Amy Smith is a registered nurse and now an emergency department nurse fellow at North Shore University Hospital, located in Manhasset, New York. She is training to specialize in emergency medicine and trauma. North Shore is designated as a Level I trauma center, which provides Smith with a rigorous experience.
Smith is feted with Awards
Smith is also a 2008 BMCC nursing graduate, and an outstanding one at that.
When Smith applied to BMCC she was told, “You’d better apply to every nursing school out there because BMCC is very competitive and you probably won’t get in.”
She says she is stubborn by nature, which seems to serve her. BMCC’s nursing program was the only one she applied to, because Smith was determined to get into an elite program. And she did.
“It was a very competitive class, but we kept each other sharp and studied together,” she said. “I enjoyed my professors and was very fortunate to get all their years of experiential teaching.”
Married, and a mother of two children, Smith—who has a seven-year-old son and a sixteen year-old daughter—was honored to receive the Tacinelli Award for Compassion and Caring at the Honors Convocation for Nursing. The award is named after Professor Barbara Tacinelli’s parents, and is awarded to a BMCC nursing graduate who goes above and beyond, in their level of compassion and caring.
“I was thrilled and honored that I was selected,” Smith said. “I was the first recipient to receive the award. Then, to my surprise, at “pinning”—which is nursing’s graduation—I was awarded Best All-Around Student for my class. I was really in shock. It was unbelievable.”
Smith’s North Shore fellowship lasts a year and is, as she says, a great opportunity for her to continue her education in emergency medicine. While many graduating nurses go directly into med-surgery, Smith is drawn to emergency and trauma medicine. She says, “I love it and I can’t believe they pay me for it. I love going to work.”
Smith, who excused herself because she just came from what she called, “a rough 37 hour shift,” to speak with us, was still amazingly perky and thoughtful after working three, twelve-and-a-half hour consecutive shifts.
She usually begins her day at 11a.m. in what she describes as a large emergency department, which has 100 beds, and is split into different areas, where she is cross-trained as an “ER” nurse.
An ER nurse
“Emergency departments don’t stop. They don’t close and patients don’t stop coming,” Smith said. “You don’t get 10 patients to care for in a day. You can care for five patients in a 12-hour shift or 25 patients; some get discharged and some get admitted. During my day, I start to see patients immediately, working with the attending physicians and residents,” she explains. “I am fortunate that we have this great collaborative team. Doctors treat diseases and nurses treat people and their responses to diseases.”
According to Smith, nurses are advocates for their patients’ well-being. “The days when nurses were subservient to anyone who had higher authority than they did, are forever gone,” she said.
While we don’t usually editorialize, after speaking with Smith, we say without any equivocation, that it takes special person to be an ER nurse.
Smith says she sees lots of death, especially of children and elderly. The title trauma center Level 1 Smith says, means that at North Shore they “get everything and anything,” usually the unexpected, in a life-and-death situation.
Emergency medicine, says Smith, is ever-expanding. Years ago, there were just emergency “rooms” in hospitals devoted to emergency patients. “Now, emergency departments are typically free-standing departments within a hospital and they have their own administration,” she said.
Smith sees herself continuing with emergency medicine. She is now on her way to receiving her baccalaureate in nursing at SUNY Delhi and her goal is to be a clinical nurse specialist in trauma emergency and disaster medicine.
“Disaster nursing is a fairly new field, especially since 9/11, and what this means is disaster nurses take care of people who have been in a disaster, whether man-made or natural. It deals with triage and the deployment of nurses to assist those patients impacted by catastrophes,” she said. “It is doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”
“Without getting incredibly sentimental, I think that 9/11 changed my life. I think it is important to reach out to as many people as possible.”