Leesy Medina is an Operating Room Nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center who attributes her positive mindset and self-care routine to her ability to be the best nurse that she can be. Her advice? Find what makes you happy!
What did your path to nursing look like?
Leesy: I live in Maryland and I currently work at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. I am an operating room nurse. It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to go into nursing. When I was younger, I just kept bouncing around between different majors. I thought about education or communications, but nothing was truly my calling. A couple of family members talked to me about nursing and that's how I got interested. A lot of my characteristics matched with the things that nurses do every single day. Figuring out I wanted to specialize in operating room nursing was the same. I did not decide until my last semester of college. I had completed clinicals in pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatric, and nothing seemed to spark my interest. However, when I had a couple patients go to the operating room, my preceptor was nice enough to allow me to go with them.
From there, I got to see the role of the operating room nurse in action and it definitely sparked my interest. I loved every single thing that she did; how she ran the room, how she communicated with other physicians and personnel in the room. One of my coworkers from Maryland visited my school to talk about operating room nursing at a NSNA meeting. It was the kick in the butt that I needed to apply to the operating room. In July it will be my two-year anniversary and I absolutely love it.
We can imagine being an OR nurse is stressful at times. What gives you the strength to go to work each shift?
Leesy: I have to have a good mindset and it definitely took me a while to figure out that I needed to change the way that I was thinking in order to make it through each day. Operating room nursing is different from the floor. You're not dealing with assessments, or giving meds. You do your initial interview and then you are putting them to sleep. Then you're watching them as their guts are open on a table. Because of that, I have to have a ritual for coming home so I can leave work at work. When I get home, usually I'll just hike it right to the gym. When I work out I listen to music, take time to detox, and free my mind of the day. I need to do something that's not focused on work because when I have a bad day, work tends to come home and I don't like my work life to come home. I usually try to separate the two.
How has your work been impacting the fight against COVID-19 ?
Leesy: We had to shut down our ORs during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We needed time to find a solution on how we could operate safely. Unless it was an emergency surgery, like a trauma that was coming in, we were not operating. All the electives were canceled until further notice. It honestly got pretty boring. We created positions in order for us to stay busy. In the operating room, you can either wear the N95’s or the PAPR hoods. We mostly had the PAPR hoods. We made stations outside of the ORs that we ran to safely take gear on and off. We would help the surgical personnel going into the operating room dress up and put their gowns on. When they came out of the room, we would help them strip down and make sure all protocols were followed.
We had designated COVID ORs. If a patient came down and was COVID positive or under investigation for COVID, we had three rooms dedicated for COVID patients. Every single thing in the operating room was taken out. It was basically an empty room. We had to use different communication techniques like having an iPad inside the room and one outside the room for the nurses and the anesthesia personnel to communicate with people outside of the room.
Luckily, we've had more PPE come into our hospital. Most of us just wear N95s now. We wear them throughout the whole day with eye shields and gloves. We don't necessarily have to wear gowns since a lot of us aren't dealing with COVID patients anymore.
Are you feeling more hopeful now in terms of the pandemic?
Leesy: Yeah, I actually am. We were offered the vaccine at our hospital and I have been vaccinated since January. We still have a long way to go, unfortunately, but hopefully things will be different by the summertime.
What gives you moxie?
Leesy: My own self-motivation gives me moxie. I am always a team player, so if somebody is in need of help, I'm more than open to assist. I feel like everybody needs somebody. I try to always have a positive mindset. I try to do my best every single day coming into work. That's all you can do.
Do you have any advice for nursing students?
Leesy: I would say don't give up. I know that's probably been said a thousand times, but just don't give up. There are many moments in nursing school where I cried my eyes out from exams, thinking that I was not going to pass. There's always someone there to aid and assist you. Have willingness to get to where you need to be. Nursing school is the first step, you’ve got a thousand more in front of you whether you know it or not. My advice is to have courage in yourself, have motivation and always ask for help. If you don't act, you're not going to get anywhere. You will not get the help that you need without asking. Know that there is no such thing as a dumb question. We are dealing with patients here that are real people. It may be a question that could threaten their life and wellbeing if you do not ask.
My last piece of advice is self-care. A lot of nurses and a lot of nursing students don't get enough time for self-care. I don't want nursing students to feel like once they become a nurse that they will have a lot of time for self-care. You need to set the practice while you are in school to make the time. Find things that make you happy. It might be going out to eat with friends or staying in, listening to music, burning a candle, getting in the hot tub, doing whatever you have to do to make sure that your mind and wellbeing is where it needs to be in order for you to carry out your work effectively when you go back to work.
Self-care is one of the most important steps because without it, you're just going to burn yourself out. There was almost a point where I experienced burnout from my position when I was on orientation. It was just so much to do and deal with. Once you find your balance and find things that can assist in your wellbeing, you'll definitely notice a difference just as a person and also as a nurse.
Do you have a hype song for commuting into work?
Leesy: Everyday it changes for work. Sometimes I'll wake up thinking about a song and know I have to listen to it in order to make it through the day. I don't have a specific song. Usually I gravitate towards hip hop and then sometimes I'll go to EDM. When I am not feeling that, I will listen to pop. I love Ariana Grande.