Nurse works her way up
by Bobby Anderson Staff Writer
The life of a nursing assistant – or tech – can be a hard one. For many it’s their first experience in a medical setting.
The pay is meager, the work is plentiful and sometimes the fluids just keep coming.
But for a select few it’s the beginning of a love affair with a career that opens new doors and and provides opportunities they never thought possible.
Lyndsey Harris, RN, was one of those people. And looking back, the Oklahoma Heart Hospital South registered nurse wouldn’t have it any other way.
Harris’ first job in the medical field was as a tech. Her first role lasted three months at an Alzheimer’s unit.
There was a lot to process and the disease state was overwhelming.
Her cousin, who worked at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital north campus kept raving about her job. So Harris got online and found there was an opening for a tech.
“It was definitely a breath of fresh air coming to the Heart Hospital,” she said.
Coming to work at a world-class facility that had one singular focus was something Harris had never experienced before.
The more she learned about hearts the more she was hooked.
“The tech experience was great because the nurses were so willing to teach. They knew I was heading into nursing school,” Harris said. “They were very open and honest about everything. They gave you the good, the bad and the ugly so you knew what you were getting into. You knew your role here but you also knew how they could help you in life, in nursing school and make you aware of what the real-life deal was.”
“Nursing school doesn’t teach you that at all.”
Her eyes were wide open about what a nursing career could possibly mean for her future.
And she wanted more.
“I think it just confirmed my love for the patients, my love for nursing and that I knew that’s really what I wanted to do,” Harris said. “ I wanted to go into the nursing field because of the services we were able to provide everybody – being able to make their experience better.”
Originally from Edmond, Harris enrolled at Redlands Community College for her nursing education.
She opted to work through school as an OHH tech.
It did require some creative scheduling at times but it paid off as she became the hospital’s first intern/extern.
“I worked here as a tech and they worked with me,” Harris said. “During my clinicals if I needed a little time off they let me have a little time off. Basically whatever I needed to succeed in school they let happen.”
Harris quickly found that she had an inside track during nursing school that most don’t. Reading a textbook and hearing a lecture were good, but seeing how the heart really worked working on the floor and being able to ask nurses questions brought the whole package together.
“I honestly think that’s how I made it. Working with all the nurses they were able to explain and put the big picture together for me,” Harris said. “In nursing school it’s ‘here’s the information, now figure it out.’
“Being able to see EKG strips, being able to see signs and symptoms of a heart attack in a patient – all kinds of things helped me be able to piece everything together.”
She began clinicals with a unique perspective – albeit a slightly jaded one.
“I saw how we treated the patient, how we valued the patients,” Harris said. “In clinicals during nursing school that’s not the case everywhere. How complex the heart is and how interesting it is and to see the care we were able to provide here at the Heart Hospital that sealed the deal.”
And on more than one occasion she brought her homework up to the nurses’ station at night, opened her textbook and started a rapid-fire of questions.
“Absolutely – that cardiac unit, I rocked it,” she said with a laugh.
The bridge from the extern to intern was virtually seamless. She transferred right into the PCCU after passing boards and has gone through three floors now in her quest to begin recovering hearts after interventions.
Three-and-a-half years later she’s still learning.
Nurse practitioner school may be next.
And she already knows where she wants to work.