Day in the life of a nurse

Kathryn Mikolic

As part of National Nurses Week (May 6-12), we are celebrating those who are on the front line every day caring for children. We recently caught up with Kathryn Mikolic, a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to learn more about what it’s like to work in one of the world’s toughest but rewarding jobs.

Born and raised in San Jose California, Kathryn Mikolic has always viewed Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford as the place to be. After attending school at Azusa Pacific University. Kathryn worked at Good Samaritan hospital in San Jose before joining the team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which has led to an abundance of clinical opportunities and growth.

Explain your role at the hospital.

I am a buffer nurse, which is break nurse with a lot of responsibility. I help transfer patients to MRI or CT, respond to all codes and rapid responses, help with procedures on the unit and support the bedside nurse to admit patients.

What is the big difference between Stanford Medicine Children’s and other hospitals?

The endless resources really sets us apart. Everyone is involved, from social work to case management to the help we get from the doctors. Because we are a teaching hospital, we get a really wide variety of resources. I often think to myself, ‘wow there’s so many people here to help’. It’s really just finding what you need.

How challenging is the work at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital?

People are flown in from nearby states and all over the world. It’s really neat to be working in such a big transplant hub. Taking care of the some of the sickest kids comes with a lot of responsibility, but it’s also a privilege. Kids are so resilient, they get better, they make progress and that’s the most encouraging part of our job. Seeing them when they come back walking or in a wagon and waving makes it all worth it.

What do you enjoy the most about working here?

Every day brings something new. I love the variety, I love the challenges and I love the people that I work with. People here say “we are in the trenches together.” At the end of the day I think about all that we accomplished and it’s really powerful and inspiring because what we’re doing matters: supporting each other and supporting the patients.

Tell us about a typical day.

5:00 – I bolt up as my alarm goes off.  I tiptoe around trying not to wake the sleeping baby or husband. Coffee in hand I am smiling now. I gladly plant smooches on my baby and hubby as I run out the door, praying for no traffic.

6:30 – Phew, I made it. I enjoy the brisk walk into work as I inhale the crisp air. This may be my only chance to breathe deeply today. I prepare my mind and thoughts for the day, channeling calmness and quick decision making, not knowing what it will entail.

7:05 – Huddle is complete and patient reports have begun. I’m Buffer 2, thereby in charge of breaks, responding to rapid responses, codes and providing overall assistance to my colleagues. Lots of hot spots, road trips, and incoming patients for the day. I better get moving.

7:35 – I make my rounds on all of the patients and nurses. Heavy pairs (*busy assignments with patients often requiring full care and frequent intervention) and newer nurses become my current focus, as I want to ensure they feel supported for the day.

8:05 – I am setting up bed spaces for our Operating Room (OR) cases and my phone rings. Stat CT (an emergent and detailed picture of the brain) in room 54. I gather emergency supplies, medications, and lots of fluid as many doctors and respiratory therapists flood into the room to help this unstable patient. Finally, we’re all ready to go.

9:30 – Back from CT and halfway through breaks. We have three patients to transfer out to make room for our four OR cases and one patient in the ER. We are still two beds short, but it’ll work out somehow.

10:50 – Yes, it’s finally my time to eat.

13:35 – Beep Beep. Rapid Response – Bass Center – where our cancer patients are treated. I grab the oversized, red backpack and head downstairs. This patient looks septic. His temperature is 39.7 C, with his systolic blood pressure is still 80’s after 3 liters of fluid.  Time to start Norepinephrine (blood pressure support) and bring the patient upstairs.

16:25 – I made it to lunch.

17:00 – Back to work. Another patient is now on droplet isolation. Another diaper change complete. Things are flowing for Room 70. I get multiple calls for co-signing high alert medications. My feet are starting to hurt.

17:30 – Charge calls and we’re getting another patient.  A sick transport possibly needing ECMO (life support) is on its way via helicopter.

18:10 – The patient arrives and all hands are on deck. The rest is a blur.

19:35 –I take in some deep breaths, proud of our team and what we conquered today.

20:30 – I take the long way home. The smell of the ocean breeze helps me decompress. I strip down in the garage, ridding my body of not only the many germs I encountered, but also letting go of the intense situations and memories of today. I kiss my husband hello and my sleeping baby goodnight. I am grateful for another day.


2 Responses to “Day in the life of a nurse”

  1. Jennifer

    Beautiful. You are so valued and appreciated. Thank you for your good work!
    From one RN to another…

  2. April

    Wow! Now that’s a long day! Thank you SO much for all you and every person working there does! 🙂


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