A Knack for Strength & Training

Nov 02, 2022

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Nursing and powerlifting both take persistence, drive and there really is no ceiling when it comes to knowledge. You will never know everything, but if you're willing to and you have that affinity for learning, then you are always able to go just a little bit further.

Antonio Meehan

Antonio Meehan, BSN, RN, PCCN-CMC-CSC, is passionate about three things: cardiovascular medicine, lifelong learning and powerlifting. For Meehan, each is a challenge that requires discipline, drive and determination. He's worked as a cardiovascular surgical nurse in a cardiac surgery step-down unit at Cleveland Clinic and is now expanding his scope of learning as an RN at Bluestone Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital. When he's not in his scrubs, Meehan is at the gym refining his other passion as a champion in powerlifting, a form of weightlifting.

Why did you become a nurse?

I have always been interested in medicine. For senior year of high school, we did a preceptorship and everyone picked an occupation to shadow. One of my buddies went and rode around with the police all day, another one shadowed a career counselor, and I went to the emergency room of a hospital. I just 100% knew in some way, shape or form that nursing was going to be kind of my destiny.

What is the best patient experience you've ever had?

I had this gentleman when I was a brand-new nurse, and he was the nicest guy ever. I was able to spend a lot of time with him, talk with him and just hang out with him. After four or five days inpatient on the surgery floor, we got a visit from one of the surgeons to prepare for a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implant.

I remember the surgeon took a marker and was drawing a diagram on the patient's bedsheets of how he was going to put this pump in his heart. I had seen previous patients with him, but I didn't understand what he was saying that he was going to do to this person. And the man cried, but he was so happy that he was going to get another chance. That was really cool. It was really cool to see his big smile and laugh.

The next day the patient gets an echocardiogram, and I don't know what happened. The test results showed that he literally needed no intervention whatsoever. It was like a miracle. His ejection fraction was preserved. He wasn't in heart failure. It was just such a cool moment. I met with the doctors about it, and they said, "This is amazing. This guy's going to get out of here with nothing, with just a couple of medications."

It was awesome to see the patient's reaction when we told him. He was almost going to have to go through something incredibly life-changing, but regardless, he had such a positive attitude about it. That just showed me a really human side of patients.

You recently took and passed the PCCN, CMC and CSC certification exams in back-to-back months. What prompted you to apply for all those certifications?

Studying for these exams gave me a much greater understanding as to what I was doing and all the pathological reasons why. So I took the PCCN first. I studied for it and thought, "Wow, you know what? I actually learned so much that I still have all these clinical hours for the two subspecialty exams that I qualify to take. I want to learn about these and I want to take these, too." So I studied back-to-back-to-back.

So when I started studying for all these tests, I would get patients coming off bypass surgery within 10 or 12 hours. Even being in that field as a cardiovascular surgical nurse, there were a lot of clinical aspects that I wasn't familiar with that, in retrospect, I should have been more familiar with. I learned so many new concepts by studying for the CSC and the CMC exams.

That is a tremendous achievement! What is your long-term goal?

I want to be a nurse practitioner. I want to work in cardiovascular medicine or postop cardiac surgery, something along those lines. But I know that's what I want to do. I don't really feel like I've gotten the opportunity to learn to the extent that these two tests and even the PCCN allowed me to do. So with the amount of knowledge that I now have, I'm going to be a better nurse. I'm going to be better at what I do.

What do you like to do outside of work?

All I do is lift weights, sleep, work, take care of my son and spend time with my girlfriend, Ashlei, who is an ER nurse. I've been powerlifting for a long time.

Do you powerlift competitively?

Yes, I do. I've competed for about three years. I'm supposed to have my sixth appearance this month. It all started when a guy in high school asked me if I wanted to play on the rugby team, and I felt like I should probably get bigger. As soon as I started lifting weights, I guess I never stopped.

What has the experience competing been like?

I want to take it as far as I can take it. I'm relatively new to this scene, and I've had five contests. My current best bench press is 424 pounds, and I can deadlift 617 pounds. I'm just going to be honest, I haven't come in second yet, but I'm really competing against myself.

That's great to hear. Congratulations! So, you clearly have a passion for nursing and powerlifting. Do you feel like there is an association between the two?

Absolutely. They both take persistence, drive and there really is no ceiling when it comes to knowledge. You will never know everything, but if you're willing to and you have that affinity for learning, then you are always able to go just a little bit further. You're always able to push just a little bit harder.

What is the best part about being a nurse?

I think the team aspect of it, no matter what's going on, makes it worth it. When you have people that will go to battle with you and have your back, no matter how bad of a shift you're going to have, you know you've always got somebody to lean on. It might be me that's being leaned on, but the team aspect of nursing is really cool. I'm really proud to be a nurse. I'm super proud to be a nurse. No matter where my education takes me, I will always be a nurse.

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