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A day in the life of... nurses

October 13, 2012
By Kurt Hauglie ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON?- When Nathalie Teikari was in elementary school, she spent a great deal of time assisting her mother, Phyllis, taking care of her father, Earl, who had heart disease, and that set her mind on becoming a nurse.

Teikari, who is a registered nurse at Portage Health University Center clinic near Michigan Technological University, said she was also fascinated with watching the nurses who cared for her father.

"I was just really interested in what was going on," she said. "I latched onto that idea."

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital registered nurse Nonie Riutta demonstrates how a cast is installed on licensed practical nurse Natalie Rogan.

That desire to become a nurse carried on through high school and eventually to Gogebic Community College, Teikari said, where she received training to become a nurse.

Teikari said after graduating from GCC, she was hired at the University Center Clinic in 2010. Her work day is usually 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

There is a routine to her work day, Teikari said, and she starts by determining what's planned for her.

"We review our schedule for the day," she said.

Everything is done electronically now, Teikari said, including her daily schedule. Portage Health is transitioning to all electronic patient records, so during the day she also has to spend time putting some information still on paper into the system.

She gets together with other staff members at the beginning of her day, also, Teikari said.

"We do have group meetings in the morning," she said.

Teikari said she works for two doctors at the clinic, Dr. Allison Helman and Dr. Audrey Liston. Physician's Assistant Kortni Jones is also in the office. There is regular interaction between the staff in the clinic.

"We're always in contact with each other," she said.

During her work day, Teikari said she will give injections, and treat patients with sprains and bone breaks, but placing casts is done by doctors or nurses with special training.

"We remove casts," she said.

She also helps out with patients needing certain kinds of monitoring, also, Teikari said.

"We have an (electrocardiogram) machine here," she said.

Despite the relative routine of her days, Teikari said there are occasionally unexpected events, which necessitate using the crash cart for medical emergencies, or calling 9-1-1 to get an ambulance to the clinic.

"I've run into unexpected problems before," she said. "We're prepared for that."

Occasionally, Teikari said she will have to work with less-than-cooperative patients.

"We deal with all kinds of people," she said. "It can really make your day interesting. We work through everything well."

Some of the problems Teikari has with patients occur with those trying to get refills for their medications before they're due.

"An early refill is not appropriate at this time," Teikari said she tells the patients trying to get refills for their medications too soon. "We do try to do everything we can to make it work out with them."

In order to avoid or at least reduce the number of conflicts with patients, and to reduce frustration for everyone, Teikari staff work to keep them informed of what's happening with their care.

"That's why patient education is so important," she said.

Continuing education is a requirement of the state of Michigan to maintain certification as a nurse, but Teikari said she's considering going back to school.

"I'm planning on going back to school for medical nutrition therapy, " she said.

After two years working as a nurse, Teikari said her childhood desire to get into the profession was a good one.

"I love it," she said. "I absolutely love it. I can't picture myself doing anything else."

Despite many years in the health care industry, Licensed Practical Nurse Julie Langley didn't get her education to be a nurse until she was 40 years old.

Langley, who is clinic nurse supervisor at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, said she worked for years as a medical assistant, which is a certified, but unlicensed position.

"They're trained to do all aspects of the office, including billing, reception and injections," she said.

She spent seven years with a plastic surgeon in Florida, Langley said.

"I was an office manager for all those years," she said.

Before coming to Aspirus Keweenaw, Langley said she took nursing classes at Northern Michigan University while taking care of four children.

"That was really difficult, having a family," she said. "It was hard."

As a supervisor, Langley said much of her work involves administrative functions, such as making work schedules for the 25-member staff.

"I have to make sure the areas (of the hospital) are covered, and that could include me," she said. "I have 25 direct reports. If nursing's involved, I have to handle it."

Langley said she occasionally has to meet one on one with current employees, and make new hires.

"I have to write letters justifying those new employees," she said.

On the floor, Langley said she occasionally works in radiology and installs catheters in children. The only area she doesn't work is urology.

Since Aspirus Keweenaw receives federal funding as a rural hospital, Langley said she has to monitor the hospital's functions.

"I have to make sure we're in compliance," she said.

One of the nurses Langley supervises is RN Nonie Riutta, who said being a nurse is in her genes.

"I come from a long line of nurses," she said.

Of her four sisters and herself, Riutta said three are RNs, one is a pharmacy technician and one is a nurse's aide. Her mother, Darlene, is a nurse's aide.

Riutta said her career in the medical profession started as a nurse's aide when she was 18 years old at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department's home health program, which has since been discontinued.

She also worked as a nurse's aide at Aspirus Keweenaw from 1994 to 1995, Riutta said. In 1996, her son was born, and she took seven years to care for him. She came back to the hospital in 2003 as a medical transcriptionist.

From 2007 to 2010, Riutta said she attended Gogebic Community College to get her RN degree while working 30 hours a week at Aspirus Keweenaw. In 2010, she started at the hospital as an orthopedic nurse.

Riutta said the only thing typical about her day is the amount of work she does working for doctors Ken Pherson and Frederick Rau.

"They are typically busy," she said of her work day.

She works in the operating room as an assistant, Riutta said. She has training to install casts, and she often does that. She may go to the emergency room or intensive care unit to install casts.

Her job requires some flexibility on her part, Riutta said, for unforeseen problems such as an accident victim coming to the hospital.

"We'll have to reschedule a clinic day because the doctor has to go to the ER," she said.

However, that isn't much of a problem, Riutta said because the staff get along.

"We do work really well," she said. "It's a very cohesive continuum of care."

Most of the patients she works with don't present problems for the doctors or nurses, Riutta said.

"Most of our patients come to us because they are in pain," she said.

Although she's been an RN just two years, Riutta said she's exactly where she wants to be professionally.

"Right now, I love my job," she said.



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