Below, I interview Jennifer Randall, a registered nurse (RN) who works at a community health center, about her role as an educator on the infectious disease team. 

What is your background in nursing?

I graduated with my bachelor of science in nursing in 2012 from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. My first nursing job was on a telemetry/progressive care unit in North Carolina. From there, I moved to Washington, DC, and worked as an ED nurse in a large, urban hospital for almost two years.

Where do you work now?

I now work at a community health center that provides primary healthcare services for the underserved, uninsured, working poor, and homeless.

How did you find out about your current position?

I heard about the clinic where I currently work through my role as a nurse in the ED. I went to their website and applied for a basic RN position; when I had a phone interview, the recruiter told me about a position on the Infectious Disease (ID) team. I interviewed with the ID team and I was very attracted to the whole model of building relationships with your patients. I looked forward to shifting gears from the ED nurse role to a position with an emphasis on strong patient education. I was excited for that.

What is a “day in the life” like in your job?

I get to work at about 8 a.m. Monday through Friday (which is a major change from the 12-hour rotating shifts I was used to). I get some warm tea or coffee and open my computer to the schedule for the day. I look through each person who is scheduled and make notes of their needs (e.g., insurance issues, adherence issues, food/housing issues, etc).

As patients start to arrive I go in each room chatting with each patient, making sure I address the needs of the patients that I specifically looked into earlier. With the medical assistants doing most of the task work (vital signs, immunizations, etc.) it frees me up to sit with patients as long as I need to and use the nursing knowledge I’ve gained over the years to help patients adhere to their lifestyle regimens.

Working primarily with HIV/AIDS patients, adherence is imperative, and you have to really get creative to figure out how to practically ensure success for someone who is homeless/has no food/no insurance and/or who cannot read. I act as part social worker in a way. We also take care of prior authorizations, adherence phone calls, and much, much more! I then leave work at 4:30 and get all evening, weekends, and holidays off.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Gaining the trust of patients—when they let you help them in a very intimate part of their life.

What is challenging about it?

It can be difficult when you feel like you have done all you can to help someone but they are not ready to help themselves.

Who would succeed in this role?

Someone who loves people, relationships, and education

What would you recommend for someone who hoped to get into this type of nursing position?

Just go for it! It is truly rewarding. No, it is not glamorous, and you don’t have gory, horrifying stories to tell like you do when you work in the ED, for example, but you get a chance to really learn about and help people in a different and important way.

Laura Kinsella

Laura Kinsella, BSN, RN, CEN, is an emergency room nurse in Washington, DC.

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