CAREERS IN NURSING
PARENTS’ FORESIGHT TRANSLATES INTO CAREER OF SERVICE, JOY
by Traci Chapman – staff writer/photographer
Lara Limke has her parents to thank for her nursing career, and it’s something she said she does every day.
“My parents pushed me to put nursing as my major,” Limke said. “To be honest, the last career I ever envisioned for myself was anything to do with healthcare – I did not handle blood well, and I had a very sensitive stomach.”
A 2001 Mustang High School graduate, Limke said she decided to go along with her parents’ advice as she entered Oklahoma City University. She listed her major as nursing, fully intending to change that major when she knew what she really wanted to do.
She never changed it.
“When it came time to start taking nursing classes I decided I would try one, and then I decided to try one more – I fell in love with nursing,” Limke said.
It was that love that kept the young student going – the once reluctant would-be nurse now couldn’t picture herself in any other field. Working throughout her four years of college instilled her decision this was what she was meant to do even more.
“Throughout nursing school, I worked as a nurse partner in labor and delivery and a high-risk women’s clinic,” Limke said. “I really enjoyed L&D, but I really enjoyed my ICU clinical.”
Her indecision between the two specialties meant Limke decided to hedge her bets, applying for both labor and delivery positions, as well as jobs in ICU. After graduating in May 2005 with her BSN, she became an RN in the cardio-thoracic/neuro/surgery ICU at OU Medical Center. During her three-year tenure there, Limke said yet another possibility presented itself.
“Around 2007, several of my ICU friends started talking about CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists) school,” she said. “I really did not understand what a CRNA did, but I worked per diem as a PACU nurse at a surgery center that used CRNAs, so I asked to follow one – I was hooked.”
There was only one roadblock – no Oklahoma schools offered a CRNA program. So, Limke did the only thing she could to follow her dream – she and her husband packed up and moved to Panama City, Florida, so she could attend the Gooding Institute of Nurse Anesthesia.
Now a Florida State University satellite program, Gooding officials say its average student population hovers around 35 to 40 students, taught by a 24-member faculty team. Those taking part in the CRNA program many times are older students, averaging 34 years of age, and it’s a tough way to go – the Institute accepts only about 14-15 percent of the applicants applying to be a part of it.
Limke made that cut.
“School was intense, but it was definitely doable,” Limke said. “We had no kids when we decided to move to Florida, but we had a surprise while we were there and had a son.”
After her December 2010 graduation from Gooding, Limke – with her Masters in Nursing in Nurse Anesthesia in hand – returned to Oklahoma with her family. She worked as a CRNA for almost six years at University of Oklahoma-HSC, in November 2016 joining Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon.
“I enjoyed my job at OU-HSC and am thankful for all my experiences there, but I was excited to be closer to home and in a smaller environment,” she said.
That smaller environment is a five-operating room hospital, with one of those designated to obstetrics; there are 10 OB labor suites with two triage rooms and an endoscopy suite Limke and her four fellow Canadian Valley CRNAs cover.
The position – like becoming a CRNA itself – allowed Limke autonomy she hadn’t experienced in previous nursing specialties, in the process allowing her to become more fully immersed in patient care and interaction, she said.
“Surgery, no matter how minor or major, is a stressful experience – in preop, it is my job to evaluate the health of a patient, order any testing needed and determine the anesthetic plan safest for the patient,” Limke said. “I enjoy the critical thinking that is involved with anesthesia; prevention and early detection of potential issues is key to the safety of anesthesia and requires constant vigilance.”
A job that can be seen as boring by some is anything but, Limke said. CRNAs have a great deal of responsibility both before and after a patient undergoes anesthesia. After pre-procedure meetings, it is critical the CRNA be constantly on the lookout for any slight fluctuation that could impact the patient, while monitoring not only the anesthesia administered, but also things like blood administration and fluid management – as well as ensuring a comfortable transition as they wake up, she said.
“I enjoy talking with patients pre-operatively and answering their questions about their anesthesia,” she said. “Giving patients information about what to expect and taking the time to answer questions is very important to help alleviate fears that they may have.”
Being a CRNA at Canadian Valley specifically has offered her benefits should couldn’t find elsewhere she said, as the former Mustang student – and now resident – has the opportunity to take care of people in her own community. But, it is in care and interaction with each patient she finds the most inspiration, Limke said.
“One of the most rewarding responsibilities that I have as a CRNA is to provide analgesia in the form of epidurals for women in labor,” she said. “It is so rewarding to walk into a room where a woman is enduring one of the most painful things a person can experience and then a few minutes later leave with them laughing and possibly being able to rest before they welcome a new baby into the world.”
Her success in her career is due to her work ethic, dedication and skill, those who know her well say, but for Limke it all comes back to her parents’ foresight as she entered college more than 16 years ago, she said.
“I think back to when my parents ‘encouraged’ me to put nursing as my major, and I thank God for their guidance,” Limke said. “I cannot imagine doing anything else.
“I am not going to say that being a CRNA is easy or stress-free, but it is worth it – I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities and support that I have had through all of the different areas of nursing that I have experienced,” she said.