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April Nurse of Excellence Vanessa Thom, RN

Hi Vanessa! Can you tell us about yourself and what brought you to pursue your nursing career?

My sister and I grew up in Brooklyn with my mother, who was an immigrant from Columbia. When they came here it was just my grandmother, my mom and her only brother. The strong relationship we had with our uncle and his family residing in the same neighborhood was a prominent part of my youth. We were always the nurturing type, both myself and my only sister. Upon graduating from school, I worked in a daycare with more than ten little kids, each one with their unique and urgent requests. Though I was ill informed prior what playing with a bunch of toddlers was like, I ended up doing well there, lasting on the job longer than I imagined.

Life for my dear cousins turned tumultuous as my uncle was diagnosed with a malignant cancer that took over their life. It was a lost fight from the start. Our families being very close, both in heart and distance, I was there with him for many hours helping my cousins care for him. He truly felt a special spot for me. The role of caring for him brought out that caregiving personality stronger in me. Ultimately, it ignited me to take some courses to become a medical assistant and performed well at it. Yet, I lacked the confidence to go after nursing. Throughout my uncle’s journey, I was wowed by those caring hospice nurses who came in and gave a stranger their heart, mind, and excellent care. They were always determined to brighten up the room and throw in a word of kindness to keep us all going. Before his passing, my uncle called me over and made me promise I will become a nurse. I did. It was a commitment that echoed in my brain over the next few years, prompting me to take the dive for nursing.

And the rest as they say is history!

 When did you graduate from nursing school and how was your transition from school to the floor?

I was one of those COVID students. More than the idea of completing our learning online plus having the void of real clinicals, we were also thrown into a different reality immediately upon entering the floor. COVID graduates benefited from a lot more hospital opportunity than New Grads in the years preceding. I started out on a Tele floor with a huge nurse to patient ratio. It will sound funny, but I think it was the best thing. What others viewed as crazy, I thought was the normal. It helped me become a better nurse.   Once things were settling and the ratios moved down, I feel like the current ratios are so low, while the really seasoned nurses believe they are still pretty much above the average where they should have been. I also noted that nurses somehow became more united from COVID, we are very supportive of one another! Hands for nurses! Even during school, we were forming groups to study. With some friends I kept in touch with till today. As a nurse post – COVID, I also feel like I was born into an era when nurse appreciation is on the high front. All the time I will get comments from patients like “It’s so amazing what you are doing, and this is all after you handled COVID.” Then again, I was never a nurse before, yet I am told by the seasoned folks, that sometimes it used to feel as though we are doing them a favor by everything we do. It feels good to know that people are really recognizing what we did and are doing every day.

Did you find anything different than you expected?

The real challenge for me as a new nurse was that while studying the textbook everything is so cookie cutter clear. When A happens just do B. Real situations are so much more complex and multifaceted. Diagnosing is a bigger art.

What do you find as the most challenging factor on the job?

Convincing patients not to do anything against medical advice is my hardest encounter. How can you withstand someone going ahead and ruining their chances? It takes great people skills and a lot of explanations to help them come to the right decision. On the contrary, it is a difficult balance, to respectfully stay out of decisions they are facing. For instance, a surgery or procedure they are not certain about. As a nurse who forms a connection with my patient I will frequently be questioned. I know it is not in my place as a nurse to make a recommendation, so I tread cautiously to give comfort without giving inappropriate advice.

What do you like doing in your spare time to recharge from being nurse all day?

Being a full time mom to my precious one in a half year old little Noah is the best and most rewarding hobby. Love the caring and the kisses, it is what really propels  me further. I also enjoy swimming in the summer, or going out with my friends to art classes which is a pretty meditational.

How do you find being a nurse affecting other aspects of life?

Noah certainly knows his mom is a nurse! (Maybe even too much at times). Where another mom would say it is teething, I notice the little nuances others would not even stop at. Besides, I am the family nurse. When my mom visits the doctor, I am the one to receive her lab results she wants to verify. And any medical questions? It’s 1800 – Vanessa..

What do you love about working with White Glove Placement?

You are never alone. My recruiter or Placement Specialist will always reach out to hear how I am fairing, how she can help, and to reassure me with feedback that I am doing amazing. I know they will always advocate for me and that is very encouraging!

Any message you want to impart to more nurses?

It is our duty to help our patients keep a positive mindset. Times to many we can tell when patients go into a mode where they stop fighting, there body feels it and will react to it. Let us help them keep  hopeful and strong!

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