An Interview by Moxie Scrubs
Erica Hedge, a surgical assistant and paramedic student, just completed her 7th medical mission. She’s served in Honduras, El Salvador, and the Philippines because she believes it’s her place to help those in need.
Erica is a healthcare professional who’s just as in touch with the human condition as she is with the universe. A common thread in this interview was the concept that everything happens for a reason. Fully embracing the Moxie spirit, Erica exudes confidence that uplifts and inspires those around her.
Tell me a little background about you!
I live in Missouri and am married with 2 kids. I became a medical assistant quickly after high school and have been in the medical field in some capacity since I was 19.
I went on to work for an OGBYN office for a while. After I had kids, I went into surgical assisting and I’ve been working in labor and delivery as a surgical assistant for 20 years since. Currently, I decided to go to paramedic school.
What pulled you to being a paramedic?
I feel like I’m built for it. I feel like I’m at my best when it’s chaotic and when I’m helping someone on their worst day. I’m also very big on touch and being able to love people.
I used to volunteer as a kid so it just comes to me naturally and I feel like it’s part of my purpose. I just did my first ride-along. My first patient was an older gentleman and I just held his hand and told him he was going to be fine. It’s very rewarding for me and I also feel like bringing my other life experiences in helps me feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.
What are your medical missions like as a surgical assistant?
I always wanted to do a medical mission and I felt like it was an opportunity that would come to me. I’m one of those people that feels I’m here on this planet to serve. My now 21-year-old son got very sick when he was younger and needed a shunt put in his brain. His neurosurgeon and I
got very close, and he invited me on the first mission trip to do the surgery he had done on my son. I went and saw those other mothers, and realized that we were the only way they would be able to give their children this procedure. One of the groups I worked with was Mending Faces another was ENT for Catacamas.
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Tell me more about the shunt surgeries you assisted with.
In Haiti, we did shunts for hydrocephalus, which is a type of brain surgery. They have a high rate of hydrocephalus in Haiti due to limited prenatal care and an increased rate of infection. It was a procedure we did on both kids and babies. This was actually my first time out of the country, and you can’t see those things without it impacting you and giving you gratitude for everything you have.
What does ‘Moxie’ mean to you?
To me it means having a certainty about you. I will 100% show up certain, even if I’m not sure I will figure it out. It’s something I’ve grown into. I was very heavy most of my life and lived in a house with models, so all I could do was show up like I matter. Now I’ve done enough personal development to actually believe it.
I believe in showing people who I really am and believing “you’re gonna like it”. I believe in universal laws, and I just feel like it’s not really about the outfit, but the internal sense of having moxie means you show up certain. Those thoughts create your reality.
Can you tell share a highlight of your career?
Working labor and delivery means that when it’s good, it’s really good. But, when it’s bad, it’s really really bad. It’s a job where you see a range of the human spirit. I’ve seen surrogates give people a gift that people would have never had without them. I’ve also seen parents give up their baby because they need to feed the rest of their children.
I can cry with the mother that just had a baby that’s so happy, and I can cry with the mother whose baby isn’t breathing, or that she can’t take home.
I love that I can still get to be a human and I don’t have to pretend to shut down my emotions to be ‘professional’. I like that I get to be human and feel my feelings with them. It’s been so much more rewarding. There are times in healthcare when you don’t feel like a human. Sometimes you have a very difficult experience and you have to go home and compartmentalize.
I’ve been blessed with coworkers that are like my sisters and we dredge through the worst together, but we also have the best time. I’ve been so blessed in the opportunities of being in labor and delivery because of all the good and all the bad. I get to be with people on their very best day and their very worst day. Sometimes when you have a terrible outcome you just have to tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. We don’t have to make sense of it, but we have to believe there’s a reason.
What advice do you have for a new nurse?
My advice for a new nurse would be that you can be human in your work situations and you shouldn’t second-guess yourself. I would spend a lot of time contemplating what I should say, or if I should reach out and touch someone’s hand, but we have an intuition for a reason. Trust it. You’ve chosen a profession that serves people, and it’s not just about medications or vital signs. I believe that love will always be your answer, even when you don’t want it to. So, don’t conform to what you think someone else expects of you— just be exactly who you are.
There are days when I’m tired or when I do struggle with empathy, but it really is a choice. I’ve been on a self-awareness journey for the past 5 years, which has helped me to feel more authentic, so I don’t feel like a fraud when I show up certain.
Whether you’re planning on a mission trip or just want to show up to work as your best self, check out Moxie Scrubs.