Meet Michael Scribner-O’Pray, an RN in the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
How long have you worked at Children’s? I started working at Children’s as an Emergency Medical Technician in the Emergency Department in 1998 while I was going to nursing school. After graduating in 2000, I worked as a nurse on the float team for a year before coming back home to the Emergency Department in 2001.
What drew you to pediatrics? When our daughter, Grace, was admitted to Children’s as a toddler, I experienced, first-hand, what a difference great nursing care can make for a family. We were frightened by how sick our daughter had become and struggled to make sense of the storm of new information and emotions swirling around us in the Emergency Department.
Thankfully, the care providers we encountered (most memorably, Marie Koldberg, RN) were calm, confident and remarkably skilled. They not only engaged our daughter directly, as the patient, they treated us, her parents, as the principal members of Grace’s health care team. During our four-day stay at Children’s, I realized that great nursing requires its practitioners to engage their entire selves – emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.
What do you enjoy most about working in the Emergency Department? What could be better than getting paid to meet remarkable families every day and help alleviate suffering?
We have opportunities every day to build bridges with people from vastly different life experiences from our own. What a joy it is to see the look of surprise on people’s faces when they are greeted and asked genuinely about how they are feeling in their family’s own language! (Collectively, our staff can do this in at least 15 different languages: Amharic, Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Italian, Mandarin, Ojibwe, Oromo, Polish, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese)
Kids and their parents often arrive in the Emergency Department hurt and scared, and we get to play a role in helping them find relief. Sometimes our interventions are as simple as offering a kind word or warm blanket, and sometimes what we do is as complex and carefully rehearsed as a major theater production. Although we encounter plenty to go home and cry about, more often than not, we also get to witness the transformation of pain and fear into relief and joy, of suspicion and anger into trust and understanding, of grief and powerlessness into hope and constructive action.
Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s? For more than a decade now, Mindy Teele, a a child life specialist in the department, has been encouraging us to find creative ways to make frightening procedures like laceration repairs and IV starts more child-friendly.
Many of my favorite memories are of times that we’ve succeeded in surpassing everyone’s expectations: the 2-year-old with a 3-inch gash in her forehead who sat happily in her mother’s lap playing playdough and coloring with her dad while we put 30 stitches in her forehead…. the 1-year-old whose mother sang her to sleep in her arms while we closed a cut right next to her eye…. the 4-year-old boy who “never sits still” who sat up by himself in bed playing with water toys while we stitched up the back of his head…. all the times each week that kids (and parents) have left our Emergency Department feeling stronger, happier and more capable than they did when they arrived — these are my favorite memories.
How do you spend your time outside of work? My schedule working weekends in the Emergency Department allows me to do some extra things during the week including driving our teenagers around town, helping to provide in-home care for my mother-in-law who has Alzheimers, and volunteering one day each week as a farm hand on a small family dairy farm near Red Wing, Minn.
I also enjoy growing food, building and fixing things, canoeing, and learning primitive skills such as basketry and weaving, birchbark canoe building, hide tanning, bow building, and foraging for wild edibles.