I’m an ICU nurse at St. George Regional Hospital, which is part of the Intermountain Healthcare system and ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Top 5 Hospitals in Utah. We have more than 100 employees who work in our 32-bed ICU.
I’ll never forget the feelings going through my mind as I arrived at work and was assigned my first COVID-19 patient. So many emotions were running through me as I stepped onto the unit – fear, anxiety, concern. But then, I saw my team. Through the fear, I felt hope, knowing that we were all in this together.
Teamwork is vital on the healthcare frontline, particularly in this pandemic environment. I feel fortunate to be part of a team that has each other’s backs. If I’m in a room with a crashing patient, for example, I know my colleagues will gown up and help me provide care or run and grab the supplies I need. Being part of this supportive team helps us all feel less vulnerable in a time where we’re faced with a lot of emotions, pressure, uncertainty, exhaustion, and angst. I’m grateful to also have this supportive group in my corner and rooting for me as I compete on the TV show American Ninja Warrior.
I started competing as a gymnast when I was six years old and continued through college as part of Southern Utah University’s gymnastics team. When I graduated and my gymnastics career came to an end, I found myself longing to be part of a team again and wanted to find a fun way to get my workouts in.
I would go to the gym and lift weights, but it didn’t give me the same excitement or motivation that gymnastics did. Luckily, I found a ninja gym here in St. George, UT, called The Grip. A lot of the strength and skills I developed through two decades of gymnastics translated seamlessly to ninja obstacles, and I fell in love with it.The sport promotes a team atmosphere, similar to what I had in gymnastics, and the obstacles push you to your limits.
It was my teammates at The Grip who convinced me to apply to be on American Ninja Warrior and I was selected to join the show in 2019!
Working in the ICU has taught me that life is precious; it can be taken away or drastically changed in an instant. I’ve held my patients’ hands as they take their last breath because their families aren’t able to be by their side. I’ve taken care of people my own age that have been in terrible accidents and are now paralyzed. Seeing people fighting through some of the hardest times of their lives has helped me appreciate my own life more, and the things that I have. This mindset is what encouraged me to compete on American Ninja Warrior; I want to live my life to the fullest and take advantage of all opportunities that come my way.
Training at the ninja gym and the opportunities I’ve had through American Ninja Warrior have helped me enormously this year. It has been so important for me to have something that I look forward to outside of work. Staying active helps me relieve stress and take my mind off of work for a little while. I want to encourage my fellow frontline healthcare workers to nurture their passions outside of work, so they have an outlet to strengthen their resilience and combat the stress we face each day, especially now.
I know the majority of nurses and frontline healthcare workers are experiencing burnout and high levels of stress due to the pandemic. I’ve certainly felt that way.
When I work with COVID-19 positive patients, I wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) including a gown and a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR). I also wear a Vocera Badge, a hands-free communication device. It makes it easy for me to call a teammate and ask them to bring the supplies I need, while wearing my PPE. COVID-19 patients require a lot of supplies and medical equipment that are not always stored in ICU rooms. Doffing my PPE means wasting resources, time, and risking possible exposure to the virus. My Vocera device allows me to stay in my patient’s room and provide care for as long as necessary.