Julia Lee is “on her toes” during her long shifts as a telemetry nurse at Chandler Regional Hospital. And she likes it that way.
Nationwide, there is a need for telemetry, critical care and intensive care nurses, local hospital supervisors say. These are the nurses who are often working with the sickest of the sick, and their days and nights can be trying, but rewarding.
Lee started in nursing two and a half years ago. She went straight into telemetry, where she works with cardiac patients.
“It’s a good entry point into nursing. You have patients either coming out of ICU (intensive care) or sick enough that they might be heading into ICU. You have multiple disciplines, from surgical patients to open heart surgery to congestive heart failure,” Lee said.
Nationwide, nurses make up the largest sector of healthcare occupations, with 2.3 million jobs held in 2002. Within the broad scope of nursing, hospitals employ the most nurses, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
Almost three in five nursing jobs in 2002 were in hospitals.
Jerry Lowlier oversees the telemetry unit at Chandler Regional Hospital, which was recently listed on the Best Places to Work in the Valley. He has such a need for telemetry nurses; “Chandler Regional utilizes high quality contract labor to supplement core staff.”
These nurses are required to have a “thorough understanding of the cardiac system,” he said. “Many new grads do well. They get that experience, but they’re also getting more of the ICU-type patients. Telemetry is a stepping stone for ICU, ER and trauma,” because of the training on the cardiac system.
Lowlier puts nurses fresh out of school through a 12-16 week extended orientation for telemetry. He’s also sent nurses – through a paid program – for additional schooling at a local college.
Besides her bachelor’s degree in nursing and state nursing certification (as well as a bachelor’s degree in biology), Lee is nationally certified from the American Association of Critical Care Nursing. This required “a lot of studying” and sitting for a national exam.
Dennis Martin, director of the critical care unit at Mesa General Hospital, said there is great job satisfaction working with critical care patients.
“They have to be self starters. They have to be willing to work alone and with others. And they have to have a good sense of customer service,” he said.
Vida Johnson is a staff nurse in ICU at Banner Desert Medical Center. She has been in the field for the last 15 years, 20 years total in nursing. She said the challenge of the job keeps her going.
“I was a little bit of an adrenaline junkie 15 years ago,” she said. “It’s pretty much nonstop. You get report in the morning and you just go.
“It’s multitasking. It’s having questions thrown at you continually and having to organize the care of this patient with physical therapy, respiratory therapy and other departments in the hospital.”
It’s a job she wouldn’t change.
“I like seeing people get better. I like that connection. You get to know the family. You get to know the patients.”
During their time at work, they’re monitoring vital signs, administering medication and looking for problems, Chandler Regional’s Lee said.
“It’s always very, very busy. I can have three to four patients a day. Any of those may come and go as discharges so I may have five to six patients pass through my hands. Labs come in. Doctors come in. It’s a lot of juggling with patients’ history and fixing problems. It’s almost a medical mystery to find out what’s going on with the doctors and patients and then to fix it,” Lee said.