Kayla Rice, RN went from teaching to emergency room nursing.

by James Coburn
Staff Writer

Five years ago, Kayla Rice was in the classroom teaching children with severe and profound disabilities.
Every day she worked with upper elementary and middle school children who battled not only developmental disabilities but chronic medical challenges as well.
But she always had help.
It was nurses that helped Rice navigate the various medicine schedules and tube feedings that often interrupted the school day. It was nurses who were able to reassure these children that they were going to be taken care of.
“At times I felt very, I guess, just lost,” Rice said. “I felt underprepared for their medical conditions and that propelled me to want to further my career and kind of go into the medical field.”
She thought a mid-level practitioner role would be ideal but life sidetracked her.
Someone said she should do nursing first.
“It did appeal to me because I was already in a serving-type capacity as a teacher,” Rice said. “I thought this would be a great bridge to my ultimate goal.”
She applied to the accelerated program at the University of Oklahoma and was accepted.
Now, four years after graduating she’s a registered nurse at the St. Anthony Healthplex South.
It was meant to be.
No one could ever say Rice had it easy in the classroom. Learning often took a backseat to simply making it through the day for many of her students.
Rice’s Claremore classroom was rife with challenges.
“It was very stressful,” Rice said. “I actually taught kids from nine different counties in Oklahoma and basically the most severe kids were brought to my classroom. It was very stressful and very challenging.”
So the next logical step would be emergency room nursing?
“Yes,” Rice said emphatically. “I love the special needs population but what I’ve found is basically my gifts and talents, I’ve been able to use those in a more widespread capacity. I love special needs kids. I love the older adults. I’ve basically just found through nursing that I’ve found new talents and abilities that I didn’t realize I had.”
Rice has been nursing for four years and she’s hot on the trail of her advanced practice career.
The ultimate goal is to be a nurse practitioner.
“I could see myself doing minor emergency or urgent care but my eyes have been opened to a whole new world,” she said. “I also love the elderly population and I see a huge need. The patient care for the elderly population is really lacking and so I feel like it really needs compassion.”
She still battles challenges every day, but it’s different – and hopeful.
“I love the fact it’s fast-paced, something new all the time,” said Rice, who prior to her role in the ER spent time working in a pediatric ICU. “You never have a chance to get bored. You also have the ability to learn a lot of skills which I’ve really enjoyed learning.”
“In the emergency room you see a very huge spectrum of illnesses and disease processes.”
The mission at St. Anthony is simple – “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.”
“I like their mission,” she says of working for St. Anthony. “My values align with their mission. That’s what impressed me originally.”
“I love the fact they have done something in Oklahoma City that no one else has which was very innovative. I think that’s cutting edge and I like to be on the cutting edge of healthcare.”
St. Anthony’s unique standalone ER’s have become a model in the metro for attracting new patients.
But Rice could sense something else going on above and beyond fancy emergency rooms.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction,” she said. “I have a lot of patients comment to me that they appreciate the compassion they’ve been shown. I get a lot of comments that they can’t believe an emergency room feels this way.”
“Our Healthplex and the care we give is so different than the various emergency rooms around the city that on a very regular basis I have conversations where patients bring that up.
“It makes me feel great I’m able to help somebody in their time of need,” Rice said. “Oftentimes in emergency rooms (patients) are run in like cattle. I feel we take the extra time to listen to our patients and give them excellent care.”