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Dome - The New Face of Nursing

May 2010

The New Face of Nursing

Date: May 7, 2010

They’re not always the same bedside nightingales. Most nurses like Chris Reed are taking on larger system responsibilities, as they continue the traditional patient-care role.


Pediatric transport nurse Chris Reed
Pediatric transport nurse Chris Reed is using his patient care experience as a springboard for a career in health policy.

Chris Reed savors a moment that came at daybreak, near the end of his shift. The Hopkins pediatric transport nurse was in the back of the helicopter, tending to a child flown to the Children’s Center from Peninsula General Medical Center in Salisbury. Because the 5-year-old’s asthma was not as severe as he had feared, the fourth generation nurse was also able to enjoy the beauty of the sunrise and what it seemed to reflect: knowledge that this child would recover swiftly and that he had played a role in the outcome.

More often, the children he helps transport are gravely ill, high-risk cases. “When you work in the PICU, there are lots of times when you’ve worked extremely hard and done your best, but you still go home with visions of death and suffering,” Reed says.

The 27-year-old nurse is one of a handful of pediatric critical care transport nurses who determine whether a patient requires emergency transfer to Hopkins. Working nights, he averages five flights a month and twice as many ambulance transports. Whenever he’s in the hospital, he sports a tool belt of pagers as a member of the pediatric rapid response, pediatric trauma and pediatric transport teams.

During his four-year stint in the PICU, the graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing has also collected master’s degrees in nursing and public health. Now he stands at another turning point in his career. He has been accepted into a doctoral program in health care management and leadership this fall at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He intends to use his frontline nursing experience to improve health care administration.

Reed represents a new generation of nursing professionals, says Karen Haller, vice president for nursing and patient care services, who are expanding the field’s reach as they move into influential positions in information technology, quality improvement, risk management, infection control, and health care policy making.

Reed’s attraction to the field began at home in Franklin, Va. He was partially raised by his late grandmother, a medical-surgical nurse, after the death of his mother, who worked in intensive care.

An only child, Reed says he grew up with firsthand lessons in compassionate, patient-centered care, as well as three generations of nursing textbooks. While he was a student at Randolph-Macon College, he spent two or three nights a week working as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home. Over time, he became so close to a handful of residents that they attended his college graduation along with their family members.

At Hopkins, Reed earned membership in academic honor societies and held positions of student leadership, all while working full time. While he pursues his doctorate, he will remain on the PICU staff.

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 If they leap to other nursing roles, we expect their clinical expertise will benefit us in the long run.

—Karen Haller

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“In the past, I think nursing had a tendency to try to hold on to great people like Chris in their clinical roles, but now, if they leap to other nursing roles, we expect their clinical expertise will benefit us in the long run,” Haller says. “Chris understands what health care is at the bedside. He’s seen frontline issues and public health issues and wants to affect health care at a larger level.”

With an undergraduate degree in business as well as in environmental studies, Reed hopes to enter hospital administration at a “top-tier teaching institution with a lot of influence over health care policy.”

“Public health is saving lives, millions at a time,” he says, paraphrasing the slogan of the Bloomberg School. “I’d like to help implement strategies or policies that can affect groups or even entire populations. From a systems perspective, a nursing background can add greater understanding of how a hospital actually operates because it touches all departments.”

On a recent night, he visited every corner of the 26-bed PICU, helping a team insert a breathing tube into one youngster and checking with other nurses to determine their needs. One of the few nurses qualified to insert a nasoduodenal tube, a procedure that allows safe feeding for children using ventilators, Reed is also known for his skill at inserting IVs—particularly difficult with babies. But he’s equally quick to help a colleague turn a patient, change a diaper or take a break.

“We have an unwritten rule that we never leave the bedside,” he says. “Those children are so sick that their clinical status changes minute to minute. There’s always at least one set of eyes on a child.”

No matter where his career leads, Chris Reed is committed to maintaining one tenet of his profession that hasn’t changed since his great-grandmother’s service.

“Nurses are the consistent care-givers, the ones who coordinate the different specialized services, the ones who can communicate difficult situations to the doctors as well as to the families,” he says. “As a nurse, you cross all the boundaries.”

—Linell Smith

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