Jamie is a CNA 2 on a telemetry unit at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She is currently enrolled in her first term of nursing school!
- What are you passionate about at work?
I really just want people to feel heard and cared for and individual. It's really easy to say, "The patient in 18 needs pain meds," or, "The patient in 5 just had a bowel movement." But they're people, with real feelings and preferences of their own. I know breaking your leg or having a heart attack is a terrible experience, but patients don't have to hate the hospital or every moment they're there. I have a new mantra: "There are lots of kind people in the world, and if you can't find one, be one." I want to be a person who makes a difference in people's lives.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
I'm passionate about children's ministry. I'm what they call a classroom coordinator at my church here in Cheyenne. I'm in charge of two classrooms, the infants and the toddlers. I know that they don't read the Bible or anything like that. But I just love sharing with them that Jesus is there for them and that they're all loved. And they're never alone. I bring my son, who is 16, and my two nieces–– one is 13, one's three. The older two, they volunteer as well. The younger one is working on memory verses. One of the first ones she learned was, "I trust in God, I am not afraid." So now whenever she's scared of something, we talk about that psalm and how it can bring her peace. It just makes me happy knowing that she knows she's never alone, and that the older two, that they have a path and that they're being kind to other people. That is one of my biggest passions outside of work and school.
- What made you decide to become a CNA? An RN? What's your career story?
My career has been long and varied. When I was a kid, I wanted to deliver flowers to people because I wanted to make them smile! When I was in high school, I worked as a swim coach, I worked at a grocery store, I was a babysitter. And then I went to college and I was working for my uncle in a daycare. Then I got a job at a Texas Roadhouse serving tables. I'm an overachiever, so I also did admin work and manager work. I was working six days a week doing all those different pieces.
Then I got married and had my son. Daycare work was a little bit better for having a kid around, so I went back and forth between that and waitressing. And then, actually, I was working for Brown's Shoe Fit. It was a sit-and-fit shoe company. So we measured feet, we made judgments based on customers' feet. Like, whether they needed a stabilizing heel or high arch support or a metatarsal pad–– we did all that. And my favorite part was when people would come back and be like, "Jamie, you changed my life, these shoes, or this sock, or this insert, made a difference, my pain is gone." It just sparked in me that I wanted to go back to school, because I'd always been interested in the medical field, but I'd never actually gotten into it.
In 2016, I started school, and in 2019, I quit my job for only two-thirds of the pay I was getting at the time. It was a big pay cut. I started as an HSA. Basically, I could help make beds, pass water, but I couldn't touch a patient at all. Once I got my CNA license, I worked with dementia patients, mostly. I loved my patients, I just did not love the company I worked for. Then my mom had open heart surgery, she had muscle mass that was building on the septum of her heart. I applied for a telemetry job after her surgery. Her doctor was just amazing about explaining things, her nurses were awesome about doing all these things to help her heal. And her CNAs were just all-stars. I thought, you know what–– I want to be there. I want to do the good work that they're doing. And so, in 2020, I changed–– in the middle of a pandemic–– from dementia to heart patients.
I really enjoy working with the heart. I originally wanted to be in the ultrasound program, because I wanted to focus on hearts. But I found that I could do a lot more things with the heart as a nurse. Even as a CNA, I'm learning so much more than I ever thought I could. They work really hard at my job to move people to where they want to be, so they've trained me to train other CNAs, and they've trained me to be a CNA 2, which gives me a little bit more responsibility. And they've also trained me as a telemetry tech, so I watch people's heartbeats on screens. Some people want to be a CNA for the rest of their lives, and that's good. But, for me, the CNA role is a stepping stone. It's amazing knowledge because I'm learning about the type of nurse I want to be, how to interact with patients, and how to just be a good caregiver.
I'm not the oldest person in our nursing class, but I'm one of the oldest, I'm 37. And most of the people are in their early to mid 20s. Caring about people is what I've always wanted to do. I just didn't know how I needed to go about it. And I think that growing and learning about myself, becoming a mom–– all these things molded me into the caring, compassionate person that I am. I just took the long way around.
I'm on the path that I need to be on. I'm just taking it one step at a time. One test at a time, one study session at a time.
- How is a CNA’s role distinctive within the care team?
99% of the time, my patients will end a phone call saying, "Okay, honey, I've got to go! My nurse is here." And I'll be like, "Oh, I'm your CNA." And they're like, "Oh, okay, so my nurse says..." So they don't even know that there's a difference between a nurse and a CNA–– which would give me a great pay increase!
CNAs are not nurses. Whenever people ask me questions that I am not privy to, I tell them that I am the support of the totem pole. I help all the people in all the things that they do, whether it's the doctor, the nurse, the PT, the OT, the dietician, whoever. It's not just one department, one person–– we may be called nursing assistants, but we help everybody. I think that's what makes us different. We kind of have little octopus arms out everywhere.
- What do you wish people knew about CNAs?
CNAs are the ones that spend the most time with the patient typically, like we tend to have a bigger patient load. My last four days of work–– I did four 12s in a row–– I had 12 patients the first day, 8 patients the second, 12 patients the third, and 6 the fourth. We have so much more hands-on time with our patients than the nurses or doctors do. We see more just because we're there more. And that's not a slight on nurses or doctors in any way. But that's what we're there for. We are there to take them to the bathroom, to help them eat, to order their food, whatever the case is.
- What has it been like working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I know that, at this hospital, vaccinations seem to be working. I think the last numbers we had were like 34 people in the hospital that were COVID-positive. And 5 of them were fully vaccinated. And then there were 12 in the ICU, 1 was fully vaccinated. On ventilators, there were 11, and none of them were fully vaccinated. So it seems to be working. There are definitely a lot of people that still just don't want to get vaccinated, and that's their choice. But it's so hard with all the political and news coverage, like it's so hard to get people to believe anything that we say as medical professionals. Even with nursing students, there's some that don't believe in vaccinations and, again, it's their right to do that. But it's hard to climb into the medical field in that mindset.
Working in the tele office, I've had to watch people in the ICU die because they were not vaccinated. And their body just could not fight COVID by itself, it just couldn't. You literally sit there and watch the screen and watch them go flatline. And it's hard. As a CNA on the telemetry floor, I don't see this, but there are some people that see people die every day, every day because they chose not to get a vaccine. It's heartbreaking to see people passing away regardless of what reason, but for a preventable reason is just so heartbreaking.