Most of us were content this past February to watch the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, South Korea, on our televisions. But not Marvin Delfin. The emergency department nurse had fulfilled a childhood dream to attend the Olympics once before — as a nurse volunteer in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro — and decided he would go again. So once more, he volunteered, and his story is pure Olympic Gold.
Where do you work?
I work at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Emergency Care Center in Tyler, Texas, as an emergency room nurse and Magnet coordinator.
How did you decide to become a nurse?
Nursing was not my first career choice. When I was younger, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon or astronaut, but fate brought me in a different direction. I was so clueless after graduating high school about what I really wanted to become and ended up following my peers and enrolled in a college of nursing. After enrolling as a nursing student, I realized that they enrolled in engineering courses, and I ended up taking the course alone. During my first year as a nursing student, I felt it was not an easy adjustment because I was not really connected to the nursing program. But my clinical rotations and inspiring instructors had positively changed my perspective, motivation and my entire self as a person and professional care provider.
The turning point of my career was during a special clinical rotation when my clinical instructor assigned me to a very sick patient who was in a coma for three days. She was suffering from a high fever, and the family was not expecting her to live. After providing tube feeding and a sponge bath, I did not realize that the floor was wet, and I slipped and fell on her. Miraculously, she woke up and started talking. The family immediately gathered by the bedside. I was really scared that what I had done was completely wrong and exited the room. A few hours later, my instructor talked to me. He said, “You have a natural gift to care and serve others. This family is so happy with the care you rendered, they want you to have this cake they baked for you.” I almost broke into tears and realized that even little things can impact someone’s life. From that point, I was in love with the profession and proud to be a nurse every day.
How did you become involved in critical care?
I enjoyed being a med-surg nurse for a few years when I was a new nurse, but my mind and body were seeking different types of challenges. So, I asked my manager to transfer me to the ICU for training but ended up in the emergency room instead. I was reluctant at first, but after receiving training and mentoring from supportive senior nurses, I gained the confidence to provide safe and quality critical care in any emergency situation.
What experiences have shaped your outlook or philosophy as a caregiver?
One of the best critical care moments was what I call the Unnamed Bus Passenger. I was working as a trauma nurse one night when I received a frantic call from an EMS. He stated that CPR was in progress to an unidentified male patient. Further information revealed that the unidentified man was found inside the bus by the driver, who thought he was just sleeping and missed his destination. He tried to wake up this man, but he was unconscious and dropped on the floor. He called 911 and tried CPR. When the patient arrived at the hospital, EMS told us they had given him several shocks and medicine, but to no relief. We tried our best to revive the patient for almost an hour, but the senior doctor said it’s time to call off this code. A young doctor stepped in and said, “We have to try again since he still has a palpable pulse.” Even though we were exhausted, the team saw the spark of optimism in the young doctor’s eyes. It motivated us to try another round of codes. Fortunately, the patient survived. He had suffered a major heart attack. After almost three months in the hospital, the patient recovered with some deficits. One day, he came to thank everyone for saving his life. He said in a shaky voice, “I would not be able to witness my daughter’s graduation and her wedding next week if you guys had let me go. I owe this happy moment to you.”
Why did you decide to pursue the Olympics, and what is the process for being selected?
I dreamt of becoming an Olympian after watching several Olympic Games for many years and witnessing athletes perform and take medals, and watching their inspiring stories. But, unfortunately, I realized that I am better clapping in the bleachers and cheering athletes than competing. I thought going to the Olympics would just be a childhood dream. I didn’t expect that being a nurse would bring me to the Olympics.
It was mid-summer 2014 when I saw a Facebook post calling for volunteers for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I was excited to fill in the online application. We were also given some online exams — like English and Portuguese language tests and information about the Olympics. I did not expect to be part of the initial qualifiers because it took almost a year for the results to come out, and I was fortunate that I moved to the next stage — the interview portion. So, in September 2015, I was with five other international applicants being interviewed. We impressed the interviewer when we all sang “Heal the World” together. After that, I did not expect to be offered a position. But, a few months after, I was so happy to receive a call from Rio telling me about my nurse position in the Olympic Village. I soon found out that there were fewer than 200 nurse international volunteers assigned to the Village. I was fortunate I made the cut. With the support and blessing from my CNO and director, I decided to pursue my dream to go to the Olympics, not to compete, but to share what I love to do best — provide unconditional care.
After having a great adventure at the 2016 Summer Olympics, I promised myself that I would do what I can to be a volunteer for as long as I live. This will serve as my act of gratitude to pay forward all the blessings I have received. Then, in the last quarter of 2016, I applied for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. It had the same rigorous selection process as Rio, but Pyeongchang was tougher. Less than 5 percent of the total volunteers selected were international applicants. I was very fortunate to be one of the chosen few.
So what did you do there?
During the 2016 Summer Olympics, I was a volunteer ER nurse in the polyclinic located inside the Olympic Village. I worked with other nurses, doctors and medical professionals from different parts of the world to provide quality care to the heroes of every participating country.
My role in 2018 was totally different. I was part of the Broadcasting Services (BRS) team. It seemed so far away from my skill set and my profession that I tried several times to request a medical-related position. Unfortunately, due to conflicting health and licensing regulations, the Olympic Committee decided to hire paid medical personnel for the event, including Korean-licensed doctors, nurses and paramedics. But, I always believe that I must grow wherever I am planted, and I realized that this position was very interesting — and so much fun! The other volunteers and I made sure that international and local broadcasters were positioned properly at their assigned station. We also assisted the Olympic Broadcasting Station team by making sure there would be no obstructions or technical issues before, during or after events. I met several broadcasting reporters, including Scott Hamilton, Andrea Joyce and other media personalities. It is an intrinsic ability of a nurse to cope and wear a different hat suited to the situation, and to be part of the BRS team was a blessing.
What do you think makes nursing such a great career?
I believe any profession can make you a great person as long as you love what you do. After all my years and experience as a nurse and working with people from all walks of life, I have arrived at the conclusion that for you to become great in your chosen career, all you need is C.P.R.
“C” stands for Commitment. Nurses must be committed to compassionate care, continuous learning, evidence-based innovations and excellent patient experiences. Without this important value, you can never start, finish or achieve anything in life. Success is never an accident. It is a result of a commitment to excellence that enables you to achieve the success you are dreaming of.
“P” is for Passion. It is the great motivating factor behind every action. Doing a job you are passionate about is one of the most pleasing experiences and provides holistic growth as a person and as a professional. There might be great moments but also challenging obstacles in your nursing career, so always remember the reason you became a nurse. Passion helps you gain focus and makes each day seem more optimistic and exciting.
“R” stands for Reciprocate. It simply means sharing. Nurses must share their skills, knowledge and experience for the benefit of people receiving care and their colleagues. As nurses, we should never stop learning, and we should use a l l available opportunities to impart and share our knowledge and skills, promote a culture of excellence to those around us and likewise take advantage of opportunities to learn from others.