Our Nurses of the Week are the three generations of Harms women who have all worked as obstetrics nurses. Christina Harms is a labor and delivery nurse at Spectrum Health Medical Center in Grand Rapids, MI where her mother, Sue Hoekstra, 56, works on the same floor. Christina’s grandmother, Mary Lou Wilkins, 86, was also a nurse at the same hospital. The three women estimate that they’ve helped care for over 10,000 babies over the course of their careers.
“It is so incredible that all three of us have helped build so many families and we have such a passion for these moms and their babies. We love taking care of them.”
Harms fondly tells People.com, “It just goes from generation to generation.” As the mother of two little boys, Harms didn’t always plan on following in her family’s footsteps. She went to college for a music degree but later realized that she had the same passion as her mother and grandmother. She decided to go back to school to become a nurse and has been working in obstetrics for the past four years.
After working night shifts in the labor and delivery unit, Harms often passes off patients to her mom who works day shifts in postpartum. Wilkins, who retired in 1991, says she also shared several patients with Hoekstra over the years. Now Wilkins watches her grandchildren during the day when Harms gets home from working night shifts.
Wilkins knows what it’s like to be a mother and nurse after juggling raising three kids while she worked night shifts at the hospital early on in her career. She became a nurse in 1962 and spent 28 years helping moms deliver their babies. She still remembers how special each individual case was.
All three of these women share in the knowledge of knowing how special it is they all fell in love with the same career path, caring for mothers and babies. When Hoekstra and Wilkins flew to Colorado for Harms’ graduation, they both said they couldn’t have been prouder. Harms shares in the pride, telling ABCNews.com, “It is so incredible that all three of us have helped build so many families and we have such a passion for these moms and their babies. We love taking care of them.”
Our Nurse of the Week is Bill Smith, a former US Navy welder who pursued a career in nursing following his return from the military and found his calling in the cardiac-cath lab. A veteran for 25 years, Smith used the GI Bill to help him return to school and become a nurse, a field that piqued his interested over two decades ago. Now he works as a shift supervisor and team player in the cardiac-cath lab at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, AL.
Smith started out his nursing career as a student at Troy State (now Troy University). Following his graduation, he took his first job on a heart floor where he found his passion for cardiac nursing. He has since worked at hospitals all over the state and country, but he prefers his home at Jackson.
As a shift supervisor in the cardiac-cath lab, Smith works with patients who have a cardiac component like chest pains, shortness of breath, or excess fatigue. Smith tells the MontgomeryAdvertiser.com, “We can take a heart attack and stop it midstream. It’s very gratifying to put a heart attack out right in front of you. It’s very gratifying work that we do in the cath lab.”
While returning to civilian life, Smith says the hardest part of his adjustment in leaving the military was going back to school. It was hard work and he found it intimidating at first, but he adjusted quickly and found that he had a talent for it. Smith isn’t big on individual attention, but his hard work has earned attention anyway. He was a recent recipient of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses and one of the first recipients at Jackson Hospital to receive the award. Discussing his career in nursing, Smith says:
“I’ve learned a lot about myself in that I have more patience than I thought I did, or compassion, toward my fellow man. I did not know before I got into nursing that I could do this role, that I could be as compassionate or patient with mankind, with other people, as I’ve developed over time.”
We want to thank our Nurse of the Week, Bill Smith, for his service over the years in both the Navy and as a dedicated nurse. To learn more about Smith’s experience as a cardiac-cath lab nurse, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Lauren Wirwille, bride-to-be, who was driving to her own bridal shower with her mom in the front seat when she noticed a minivan stopped in front of her. She decided to honk, prompting the car to start moving again, but after Wirwille turned at the intersection her mom saw the van veer off the road. Realizing that the man had looked slumped over, Wirwille pulled over and ran toward the man’s car where she found him unconscious.
As an emergency room nurse for St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Green Oak Township, MI, Wirwille knew exactly what to do to help the man who had gone blue in the face. She was already running late to her bridal shower but couldn’t help pulling over to help a stranger, and she quickly realized it was a good thing she had followed her instincts.
After instructing her mother to call 911, Wirwille began trying to find the man’s pulse. At the same time, another driver pulled over and offered to help get the man out of his vehicle. Then Wirwille immediately started CPR. She recalled the event to ABCNews.go.com, explaining that, “Not a lot of people know how to do chest compressions. After a little while, you do get tired, and you need to not be tired, so I had my mom start chest compressions. She did great. I was so proud of her.”
Shortly after starting CPR, Fire Chief Kevin Gentry arrived on the scene and assisted in performing chest compressions. The EMS crew was able to revive the man and transport him to Providence Hospital where they believe the man was recovering but weren’t able to retrieve any details.
Wirwille ended up being an hour late to her bridal shower, but she was welcomed with open arms and applauded for her heroic actions. She didn’t regret being late to her shower; she was simply humbled by the experience and happy she was able to help somebody through an emergency situation.
Our Nurse of the Week is Shihan Huang, a senior nursing student at the University of Michigan who was born with biliary atresia, a liver condition that gave her a slim chance of survival. She needed a liver transplant, but was born in Taiwan at a time when most hospitals in the country didn’t have the capacity to perform infant transplants. However, her parents relocated to Ann Arbor, MI a few months later where Huang remained on the transplant list for over a year.
Then just two days after her second birthday, Huang’s parents received a call that there was a liver available. Michigan Medicine nurse, Vicki Shieck, cared for Huang following her transplant and she still remembers those early days treating Huang. Her surgery was a success, and now all grown up, Huang is pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Michigan.
Huang is a thriving young woman, but her condition requires lifelong maintenance and monitoring. Shieck tells Nursing.UMich.edu, “Just like any young adult who had a liver transplant as an infant, Shihan had some transition hurdles to overcome in learning how to manage her chronic illness. Many of my kids her age don’t overcome those hurdles and it leads to non-adherence, chronic rejection and unfortunately, death.”
Huang credits Shieck for encouraging her throughout her treatment and as an adult pursuing a career in nursing that will allow her to support other children facing similar challenges. She explains her career choice, saying “I’ve been in the hospital so much and I know what it feels like to be sick and feeling terrible. Nursing is my way of giving back. The health care profession did a lot for me so I want to be able to give back.”
Huang is now preparing for her graduation ceremony. She plans to work for a few years before returning to graduate school after she has decided on a specialty area. To learn more about senior nursing student Shihan Huang and the many ways she’s giving back to the field of nursing, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Adaya Troyer, a senior nursing student and undergraduate researcher at the University of Tennessee (UT) Knoxville who is using her own experience to help young children with asthma understand and manage their condition. Troyer was only two years old when she was diagnosed with asthma and now she hopes to help others thrive with the condition from a young age.
Troyer first began to understand her asthma as an elementary school student when she was given an educational video game that taught her what triggers an attack and how to react. Through her research, Troyer has discovered that educational materials about asthma for young children are nonexistent, especially for those too young to read. However, this is the age group most in need of these materials as kids younger than five are the most at risk of hospitalization.
Hoping to fill that void, Troyer’s goal is to create an iPad app. She tells TNToday.UTK.edu, “I believe that educating children early will help them understand and manage their illnesses by the time they are in school, which will decrease hospitalizations as well as social stigma placed on children by peers in their schools.” She has presented her research at the National Council on Undergraduate Research conference in Memphis, Legislative Day in Nashville, and the Southern Nursing Research Society conference in Dallas. Troyer will also present at an international nursing research conference in Ireland this July.
Upon graduation, Troyer plans to continue her work on this research project. Creating her asthma learning tool for kids will allow her to broaden the scope of her work. She will also be a participant in the Tennessee Fellowship for Graduate Excellence program, and will begin pursuing a nurse practitioner license and PhD this summer.
Troyer’s research is being highlighted by UT as part of their eighth-annual Research Week, highlighting the everyday impacts of faculty and student research. Over 1,400 UT undergraduate students are involved in research to enhance their learning process and career preparation.
To learn more about Adaya Troyer and other undergraduate nurse researchers like her, visit here.
Our Nurses of the Week are the nursing students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) who donate their time on an annual mission trip to Guatemala to treat women with cervical cancer and provide health screenings and education to as many Guatemalans as possible.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in Guatemala, taking the lives of over 1,400 Mayan women per year. The disease is treatable when detected early, but women in the developing country don’t receive the regular checkups and treatment they need for early diagnosis. 31 percent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the US die each year, compared with 48 percent in Guatemala – quite a jump.
Dorothy Dunn, an assistant professor in the Northern Arizona University School of Nursing, became interested in Latin America while taking history classes as an undergrad. Gaining a passion for global outreach, she decided to find out why a curable cancer is killing so many Mayan women. Dunn tells News.NAU.edu,
“Because Guatemala is a low-resource country, women lack the regular checkups and treatment they need, resulting in a very late-stage cancer diagnosis. They are then placed on a waiting list of more than 2,000 people in hopes of living long enough to receive radiation treatment – most of whom don’t.”
This led Dunn to the Center for International Education, where she established an international study abroad program providing NAU nursing students with the opportunity to treat Mayan women through a partnership with the Guatemalan-based nonprofit, Nursing Heart Inc. NAU’s program is unique from other international programs in that a group of students returns to the same town and same people every year, providing them with annual ‘check-ups’ and checking on their patients’ progress.
Students from NAU have been traveling with Dunn annually to Santa Maria de Jesus since 2013 where over 500 people flock each year to receive treatment. They focus on women’s health care, spending the first three days providing Mayan women with cervical cancer screenings. It’s a program everyone benefits from as the women get treatment they don’t otherwise receive and students get hands-on experience and the chance to save lives.
Guatemala has also seen an influx in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. For many of the country’s poorer families, low-nutrient, high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-salt processed foods are all that are affordable. These diseases are often manageable in developed countries, but without adequate healthcare funding and access to medications, these diseases are causing even more early deaths in Guatemalans. Hoping to provide Guatemalans with preventative measures they can implement into their daily lives, Dunn and her students spend the fourth day at the clinic providing patient education.
To learn more about NAU’s Guatemalan study abroad program and Dunn’s involvement in founding and continuing its mission, visit here.