Mighty Blog

Highlighting our nurses for Nurses Month

The American Nurses Association designates May as Nurses Month. There’s no better time to recognize our nurses and the remarkable experiences they create for the patients and families we serve. Thank you for being every family’s essential partner in raising healthier children — not only during illnesses or injuries, but throughout childhood.

In honor of this month, we’re highlighting nurses from various care communities, specialties and roles. Below you will meet:

Jennifer Rivera, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-N, RNC-NIC, neonatal clinical nurse specialist in the Minneapolis NICU.
Jennifer Rivera, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-N, RNC-NIC, neonatal clinical nurse specialist in the Minneapolis NICU.
Chris Barta, BSN, RN, clinical services supervisor at the Diabetes & Endocrine Center in the Maple Grove Clinic.
Chris Barta, BSN, RN, clinical services supervisor at the Diabetes & Endocrine Center in the Maple Grove Clinic.
Simmara Smith, BSN, RN, clinical nurse in the St. Paul pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Simmara Smith, BSN, RN, clinical nurse in the St. Paul pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Heidi Haus, RN, clinical nurse in the St. Paul NICU
Heidi Haus, RN, clinical nurse in the St. Paul NICU.

Get to know these nurses!

Who or what inspired you to become a nurse?

Two things. First, my mom was a nurse and when I was little, we would sometimes visit her at work to have lunch. When I was there in the hospital, I always felt like I was supposed to be there. Second, when I was a senior in high school, my godson was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and was cared for in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis NICUs. Some of the people who took care of him still work at Children’s Minnesota and now I get to work with them!

I think the human body is amazing and wanted to learn more about it. That coupled with my desire to help others, lead me to become a nurse.

I can remember loving to go to the pediatrician as a small child just so I could watch the staff. My imaginary play would be pretending to be a nurse, taking my doll’s height and weight, giving them shots and drawing labs.

My inspiration came from when I visited my niece when she was hospitalized in a military hospital over 30 years ago. From what I recall, she was the only pediatric patient in the hospital during her admission. I admired how the military nurses went out of their way to make sure she was happy and felt safe.

My family inspired me to become a nurse. My family had a clinic called the Lommen Clinic in my hometown of Austin, Minnesota. My dad, uncle and grandpa were all doctors there. My mom was also a nurse.

I actually have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and then went on to get my nursing degree. Initially my plan was to get into medical device sales, but I love working in the NICU, so here I still am. I have also passed on the love of medicine to my daughters. My Morgan is a nurse in the Minneapolis special care nursery and my Madison is a physician assistant at Summit Orthopedics.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It might be cliché, but I don’t really have a typical day. One of the things that I love about my job is that I might be working on something at the unit level, the division level or the organizational level. For example, I might be in the unit collaborating with an interprofessional partner on care of a complex patient; I might be guiding an evidence-based project leader through a quality improvement project; I might be writing a policy or a procedure; or I might be partnering with supply chain on a new product or a substitution. It all depends on the day!

As is typical in health care, every day is different! I spend time on the phone with parents and patients discussing current symptoms and providing education about their condition. I assist families with coordinating procedures that will then lead to a clearer treatment plan. I meet with patients in person in our clinic to provide education or answer questions. I manage and resolve issues that occur on a daily basis. I work with our leadership team to develop and implement new processes which will lead to better patient care for our families.

Most days I provide direct patient care as a floor RN in the St. Paul PICU.

I also work with the Transition to Practice Program as a clinical nurse instructor. This role allows me to work with new graduate RNs during their first weeks of orientation by supporting and educating them as they transition to their new role as pediatric nurses at Children’s Minnesota.

My role changes from day to day. Somedays I’ll be a bedside nurse taking care of 1-2 babies, depending on how critical they are. Other days, I may be a transport RN where I attend high-risk/premature deliveries. Another day, I may be a CRN (resource nurse) where I help with anything that needs to be done, including admissions, IV starts, lab draws/arterial sticks, procedures, feeding babies and helping with care.

What do you love most about your job?

The clinical nurse specialist (CNS) works in the three spheres of impact (patient, nurse and system). And that is why I love my job. The variety. One day I might be making the difference for an individual patient, the next I might be elevating professional nursing practice and the next I might be designing or facilitating a system-level change.

I love the interaction between staff, clinicians and patient families in order meet the needs of our patients. Many of our patients have a chronic health condition that require us to manage their care for many years. It is so exciting to be able to develop relationships with our families, sometimes never even meeting them in person. It is even better when I know I’ve made a positive difference in a patient or family’s life.

I love the variety and the ability to learn and develop new skills every time I come to work. Every day is different and I am grateful for every opportunity that I have to be present and be a source of positivity for patients, families and staff.

Not many people get to experience miracles, but watching some of these babies go home with their families after a long, hard battle is really something to see! I also love doing procedures and anything with IVs, including starting IVs, stringing IVF, changing pumps, etc.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When you are starting to feel overwhelmed, just remember to breathe and think of something you are grateful for.

What do you want patients, families and/or staff to know about the work you do?

The clinical nurse specialist (CNS) really works to define and recommend best practice in a specialty patient or population. Then we work synergistically with our interprofessional partners to implement and evaluate practices to achieve optimal patient outcomes.

I am passionate about the work I do! I learn something new every single day. I hope to help make a new diagnosis just a bit easier for a family. I am here to be the cheerleader when the family needs it most and am here to provide the encouragement they need to be able to manage their chronic condition.

I love my job in the NICU! I started in the NICU right out of college and have never worked in another unit. My coworkers are amazing, they make work fun and get me through the hard days. I don’t know what I would do without them. They are the family that I didn’t know I needed.

How are you celebrating Nurses Month?

Being grateful for all my nursing colleagues, both inside and outside of Children’s Minnesota. No matter what “kind” of nurse you are (clinical nurse at the bedside, nurse leader, neonatal nurse, geriatric nurse), I see you, I value you, and I could not do this job without you.

We are starting off with spirit week! I’m excited to show my spirit during each of our dress up days. I also have a few surprises planned to show appreciation for my team and all of the hard work they put in each and every day to meet our patient’s needs.

This year I am celebrating by attending the Nurses of Color ERG celebration on May 10. I am also really looking forward to attending the Professional Development Conference on May 14!

Donuts! I’ve been celebrating Nurses Month by treating myself to donuts. They make me happy!

Alexandra Rothstein