PreCheck Celebrates National Nurses Week 2019 with Merlessa Rosacina
This week, National Nurses Week, is an annual event held May 6-12 to not only honor the late Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, but also to celebrate the nursing profession and the important role nurses play in providing the highest level of quality care to their patients. This year’s theme, “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate,” aims to recognize the vast contributions and positive impact of America’s four million registered nurses as well as their ongoing commitment to their work.
In celebration of this event, we’re sharing the story of Merlessa Rosacina, a radiation oncology nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Merlessa recounts her journey toward nursing and explains what she has learned in the last seven years as a registered nurse, how her family has influenced her career, what advice she would give to graduates entering the profession, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
1. What do you enjoy most about nursing?
There is nothing like the experience of witnessing a cancer patient responding well under treatment and be a part of their progression. The diagnosis of cancer is one of the most difficult realities the patient population I care for has to face. My current role allows me to be present at the time of diagnosis, treatment, and evaluation of response. Seeing our patients and witnessing their families’ response to good news is incredibly gratifying.
2. What made you decide to pursue a career in nursing? Some people say it was a calling. Would you say the same?
My family consists of healthcare professionals. My father is a physical therapist, my mother is a pharmacy technician, my older sister is a nurse practitioner, and my brother-in-law is a nurse practitioner. My father has instilled a strong sense of service within my sisters and me, telling stories of multiple patients who have re-learned to mobilize through rehabilitation. To this day, he speaks with a strong sense of pride regarding the care he provides and the determination of his patients. My mother is the most caring individual I know. She will go out of her way to help anyone, if able, and that attitude includes making sure her pharmacists and pharmacy unit are well taken care of to function properly. The values they have instilled in me at a young age are the driving force in my nursing aspirations.
3. How has the nursing profession changed you as a person?
Being in the nursing profession has changed the way I practice empathy. It is easy to put myself in the shoes of my loved ones but seeing people with chronic illnesses has helped me garner that attribute within myself. Cancer does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, gender, financial status—literally from all walks of life. In order for me to give the best care, I place myself in the shoes of the people I encounter and do my best to provide specific care according to their needs. At most, showing humanity during someone’s time of need (sometimes life and death) is another level of empathy that has helped me grow as a person and clinician. You really never know what another person is going through. Kindness and empathy can go a long way.
4. What is your best advice for nursing graduates starting their career?
Find a mentor and clarify your goals. A mentor is someone ideally unbiased, available, seasoned, and has a vast knowledge of the nursing law, policies, and procedures. The mentor can be from your workplace or another nurse you hold in high regard. Having a trusted individual providing guidance and a safe place to ask questions and/or vent is a vital component to a successful start in your career. He or she can be a wonderful source of a support for a new graduate nurse and the longevity of your career.
5. Have you always worked within the same environment in nursing?
I currently work as a radiation oncology nurse for Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. The clinic I work for is in charge of consulting, treating, monitoring, and following up with both inpatient and outpatient areas for the whole hospital. I previously worked as a nurse on neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, and acute inpatient rehabilitation areas at MD Anderson Cancer Center. My role has changed but still under the umbrella of oncology.
6. How has the nursing profession changed over the past years?
The biggest change I’ve encountered during my nursing career was being a part of a transition from paper charting to an EMR. It was challenging at first, but there are countless benefits for an electronic medical record. Information can be communicated at a faster rate and a patient’s status can be assessed from multiple areas within the hospital. There will always be a learning curve with new technology constantly being developed. As long as technology works in support with the healthcare team to improve patient outcomes, I only see technology becoming a larger component in how care is delivered.
7. Where do you see nursing profession heading in the next 10 years?
I see nurses in Texas holding a greater voice in Congress on the matters that directly affect our profession. The Texas Medical Center has a densely large population of nurses. That number will continue to grow along with the medical center. The number of nurses working together to create change in the workplace and patient care is inevitable and cannot be ignored.
8. What do you believe is the largest misconception about nursing?
A common misconception of nursing is that we are made of steel. Yes, nurses will be undoubtedly strong in the face of our patients, families, doctors, and other nursing peers while on the job. Still, some of the individuals we care for or a particular difficult case will stay with us. Nurses may not show it during the shift. Our main goal is to get the patient better. There is a goal to be done. When the shift is over, some cases (happy or sad) will touch our hearts and will always be remembered.
9. What is it like being a nurse at Houston Methodist?
I’ve been a nurse at Houston Methodist for almost 2 years now after transferring from another facility. Everyone that I have encountered has been nothing short of friendly. The care is personalized and incorporates the patient and their family’s wants and needs in the plan. The doctors and nurses in my clinic make it a point to get to know the people we are caring for on a personal level during their daily radiation treatments. It’s like working for a big family.
10. Studies show that there's an increasing shortage of nurses in the U.S.; what would you say to those who are considering nursing as their career?
Go for it. The nursing profession is not without struggle. If you have a calling to help others and have a strong sense of service to the community, there is a nursing niche for you. The nursing profession is filled also with gratification. The late neurologist Oliver Sacks portrays my feelings on nursing and humanity best:
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
I am forever grateful for the experiences in my career and am proud to be part of the nursing profession.
Whether you’re a nursing veteran or new to the field, please share what made you join the profession and what you’d like upcoming nurses to know. We’d love to hear your story!