I may or may not have met Elizabeth on Tumblr in the 10th grade, when I was very seriously into blogging (aka writing down my frustrations, opinions and thoughts in an attempt to figure out life, my beliefs, and also work through a lot of tough times as a teen.) We initially bonded over our favorite dance choreographer (shout out to Emily Shock) and over the years have stayed pretty updated with each other's lives; swapping ~boy stories~, music suggestions, dance videos and job updates in addition to a lot of melodramatic writing pieces. Even over the internet, I can tell how genuinely compassionate and well-liked she is, and I can't think of anyone who would make a better RN, let alone for the Burn Intensive Care Unit. Elizabeth works hard (and plays hard) and I'm incredibly lucky to know her. (P.S., I'm so glad Tumblr is behind us.)
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky Current city: Nashville, Tennessee Alma mater: Belmont University Degree: Bachelor of Science in Nursing Job: Registered Nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Babe you admire and why? I attended an all girls Catholic high school (full of #BabesWhoHustle), and learned so much from my geometry teacher, Mrs. Clemons. She changed the way I think about math and so many other things. She empowered us to raise our hands, ask silly questions, and celebrate our successes, big and small. She gave so much love and encouragement to us as if we were her own, all while raising her four sons to be incredibly successful men.
Go-to coffee order? Fun fact - I'm 24 years old, work night shift at the hospital, and have never had a cup of coffee in my life. Not really for any particular reason, but I've come this far and it's my go-to "never have I ever," so I figure I can't start now. (How the hell did you get through Nursing school?! That's what I wanna know.)
Favorite podcast? I've recently gotten really into listening to podcasts during my workouts. They keep my mind stimulated while I get my cardio in. I love RadioLab Presents: More Perfect. Each podcast is about a monumental Supreme Court case. I find myself looking forward to working out because I can't wait to listen to the next episode.
Who is your biggest inspiration? My little sister, without a doubt. She just graduated from Emory University with a degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, and is now pursuing her Master's degree in Bioethics during her gap year while applying to medical school. For as impressive as all these things sound on paper, she's even more interesting in person. She was diagnosed with Type 1 ("juvenile" or "insulin-dependent") diabetes on her first day of sixth grade, and has lived every day since juggling all the stressors and complexities of growing up in addition to managing this complicated disease. I have seen her set her mind to some really lofty goals, and she's achieved everything through dedication and hard work.
I am a registered nurse on the Burn Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Centerin Nashville. We are a Level 1 Trauma Center and the Regional Burn Center, so we see the sickest of the sick patients in the region. We see everything from people involved in house fires, meth lab explosions, bonfire accidents, electrocutions, self-inflicted burns and chemical burns, etc.
What does your typical workday look like? I work night shift, 7pm-7am, three nights per week. It's been two years of this crazy, nocturnal lifestyle, but I love it. Every shift is unpredictable and challenging. Oftentimes, we're meeting our patients and their families on the worst day of their entire lives. I take my job very seriously and appreciate the privilege of getting to be a source of comfort in such difficult times.
What motivates you every day?j My patients. When I see a patient who came in with 80% total body surface area burns walk out of the hospital after being taken care of for almost three months, the feeling is indescribable. When a patient whom I saw on the verge of death comes back to say "thank you" and tells you that they are back to work and feeling great - that is what makes this the best job in the world.
Favorite part about your job? Every day, I get to witness the strength of a beating heart. The human body still seems like a miracle to me, even after I have studied the anatomy and physiology of it. I see miracles every day - people who live against all odds. People who finally open their eyes or squeeze my hand after days in a coma - that never gets old.
Hardest part? It's a lot of tragedy to digest. So many of these cases are freak accidents that have horrible outcomes. Many people come to us with injuries that aren't survivable, and it's difficult to accept that. Sometimes, part of my job is holding a patient's hand as they die, or being their family members' shoulder to cry on. They always say "try not to take your work home with you" and that is super important, but also, we're only human and sometimes you just have to cry.
Any funny and/or embarrassing work stories? I'll spare you the details, but my job involves cleaning up a lot of poop.
Okay, so, is it really like Grey'sAnatomy? More so than you could ever imagine. Just last night, I was working with two doctors who are dating, and then a patient's heart stopped beating, so I did chest compressions, and felt his heart start beating again underneath my hands. #VorholtsAnatomy?
Career advice for other women? See the value in whatever it is that you do. In talking to my friends about work, they often say that their jobs feel trivial compared to mine, because it is "literally life or death." I live in Nashville and many of my friends work in the music industry. I always tell them that their work saves lives, too. I play music on Spotify for my patients during hydrotherapy, the most painful and dreaded part of their day. If we can sing through it and listen to the music, it makes the experience a little less painful. I wish everyone involved in the making of that music could know the impact it has. The music industry is just one example, but every job has its purpose. Take pride in what you do. Don't diminish your work.