin Cities and second best in Minnesota in the U.S. News & World Report's 2015-16 Best Hospital rankings released today.
In addition to the state and regional rankings, Abbott Northwestern Hospital also received national recognition in five specialty areas: Cardiology and Heart Surgery (#37); Geriatrics (#40); Gynecology (#10), Neurology and Neurosurgery (#46) and Orthopedics (#19). Fewer than three percent of the nearly 5,000 hospitals that were analyzed for Best Hospitals 2015-16 were nationally ranked in even one specialty.