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At 7:00 P.M, most of our days are starting to wind down but for Melissa Shouse, an R.N as Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, her day is just beginning. Melissa works the night shift at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the Cardiothoracic Intensive care unit where she takes care of some of the hospital’s sickest children and she literally is helping them live during their time in the ICU. Sometimes, she can be the difference between life and death for children in the ICU.
For Melissa, her desire to become a nurse began early in life and she began her career at Children’s Hospital LA after she completed their R.N residency program. During the residency program, she received special training that prepared her to be an ICU nurse. She was even featured in a Youtube video about the R.N residency program that was narrated by actress Jennifer Gardner.
I had the chance to interview Melissa about what it is like to be a nurse, how she stays strong during the difficult moments of nursing and about her advice for aspiring nurses.
Q:Why did you decide to become a nurse?
A:I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field ever since I was in grade school. At first I wanted to become a pediatrician, yet as the years went by and I saw the role of a MD and RN; I knew that nursing was for me because I wanted the direct one on one patient care. I had always enjoyed babysitting and found kids to be so full of excitement and have a wonder for life. By being a pediatric nurse, I knew that I could combine my passion for kids and a profession into one, by pursuing a career in nursing.
Q:Do you enjoy working at Childrens Hospital LA?
A:I really enjoy working at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, and I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. I have gotten involved at CHLA not only with nursing care, but also by being part of a hospital wide committee and department committees, which I absolutely enjoy.
Q:I think that a lot of people want to be pediatric nurses but are worried that it will be too difficult to watch the little ones suffer. Do you have any advice for people struggling with that fear?
A:This question gave me the goose bumps because yes at times it is difficult to see innocent little lives suffer right under my eyes. My advice for those who have a passion for nursing and want to pursue a career in pediatrics is simple, stay strong. As a nurse, parents look up to us and know that we are there doing the best for their child. If you stay strong and go into work knowing you are going to be doing your best, that’s all that is needed.
Q:What is the most rewarding part of being a nurse?
A:The most rewarding part of being a bedside nurse is that I am part of the families most vulnerable time in their child’s life and parent’s life. All families are anxious, curious, and nervous, you name it, they show it, and to be able to talk and explain to them the status, updates, rational behind what we do for their child is rewarding.
Q:I’m sure that it’s very difficult to watch the children be in pain right before your eyes. How do you deal with that?
A:I always have to tell myself to somewhat “remove” myself from the situation. If I was emotionally involved then I would be stepping over that patient/nurse boundary. It is difficult to see and deal with the pain of a child, but I intervene with nursing judgment to help alleviate the pain/suffering.
Q:Is it difficult to handle the long hours of work that nursing entails?
A:I actually wouldn’t want a shift shorter than 12 hours. 12 hours might sound extremely long, but once you start working those types of hours it is easy to get used to. I work the night shift hours, so 7pm-730am, and I love that I was able to choose what shift to work. There are nights, when four hours have already passed and I haven’t had time to sit, drink water, or even chart on my patient. Those are the nights that a child can be in critical condition and I go home extremely exhausted.
Q:I’ve often heard people say that Children’s Hospital LA is a hospital that’s happy. Do you think that’s true?
A:I think CHLA tries to make it like home to patients. There is children’s art work throughout the hospital, and all patient rooms have décor on the ceilings and walls. There are also age appropriate activities such as a teen lounge, play room, and even a garden outside for those who can go outside. I think these activities/environment help patients feel happy and well taken care of.
Q:As an ICU nurse, I'm sure that you've lost patients. How do you deal with the trauma of losing them?
A:I see and hear about this on the ICU, it’s part of working in a cardiac ICU. Whenever there is a loss, we have a debriefing after the incident for all those involved: nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, etc. to talk about what happened before, during, and after the death, what could have been prevented, done better, or simply just the process of how it all happened and everyone’s feelings. This helps us stay focused and express feelings of the job and prevent us from taking the stress home.
Q:What would you like to say to teens about the importance of supporting Children’s hospitals and foundations?
A:If your passion is with healthcare, especially pediatrics, getting involved with volunteer work and the environment at a nearby hospital is not only rewarding, but can be life changing and enlightening. Very few people know what goes on behind the doors of a children’s hospital.