Kate Hellmich, RN, is a surgical ICU nurse at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She received her Master in Nursing from Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago. She spent this past summer as a traveling nurse in Brooklyn, New York, caring for COVID-19 patients before starting full-time at Mayo this August. In the following, she talks about her inspiration “to serve” in her chosen profession.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
To help others—it’s the reason most people go into nursing. I did not start out thinking about nursing. I originally studied sociology in college and planned to do social work. But I turned to nursing because I was called to serve.
What is a typical shift like for you?
I’m still in orientation in the ICU at Mayo, where I do morning patient assessments, medication, and multidisciplinary rounds in alternate 12-hour shifts. The doctors and physician assistants have a daily plan, but that plan can shift as the day progresses depending on patient needs. The day is very situational. My shift goes very quickly, and we must constantly be able to address changing needs.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I like being the primary contact with the patient to help them feel safe in a stressful situation. The doctors and specialists do their rounds throughout the day, but I am the one constant that the patients can rely on. It is hard for patients to have a minimum-visitor restriction because of the COVID-19 guidelines. Since Mayo attracts an international patient base, the entire family may come into town, yet they can’t all be in the room at the same time. So, I am there to help the patient and family members.
In Brooklyn, I worked with COVID patients, where the visitor restrictions put added stress on nurses and patients. I was excited to go to New York and help. The hospital was in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and received most of its reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid. It was hard work, but I did have sweet moments with patients. It was nice to hear that people appreciated our work, and I know the staff nurses appreciated the help from the traveling nurses.
What do you do to find calm or rejuvenate yourself at work?
I rode the subway to work in Brooklyn. The commute was just under an hour, so I listened to music to relax and get ready for the day. Because of the stay-at-home guidelines, the train was not crowded and it was easy to relax. We didn’t really have a private space to go to, but at Mayo we do have a breakroom for relaxing.
How did you don and doff for protection in the COVID ICU?
In Brooklyn, we put a gown over our white jumpsuit and wear the same mask the whole day. The other nurses were helpful bringing supplies to the nurses in the COVID area so they didn’t have to don and doff again to get the supplies themselves. Nurses are good at innovation. We always find a way to help each other.
What do you want to tell young people seeking a nursing career?
You must be aware of the ick factor at first—but nursing is very rewarding. There are many options, and you can change direction and take on new roles anytime you want.
If not a nurse, what would you be?
I would be a social worker. It’s another way of helping people.
About the Series
The World Health Organization (W.H.O) has designated 2020 the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Over the next several months, we will celebrate nurses’ contributions to the healthcare profession through a series of conversations with top nurse across specialties. Read previous posts in the series, Celebrating the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, A Conversation with Sarah A. Cypher, A Conversation with Allie Janous, and A Conversation with Sheila Burns.