One big family
at Whidbey General
Ann Bell jokes around with a husband and wife as the female half is hooked up to an IV line that’s bringing chemotherapy drugs to her body.
It’s serious medicine at the oncology care clinic of Whidbey General Hospital, but the registered nurse helps to keep the atmosphere positive and hopeful. She works the right mix of professionalism and sauciness to help create a place that has become, in her words, “one big family.”
“It’s unique in oncology,” she said. “You spend more time with the patients. You have a really long, ongoing relationship with them.”
Bell is a prime example of the professionals who are honored each year on National Nurses Day, which is always celebrated on May 6 and opens National Nurses Week. National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birth date of Florence Nightingale.
At Whidbey General, the day is celebrated with a vendor’s fair, a lecture and a generalized tip of the hat to nurses, who apparently no longer have to wear the white hats.
With a nation facing a critical nurse shortage, the special day has more meaning than ever. Jan Maham, the critical care unit manager and a registered nurse, said she hopes the holiday will shed light on the important profession and encourage more people to sign up.
“It’s a very rewarding career,” Maham said. “It’s hard work, but satisfying.”
Whidbey General is a good place to be a nurse, she said. Unlike many other hospitals, all the nurses at the community hospital in Coupeville are licensed, which means there are no nurses aides. Maham said officials wanted a nursing staff of all RNs and LPNs to maintain a high level of care, but also so that the nurses can move around to different areas of the hospital.
“There’s a lot of cross training,” she said. “It’s a real collaborative effort.”
This flexibility, in fact, is one of the lures of a nursing career. Maham points out that nursing is a wide open field, with opportunities for involvement in multiple in-patient and out-patient services. There’s surgery, cardiac health, home health, diagnostic imaging, birthing and many other departments.
For those who like adrenaline, the emergency room is an interesting and often exciting place to work.
“We have to be able to care for newborn babies with coughs to elderly people who are in the process of dying and everyone in between,” said Bonnie Maley, assistant nurse manager in the ER.
Maley said Whidbey General’s ER serves from 50 to 70 people a day. It’s been especially busy, she said, since the Navy hospital in Oak Harbor limited its services.
In addition, Maham emphasized that nurses at Whidbey General have plenty of opportunity to grow professionally. Many LPNs go on to become RNs. They can receive different levels of advanced training in specialized areas. Some nurses have an alphabet soup of degrees behind their names.
Of course, nursing isn’t for everyone. It’s a challenging career that can be physically demanding. Maham estimates that she walks more than a mile through the hospital’s long halls each day. Beyond that, the job demands compassion, good communication skills and critical thinking.
The rewards, Maham said, are especially great at a community hospital like Whidbey General, where the atmosphere is very different than a large, big-city facility.
“We feel especially close to the patients,” Maham said. “We’re taking all these different journeys together with them.”