Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) is a wonderful accomplishment for anyone, but it takes time and money, something Carrie Kiser, an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) RN at Middlesboro ARH Hospital, hasn’t always had a lot of. But, Kiser, 26 and a native of Chattanooga, has found a great way to help with both her goals and obstacles.
“When I was selected to become a nurse at Middlesboro ARH, there was a $5,000 sign-on bonus attached to the position,” she explained. “I used the payment to pay off student loans.”
The money was a nice benefit according to Kiser, but the “opportunity to grow and learn” was an even greater gift. “I’ve learned so much working in both the Emergency Room and the ICU. I work with the most amazing team and the best possible supervisor. It’s just been a wonderful experience that has enhanced my professional life.”
So, with the loans whittled down and more experience under her belt, Kiser is eyeing Radford University in Virginia to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and ARH will continue to help. “We work in Kentucky but it’s only a 35 mile commute from our home in Virginia to Middlesboro. Radford has a great nursing program and ARH has a tuition reimbursement program.”
Kiser says the commute isn’t bad. “I can zone out to music, listen to the radio or there are times when I listen to books. It’s a time to destress,” she continued.
Even with her commute to the hospital each day, Kiser’s work community at Middlesboro ARH helps her feel right at home. Kiser knows that her added skills from earning her BSN will be used to fight what she sees as her biggest professional challenge—caring for patients battling the effects of drug addiction. “It’s an easy trap to fall into. Everyone knows someone and the drugs are easy to get,” she said. “I see families in denial. Families not wanting to cope. The ODs are real.”
Drugs are not the only concern for Kiser, since her husband is a paramedic and her younger brother is currently serving in the US Army at Ft. Stewart, GA, preparing for a deployment. “It’s really dangerous for any paramedic because when they go out they have no idea what they are going into. It’s always a gamble and dangerous.”
She also worries about her brother going into harm’s way, but the situation is out of her control. “I worry about another war. My husband would scare me in the dark, but a war is terrifying. My brother and I have talked about what he is facing if he is deployed, and we realize the concerns. We all worry about a divided nation, but what about a divided world?”
In 10 years, Kiser would like to see herself in administration. “I know what it feels like to be there and I understand the daily struggle for bedside RNs. I want to make a difference through administration.”
Kiser is routinely thanked for her high commitment to patient care. “I always put the patient first and I always want to be fair to my co-workers. I’m just fortunate to be part of this team because I know we all put the patients first.”
“People will ask if I am from Middlesboro because everyone thinks they must know you or your family—that you are taking care of family and friends. I’m not from here and I drive 45 minutes each way to come to this hospital,” said Kiser who also acknowledges much of the staff come from the area and many do treat family and friends.
Nursing was not always top of Kiser’s professional list, but she’s glad she found her place professionally. She started her university work as an engineering student but realized that working with and for people was more to her liking. “I pretty much woke up one day and decided I wanted to help people. It has been a wonderful career choice—nursing.”
Before nursing, it was also somewhat slow. There was the stint as a cashier at Walmart where she picked up her best friend, a pharmacy tech named Samantha, and the nursing home where she fell in love with a sweet patient, who could not often leave her room due to medical reasons.
“But she did one Christmas when we all gathered around the Christmas tree and Santa was handing out presents. I loved seeing the joy on her face. She died about a month later and I was thrilled for the time she spent around the tree. When you work in a senior facility, you get to know the patients because you see them day after day after day. You know them and you know their family. It’s very different than what I do now in ICU, but just as intense.”
Kiser says her husband is “smarter than I am and definitely funnier” and that together they enjoy four-wheeling in the mountains and eating Mexican food. Their schedules tend to provide them with enough time to enjoy those pursuits as she is on the night shift and he works 24-hour shifts. “It all works out perfectly and we are happy. Just looking forward to building careers,” she said.
“My manager is just the best, reiterated Kiser, and that is the best support of all.”
Nonetheless, Christopher Johnson, who heads the Employee and Labor Relations function for the ARH system is quick to point out that the organization is interested in helping individuals achieve more both personally and professionally. “Of course we want the managers to be mentors and to lead strong teams by example,” Johnson said, “but we also want to give our RNs help financially. Sign-on bonuses of $5,000 can help for all kinds of things. We also have tuition reimbursement once you are an ARH employee. We want to be there for our employees because a happy work environment is good for the employees and it ultimately means superior patient care.”