Alyssa S. Jenkins, RN
Frontline Emergency Room Nurse Healthcare Leader of the Year
How long have you been in healthcare?
I have been a Registered Nurse since June, 2012. I spent one year doing inpatient nursing and almost 9 years now of Emergency Room Nursing.
Where did you go to school?
I graduated from the University of Saint Francis Nursing program in Indiana in 2012.
Where have you worked?
I worked at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne for 1 year, then Saint Francis Indianapolis Emergency Department for 1 year, and have been an Emergency Room RN with Ascension Saint Vincent for 8 years, this June.
Can you give us an example of one moment in your healthcare career that let you know you were on the right path? Was there one specific moment or person who shaped your idea of healthcare?
It's difficult to pinpoint one single moment or person who confirmed that I was on the right path. I am very grateful and humbled to say that I get frequent reminders that I am living my calling. From the patients or families that impact your heart and mind in such a way that breaks you down and makes you want to continually fight harder, do better, to the victories and moments of joy and compassion I'm given a chance to experience every single day. If I had to be honest, the moment that impacted me the most as not only a nurse, but as a mother, wasn't even in the hospital. It was at a State Park. It was a pediatric cardiac arrest. It was the longest 43 minutes of my life. It reshaped my heart and mind and my perspective on life. My ability to appreciate every moment we are given. My acceptance of the fragility that human life brings. And my gratitude for the chance to work in a hospital every day, that has the clinical knowledge, the advanced education, the top quality supplies and tests, and the absolute grit and passion to fight for every human life. I have grown more amazed every day at the lengths that our healthcare frontline staff are able and willing to go to, in the name of saving lives.
Do you have someone in the healthcare field that you look up to?
This past July, I was given the humbling opportunity to accept a Clinical Supervisor's position in the Emergency Department. These people are my family. I can say, with every ounce of my being, I look up to each and every emergency medical frontline warrior I work with. From the doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, the EVS staff, the ancillary staff, and the EMS and PD frontline staff who continue to show up, every single day, and give everything they have, to serve our community. Being asked to lead an incredible group like this is an honor I will fight to earn every single day. I work with the best of the best. And I look up to each one of them.
What is your definition of a leader?
My favorite quote when I pursued this leadership position is from a well known movie, "Remember the Titans." "Attitude reflects leadership." To me, a leader is only as valuable and effective as the staff that they claim to lead. A quick look at the attitudes around you, will quickly put the effectiveness of your leadership into perspective. I see my role as that of support. Being a resource, an encourager, a motivator and a fighter.
Follow-up: which of those qualities are strongest in your own abilities, and are there any you want to improve on for yourself?
I strongly value being a listening ear, a judgment free zone, and a resource with endless compassion. And when someone feels like they just can't succeed at the task in front of them, I will step in, right next to them, because no one fights alone. And together, we will be victorious.
I want to improve my ability to see the little successes. I want to continue to get better at seeing the small victories, and not just the unaccomplished end goal. Rome wasn't built in a day. And the battle zone we clock into every day isn't a 1 day war. Giving up is not an option.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of your career?
My favorite part is the constant motion. Constant change. Continual chances to learn something new, and improve skills, to fight with every worldly resource possible to improve someone's quality of life. My least favorite part is something that goes hand in hand with this. My least favorite part is the fact that sometimes, no matter the effort and skill brought to the table, the outcome isn't always in our control. The things that we see, experience, and do every day are things that most people will never be able to comprehend. We signed up to do this job. We chose to fight this fight. And we are willing to see these things. But it can isolate you. It's a heavy burden to carry, especially when words can't accurately depict the weight this can put in our very souls. The nightmares we wake up to, the tears we cry silently once we leave the room, the small adjustments we make, subconsciously in our daily lives, because of the cruel way that we have seen life play out for someone else. And now, as a mentor, it brings a new level of passion into my job. I am defensive of my people. I am dedicated to making sure that each of my brand new nurses know that they can't do this alone. And that I just absolutely won't let them carry this weight on their own.
If someone wanted to walk in your shoes, what should they do?
Get prepared to be humbled daily. Realize that you have never learned everything there is to learn. Buckle up, because it's going to be a whole lot harder, on your mind, body, and heart than you ever thought it would be when you set out. But at the end of the day, it's pretty simple. Easy no, but simple? Yes. Love people. All people. Give the very best you have, every day, to your co-worker, your patient, their family. Commit to seeing value in every task, every person, every interaction. Smile at someone. Each day, make sure one single person feels valued, seen and loved. If you accomplish that, you will make a difference.
If you could change one thing about the current state of US Healthcare what would that be?
I would fight to close the gap that has been created between the general public, and the reality of what the inside of our hospitals have looked like for the last 2 years. I have only had 10 years of experience. I have seen more than I ever thought I would in my 29 years of life. I know that I still have much more to learn. However, I value and respect the perspective I have been able to receive from those who have worked much longer than I have. I am incredibly lucky to work with nurses and doctors who have been fighting this fight for 30 years or more. And the knowledge they have to bring is invaluable. Even they say that these last 2 years are unprecedented. Compassion fatigue is real. Physical fatigue is rampant. And resources and encouragement for those still showing up to fight this fight are few to none right now. It's life altering and shattering our healthcare workers across the nation.
How do you feel about the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the leaders in healthcare and government who are handling it?
I believe that we were not prepared. We were blindsided by how difficult this pandemic would be. On staff, on resources, and most of all on the general health of the populations we serve. The message I hope to share is this: It's not over yet. It's been 2 long years. The advances, changes, and improvements we have made at a rapid pace to the treatment and care of COVID-19 patients, and all patients during this critical surge in hospital populations have been INCREDIBLE. The fear of showing up to work, and not knowing how to intervene or help is dissipating. We have an action plan. And it's working. But it's not over. We still gown up every day for a battle that so few see. And we still need help and support. Because we aren't giving up. But we can't do it alone.