Casey Green exemplifies the nursing alphabet soup: BSN, RN, CCRN-CMC, CTRN, CFRN, TCRN, CEN, CPEN, NRP. She works as an assistant nurse manager in the ICU, as well as a clinical instructor and critical care ground transport nurse.
Why did you become a nurse?
I've always been calm in emergencies, so I knew I could be there for patients when they came in. I just wanted to be with people on the worst days of their lives, to make it better in any way or just be the calm in their storm — the person who can help them in that situation. Being a part of patient care when people are at their most vulnerable and being able to advocate for them (and with them) was one of the big reasons that I ended up going to nursing school.
Tell us about one of the most meaningful nursing moments you've had and its impact on you.
I had been a nurse for about three years. One night, I was working in the emergency department when an expectant mother's water broke in the waiting room. And of course, as the triage nurse, I get all excited, you know, "We're going to have a baby today!"
I go out into the waiting room, and the mother looks like she has cramps. She's in labor. But when I go to move her from the wheelchair, all I see is blood. And I instantly know that something is wrong. This is not happy. This is not joyous. And at that moment, I just snap right into ED mode and start thinking, "OK, what potentially could happen?"
I'm asking her questions, and I realize she's having a placental abruption. Before that, I had never seen it; I only knew it from the text, from what I learned in nursing school. And this was it. A very quick turn showed me how much we can't take for granted what we learn as critical care nurses. You have to be able to just drop knowledge and just bring it out of the deep corners of your brain. You only have a couple of seconds to figure out what's wrong, and it kind of solidified that this is why I do this job. I tell this story to new nurses in the ICU and ED and to my nursing students so they understand that we have people's lives in our hands every day we go to work.
What was your motivation to become certified?
My motivation to become certified was to show the experience, the knowledge and the excellence in patient care that I had developed over six years. I had known people who were excellent nurses, and they were certified. We have a plaque on our unit, and it is a very prestigious thing to become certified.
I waited until I was ready and met the eligibility criteria. I felt like I had learned a lot before becoming certified. I studied to add all of the knowledge I learned to my practice. That would be my advice for anybody who wants to become certified: Even if you're new and you don't meet the hours required, start studying, grab a book, because you are also learning as you're studying.
Any other advice would you give a fellow nurse interested in becoming certified?
Find people around you that believe in your goal. So if there's a nurse on your unit who's CCRN-certified or CEN-certified, or if you're doing transport nursing and they have their CTRN, talk to them about certification.
Some of my colleagues felt like becoming certified was meaningless, or they asked me about the monetary gains. I didn't care about that. Certification enhances my practice and my patient care, and it's good for the patients I take care of and even those I just interact with, and indirectly when I'm at clinicals with students.
So, find people who are also interested in certification, because they're also a good resource to help you with a study plan or just make sure you're ready to take a certification exam. Keep yourself around people who believe in you.
How have your certifications impacted your nursing career?
Becoming a nursing voice was one of the unforeseen impacts of obtaining my certifications. I'm a voice not only for certification, but for excellence in nursing, and I think leadership as well.
I stepped into a role as an assistant nurse manager, and one of the things I encourage the staff to do is seek certification. I ask people, "How can I help you study?" We have skills nights and knowledge nights and we'll do little quizzes during our shift for people who are studying for a certification, and even those who aren't so they understand what the certifications mean. My nursing career has been enhanced because I know so much more about patient care. I can just see and anticipate so many more things.
What is one thing people should know about nursing and what you do?
Nursing is often seen as this one ball of people — of 4.2 million nurses! But within that, there are many specialties and subspecialties; there are advanced practice providers, there are all of these procedural areas. I work in critical care nurse transport, I work in the emergency department, I work in the ICU. Within transport, you have flight and ground. Within ED, you have specialties such as pediatrics, trauma and adults. And within ICU, you have subspecialties such as cardiac and cardiac surgery.
So the one thing that I think that people should know about nursing is that there are many specialties in the profession. For the nurses out there who are reading this: If you don't feel strongly about the specialty you're in, there are plenty of other opportunities for you in nursing. Don't give up on nursing just because you're not in the right place. I get to wear a lot of hats in critical care nursing, and I also teach nursing students as an adjunct instructor. So I really do get to see a lot of the various aspects of critical care nursing.
How do your background and previous experience influence your work today?
As a nurse of color, the negative professional experiences that I had have really propelled me to make sure what I saw does not continue to permeate through our profession. I get involved in nursing initiatives I might not have gotten involved with if I didn't have a negative experience myself. We have to love new grad nurses. We were all new grad nurses. You can't know everything when you first start. And I think understanding that is part of it.
Being professional is something you have to learn. You don't just wake up and become professional. You have to be professional at the bedside, professional around patients and your co-workers, and also deal with a lack of nurses of color in critical care environments. And I think those experiences, if I had to have them, influenced the work I do as a nurse leader, and also how I make sure that when I work, people feel included.
If you're having negative experiences, you can reach out to me, your mentor or your manager; reach out to somebody you trust. But also know that at some point, you can turn that negative experience into a positive so that it doesn't affect other people. My journey in nursing has been incredible, and if there's anything to take away from this story, it's that you can go anywhere you want to go in nursing.