What Kind of Nurse Am I? I'll Give You a Hint

Lucinda W. Price, BSN

Disclosures

December 08, 2017

Are you ready for a career change? Our series of first-person accounts of what it's like to be a nurse in a nontraditional role might provide inspiration to those seeking a new path within nursing.

A Blend of Nursing Roles

I've been a nurse for nearly 30 years and worked in a variety of settings. My current job has been a unique blend of my past nursing roles (such as clinic, emergency department, and parish nurse) along with elements from other specialties: health educator, case manager, counselor, safety manager, physical therapist, lactation consultant, game show host, and even "mom."

On some days, arriving to work wearing a hard hat. Courtesy of Lucinda Price.

What kind of nurse am I?

Need another hint? My work attire can include a hard hat, steel-toed boots, and possibly a full-face respirator. I also consider material safety data sheets required reading.

Got it now?

I'm an occupational health nurse—and it's the greatest job in the world. Not only do I get to use an incredible variety of my nursing skills, but I'm also in the advantageous situation of having a "captive audience" of patients in the roster of employees I serve. I've been in my current position for more than 7 years, and I've gotten to know my patients in a way few other nurses can.

My Employee-Patients

At least once a year (and often much more frequently), employees come to see me face-to-face for testing. The testing I do here in the clinic includes fit testing for their respirators, hearing testing, lung function testing (I'm certified by the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation in audiometric testing and by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in pulmonary function testing), ECGs, labs, physical assessments, and health questionnaires. In addition to reviewing the results of the testing along with the plant physician, I take plenty of time to go through the questionnaires with each employee so that I can see what's going on, not only with their health but with their lives in general. All of this information helps me to craft an individual "care plan" of sorts for each of my patients. Sometimes their needs are urgent—such as when their ECG has changed from the last time and I know their hypertension and diabetes have remained out of control—so I help them get to the help they need as quickly as possible. Other times, their needs may by met simply with gentle guidance or a listening ear.

Coaching an employee on pulmonary function testing. Courtesy of Lucinda Price.

I'm also here for injuries or illnesses that happen on the job. Guided by company procedures and detailed standing orders (and sometimes in-person guidance from the plant physician), I make sure that employees get the treatment they need. This may be x-rays and ice application in the clinic, calling the physician in for stitches, riding along in the ambulance to the emergency department, or standing with them under the safety shower to make sure they get completely decontaminated. Once I know they're stable, I help them navigate the workers' compensation system, and I follow them until they are released from care.

Outside the Clinic Walls

My practice also extends outside the clinic walls and into the plant. I go into the different work areas to talk to employees and watch them do their jobs. I sometimes will do ergonomic assessments with the site industrial hygienist to make sure that the job and equipment are the best fit to the employee and production site. We might make adjustments to a desk or chair height, or we might make recommendations for counterweights to help them pump chemicals from large drums into reactors.

Teaching proper glove removal (using ketchup to simulate blood) to a plant security staff member. Courtesy of Lucinda Price.

I also work with leadership and employees in developing accurate job descriptions and analysis data for the various tasks that are performed in the plant. This information is then used by leadership as they consider light duty or accommodated jobs, as well as by the employee's physician when the worker is returning to work after an illness or procedure. My goal is a team approach that fosters open communication with all of the people in this process. This is to help ensure that employees don't jeopardize their healing by returning to work too early or to a job that they shouldn't be doing.

Training another nurse in use of the electronic health record. Courtesy of Lucinda Price.

Other outside-the-clinic activities at the plant include teaching health education classes, holding flu shot clinics, teaching CPR and first aid, conducting drills, taking community first responders and local physicians on plant tours, and working with area hospitals on getting them what they need for the best possible care of the employees.

I love getting to know each of my patients as a whole person. I know their jobs, their families, their hobbies, and their quirks. This puts me in an ideal position to help each one of them effect the changes in their lives that will help them to (hopefully) live longer, feel better, and be the best and most productive person they were designed to be.

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