Nursing is a calling

Nursing | 5 months ago

The Call to Nursing: It’s More than a Job

Most nurses will tell you: Nursing is more than a job – it’s a calling. But what happens after you answer that call? Six registered nurse graduates who all started at Atrium Health Levine Cancer in the summer of 2023 share their stories about being called to cancer care, what it’s really like to be a new nurse and why they feel this is the best place to grow their nursing careers.

More than a Job: Nursing is a Calling

Yolanda Howard may officially be less than a year into her career as a registered nurse, but she’s no stranger to health care – or to Atrium Health. 

“Since I can remember, I knew nursing was what I would do,” Yolanda says.

Yolanda began her career as a certified nurse aide, then became a medical assistant and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) before going to nursing school to get her license as a registered nurse and returning to Atrium Health.

“I came back because I wanted to be part of an institution that is respected in the community, has multiple locations that are convenient for patients and where there is room to grow my career,” Yolanda says.

Yolanda now works at the Atrium Health Levine Cancer outpatient GU/Surgical Unit providing care to patients who are diagnosed with cancer. She says the most rewarding part of her job is supporting patients and their families through a difficult time.

Candi Crockett understands those challenges first-hand. She lost her own mother to cancer, which inspired her to pursue nursing as her second career.Candi Crockett

“I was a tax accountant for 16 years before I decided to go to nursing school,” Candi says. 

Candi now works at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Care, caring for patients in all stages of their breast cancer journeys. She manages and executes their treatment plans, educates patients on various therapies and prepares them for infusions, labs and scans.

“It is so rewarding to me to be able to spend that time getting to know my patients,” Candi says. “Patients rely on us to listen and to guide them through their cancer journey. I feel blessed to be able to walk alongside them during one of the toughest battles of their lives.” 

For Levine Cancer infusion nurse Maryellen Campanaro, her desire to make a positive impact on people's lives led her down her own path to becoming a nurse.      

“I always had such an admiration for the compassionate care provided by the nurses I encountered during my own experiences with health care,” Maryellen says.

It was a similar start for her infusion nurse colleague, Montana Collins. A pediatrician she had as a child inspired her to go into the medical field, but Montana’s journey to nursing school took a little longer. Sage Collins

“I went to college at Montana State University and switched my major five times before I landed on nursing,” she says.

Claire Bryant knew she wanted to be a nurse because she has always enjoyed helping others, wanted a flexible position and one where she would always be learning. Beyond that, she felt called to cancer care and knew Atrium Health was the place to begin her career.

“I wanted to focus on oncological nursing and Atrium Health Levine Cancer is widely known for its leading cancer specialists and facilities,” Claire says. 

Claire now works in hematology/oncology multiple myeloma care at Atrium Health Levine Cancer.

That opportunity to help more people – in more ways – also led Maryellen to Atrium Health.

Choosing Nursing at Atrium Health

“I was drawn to Atrium Health because of its reputation for providing high-quality patient care and its commitment to innovation and community health,” Maryellen says. “I believe in the organization's values and its focus on improving health care outcomes for diverse populations.”

Those values – and the opportunities for professional growth and development led Levine Cancer infusion nurse Caitlyn Dellegatto down a similar path.

Caitlyn Dellegato“Atrium Health offered outpatient infusion for new graduate nurses,” Caitlyn says. “I really enjoyed that clinic setting in nursing school and wanted the opportunity to go into infusion right after I graduated.”

“Working in the infusion center is exactly what I knew I wanted to do for work,” Montana agrees.

But the transition from nursing school to nursing practice is a journey and no two journeys are exactly the same.

“The transition from nursing school to practicing under my own license involved a period of adjustment,” Maryellen says. “While nursing school provided a strong academic foundation, real-world nursing practice brought new challenges and opportunities for independent decision-making.”

That’s why new graduate registered nurses at Atrium Health begin their careers with a supportive transition to practice experience that promotes learning, clinical application and peer support.

“It's all about providing our new graduate nurses with a supportive transition that prepares them for independent practice,” says Phyllis Justus, vice president, nursing professional development. “If a nurse is properly prepared and supported, they will have the confidence needed for their practice as a professional nurse.”

Led by a team of dedicated nurse educators, the transition to practice program includes clinical orientation with a preceptor. The preceptor serves as a role model, teacher and coach throughout the orientation process and helps to oversee, guide and teach other nurses to foster knowledge and enhance clinical practice skills.

“Beginning my own practice was overwhelming at times but I felt a lot of support from my coworkers and preceptor,” Caitlyn says.

The transition to practice program also features specialty-specific learning experiences and a core curriculum that provides a solid foundation for clinical decision making, interdisciplinary teamwork and communication, and future career development. 

“I appreciate all the training Atrium Health has provided to help prepare me for my role as a new nurse,” Candi says. “And I continue to learn every day from the seasoned nurses I work with in the breast clinic.”

“It was a bit stressful to be on your own, but my training and precepting really helped me become confident in my abilities as a nurse,” Montana says. “And, interacting with my patients by myself helped me feel closer to them. It felt like the defining time of when I became a real-life nurse.” 

For Yolanda, the transition from nursing school to registered nurse felt like a breath of fresh air.

Yolanda Brown

“As an experienced LPN, nursing school was a refresher for me and gave me the chance to learn new skills and different ways of thinking,” she says.

But the professional development of nurses doesn’t stop after they make that initial transition. All Atrium Health teammates are encouraged to use their education benefits to grow their careers. Education Assistance provides teammates with financial assistance for approved academic and continuing education course expenses. There are options for reimbursement and, if eligible, prepaid education assistance can be used for job-related education and may include preparing for or maintaining a license for certification, such as an RN.

“Mentorship and ongoing education continue to play a key role in this transition for me,” Maryellen says.Maryellen Campanaro

“I work with such amazing teammates who support my growth and aid me in my learning,” Claire says.

“The learning curve can still be steep,” Candi says, “but it is slowly beginning to flatten a bit with each new day.”

Challenges – and Rewards

One of the most honored and respected professions, nursing comes with its own set of unique challenges from staffing to working in a high stress environment.

“Challenges in nursing often involve managing high patient volumes, handling complex cases and adapting to evolving health care technologies,” Maryellen says. “Time management and maintaining a balance between efficiency and compassionate care can also be challenging.”

Nurses are providing care and support for people sometimes going through very difficult times, which can provide its own mental and emotional challenges. This is especially true for these nurses, who are caring for oncology patients – people who are battling cancer.

“Some patients are very sick and may be quite sad,” Candi says, “but I may walk into the next room and the patient is happy because they just finished their last treatment or found out they are in remission. It can be emotional at times, but I also feel blessed to be able to help patients through their highs and lows.”

“It’s the most rewarding part of this job,” Montana explains, “to be there for my patients during their hard times. Getting chemo is not something anyone wants to do, so being able to be there to support someone and ease their worries if I am able to is very rewarding.” 

These nurses draw inspiration and hope from their patients and families and find that to be some of the most rewarding aspects of their job.

“I love hearing positive feedback and good news from our patients,” Caitlyn says.

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is witnessing positive health outcomes in patients and knowing that I played a role in their care journey,” Maryellen says. “Building connections with patients and contributing to their well-being is incredibly fulfilling.”

“Supporting patients and family members during their difficult time or diagnosis,” Yolanda explains, “is why we do what we do.”

Advice for the Future

With so many opportunities to begin – or extend – a nursing career, it’s a great time to be a nurse. So, what would these new nurses tell themselves or others who are new to nursing practice?

“Follow the nursing path you feel called to – wherever it leads,” Montana says.

“Voice your needs and your ideas,” Claire says. “Everyone is here to help support your growth.”Claire Bryant

“Embrace every opportunity to learn,” Maryellen advises. “Seek mentorship from experienced nurses and don't be afraid to ask questions. Nursing is a dynamic field and your commitment to growth will serve you well.”

“I would tell new grad nurses to be gracious with themselves and always ask questions,” Caitlyn says. “Additionally, I will tell them they are more capable than they may think when first stepping onto the unit.”

“I would advise a new nurse graduate to be patient with themselves as they learn their new role in their job and as a nurse,” Candi says. “It is overwhelming, but it will get better.”

“Give yourself grace,” Yolanda says.

Ready to find your calling? Choose nursing at Atrium Health. Whether you’re just starting your nursing career or you have many years of nursing experience, we invite you to learn more about available opportunities and advancing your nursing career at Atrium Health.