Q&A: Amy Jahnke, Grays Harbor Community Hospital nurse

Amy Jahnke is a medical/pediatric nurse at Grays Harbor Community Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Seattle University and worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital for more than five years with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Unit. She joined Community Hospital this year and lives in Aberdeen. She was born and raised in Issaquah and attended Skyline High School, graduating in 2001.

What made you want to be a nurse?

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. As I grew up I became really interested in the medical field. I loved watching anything on TV that had to do with medicine, medical science, or hospitals. I grew up with two younger brothers and have always had a passion for helping people. As I thought about a career path, nursing ended up just making sense. It combines many things I have always enjoyed: teaching, medicine and helping others. One of my grandmas was a nurse, so I guess it was always in my genes, too!

Did you have any expectations of what it would be like before you started? How accurate did those turn out to be?

I think before I did my first clinical in nursing school I truly had no idea just how much a nurse is responsible for in the hospital setting. I knew nursing would be hard, but I don’t think I was able to appreciate exactly how tough it is in some ways until I began my own career. I also expected nursing to be rewarding before I started, but just how rewarding it can be has far exceeded my expectations.

What is your typical day like?

In nursing, no two shifts are ever the same. You always have to be prepared for the unexpected, and be willing to “roll with the punches.” That being said, a “typical” day starts out with getting my patient assignment, and then getting a report on how each patient’s day was from the nurse who took care of them the previous shift. After getting that report, I get to work by meeting my patients, talking about the plan for my shift and doing a head-to-toe assessment on each of them. The rest of the shift consists of giving medications, treating pain, communicating with other members of the healthcare team, discharging patients to home, admitting patients from the emergency room, charting my assessments on the computer, and doing whatever else needs to be done to give my patients the best care I possibly can.

What is nursing training like? What subjects do you focus on?

I went to Seattle University for nursing school and got my bachelor’s of science in nursing. The program consisted of seven quarters of classroom work combined with clinical work. In the classroom we focused on learning the basics of pathophysiology, biology, pharmacology and how to be culturally competent and sensitive to every person’s unique needs and situation. Our clinical experiences taught us how to communicate with patients and do focused head-to-toe assessments. During clinical work we were always paired up with an experienced nurse who was able to offer advice, encouragement and help teach us how to be great, competent nurses. Each clinical experience correlated to what we were learning in the classroom at that time, so we were able to use what we learned from reading our textbooks and listening to lectures and apply it to real-world situations.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

Like I mentioned before, I have a true passion for helping people. My favorite part about my job is when I can walk away from a shift really feeling like I made a difference, no matter how small, to one of my patients that day. Whether it be treating a patient’s pain and being able to see some relief of their suffering, or answering a patient’s questions in a way they understand so some worry and anxiety can be relieved, it is always extremely rewarding to feel like I have made a difference and someone’s day was better because of my care.

What’s your least favorite thing about your job?

I think the hardest part about being a nurse is when you know that medically speaking all that can be done for a patient has been done and unfortunately that patient may not ever return to their previous state of health.

Any patients or situations that stand out as memorable to you?

Working on the cancer floor at Seattle Children’s, I had the privilege to meet many amazing, courageous kids and families. Many of our patients were there for weeks, sometimes even months at a time, so the nurses and doctors at Children’s truly became like a second family to them. I had the honor of taking care of one very brave little girl until she took her final breath and it is truly something I will never forget. In a time when she should have been scared, mad and miserable, she was the one who was telling her loved ones that everything was going to be OK. Her conviction and faith amazed me and made me change my own outlook on life. She taught me to truly enjoy each day as a gift, tell those you love how much you care and to not take anything for granted.

Are there any misunder-standings that people have about nurses and what they do that you’ve encountered?

I think sometimes on TV dramas, the role of a nurse is minimized. Unless someone has been a patient in the hospital, or had someone they love be a patient, I don’t think many people understand just how much nurses do and are responsible for. Nurses are the ones caring for the patient at the bedside 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Nurses advocate for their patients, assess their patients, treat their patients, listen to their patients and deeply care for their patients each and every day.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying nursing?

Nursing school is very tough, but definitely well worth it in the end. There are so many different career opportunities in the field of nursing that each new nurse should be able to find a place where they fit. Nursing is at times both physically and emotionally demanding, but it is also an extremely rewarding and fulfilling career.