Service with Heart; National Nurses Week highlights work of nurses, caretakers

Published 9:14 am Friday, May 10, 2019

When Randi Peterson was a child, she knew that when she grew up she wanted to become a nurse. Almost 17 years later, she’s living her dream helping patients everyday.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse,” the Blooming Prairie native said. “I love what I do.”

This week was National Nurses Week, and more than 690 nurses, nursing assistants, technicians and health coordinators at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea were thanked for their service and the daily responsibilities they fulfill every day with a flower to show the hospital’s appreciation for its patient care staff.

Every day, Peterson works behind the scenes as an integral caretaker who makes critical decisions during tough situations, as well as providing direct care while using her nursing knowledge to ensure the patient’s care is appropriate for hospitalization.

She made her way through the career field, starting off with a certified medical assistant degree. Peterson eventually gained her associate’s degree from North Iowa Area Community College and got a job in cardiac pulmonary rehab, which she held for two years. For several years, Peterson went back and forth from Owatonna and Austin, working as a transitional care coordinator to improve readmissions. She also worked as a nurse manager in Owatonna.

Eventually, Peterson started her role as the RN case manager at Mayo Clinic in Austin in April.

‘I really enjoy getting to see the full picture of the patient’s story,’ she said. ‘It is exciting. Each patient has a different story.’

A selfless profession

In 1933, the American Nurses Association declared May 6-12 as the national week to celebrate and elevate the nursing promotion, according to the ANA.

National Nurses Week is a time when individuals, employers, other healthcare professionals, community leaders and nurses recognize the significant contributions and positive impact of America’s four million registered nurses. Every year, the celebration ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Spending almost 40 years in nursing, Lori Routh, director of nursing, has seen the changes made to the career field. No longer are nurses primarily assistants to physicians, now they have almost limitless opportunities. They can work in schools, insurance companies or even behavioral health.

‘Sometimes it’s hard to determine which area best fits you,’ Routh said. ‘You can work in a lot of areas. As a whole, each department’s challenges are unique to them. It’s very demanding to be a nurse, and they care for patients in stressful times. Nursing is far more than just being an assistant to a physician anymore. It’s a specialty.’

It took just a conversation with a nursing director at a nursing home for Routh to pursue a career in nursing. She never once regretted that decision.

‘My favorite thing is always getting to interact with people,’ she said. ‘It’s never the same thing every day.’

Working in the healthcare field, many nurses experience firsthand limited resources, funding and social support as a challenge in their industry. Peterson said that while the work is hard, with many nurses deal with long hours, difficult situations, and sometimes having to forgo meals, going to the bathroom or even spending time with their own families, nurses are usually the ones advocating for patients.

‘You’re frustrated you cannot do more,’ she said. ‘There’s so many aspects to nursing. It does take away from their own personal lives and they’re always putting people first. They’re caring for people and the emotion of the patient. They’re still going to help you. They understand when a patient is hurting or in pain. They’re doing this 100 percent for patients and forget about themselves.’

Another challenge that some nurses may face while working in a community setting like Austin and Albert Lea is helping someone who they know.

‘I think what we see in our nurses is that they’re always committed to placing the needs of the patient first,’ Routh said. ‘They’re keeping the patient whole and well. Many times in Albert Lea and Austin, they end up taking care of people you know, your relatives, and in the community you know a lot of people. That’s challenging when you know somebody well, but they always focus on what the patients need.’

Thank you, nurses

Although there’s a lot that goes into nursing, there are a few things that Peterson hopes the public understands about what makes a good nurse.

‘Advocate is a big word,’ she said. ‘We advocate for the patient and we stand up for them when they cannot speak. They need to have compassion and empathy.’

While this week may be highlighting the nursing field, the work of healthcare providers hasn’t gone unnoticed.

‘I feel so very blessed to be able to work with the nursing team that I’m working with,’ Routh said. ‘It’s an honor to be part of the nursing team in Austin and Albert Lea.’

Those sentiments are also felt by Peterson, who is thankful to have colleagues to share the passion of caring for patients with on a daily basis.

‘We do anything for each other,’ she added