We sat down with Amber Gray to talk with her about her experience with nursing, how COVID-19 might have impacted the profession and any advice that she has for other nurses as a 100 Greatest Nurse honoree.
What got you into nursing and how long have you been a nurse? I have always wanted to care for people for as long as I can remember. I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and absolutely loved that! But the time came when my children were all in school and I needed to explore my passions. So, I entered nursing school and never looked back. I have been a nurse since 2008.
At the start of your career, the duties you were doing then look different than what you’re doing now. Can you explain the differences between your experience in bedside nursing and shifting to your current role? When I began as a nurse, I started in long term care. And truthfully, I loved the residents I cared for as if they were my own family. I learned so much from their wisdom, their challenges, and their outlook on life’s changes. Those residents taught me family is more than which a person is born into— they are there to support you, laugh with you, and sometimes cry and be the shoulder you need. Though I am now in a clinical practice expert role, I started as a bedside nurse in acute care here at St. Luke’s. That role taught me how to balance, how to be a team player, and to sharpen clinical skills. As I transitioned into this current role, I am constantly identifying ways I can merge knowledge and skills from all my experiences to help me to be the best leader I can be.
How has nursing challenged you? Oh my goodness, in so, so, many ways! Nursing challenged my organizational skills, my make-shift tough exterior, and every ER episode I ever watched. But seriously, just when you think your mind is full and you can’t take in anymore, you seek knowledge to learn how to improve a practice or elevate care for patients. And just when you think your heart is full and you’ve met your limit on how much you can give of yourself, someone (a patient, coworker, or family member) needs you. It’s at that time we need to dig a little deeper and be there to offer that support. I never want someone to feel like they’re all alone.
How has nursing rewarded you? I am rewarded every day with the team members I love, laughing at all the wonders of this world and this profession, and seeing patients heal. Life is a blessing!
COVID-19 brought a whole new outlook and meaning to effort when it came to healthcare workers. How did it impact you professionally? I stepped out of my current clinical practice expert role into a different position supporting team members by training on usage of PPE/coaching, assisting in dedicated COVID departments with bedside cares such as repositioning, feeding patients, bathing patients, infection prevention, and stocking supplies.
It pushed me to an emotional and physical level like I have never seen before. It was a feeling hospital-wide of being overwhelmed but showing up to support each other and these patients who had so much to overcome and were scared. We had to be here for these patients to let them know that they weren’t alone. That we would be there to support them.
What had to change to accommodate a global pandemic? Everything! Everything that you thought you knew. The freedom we all appreciate, and safety that you thought you had were all pushed their boundaries.
What advice do you have to give to other nurses? Practice with your mind and your heart. When you provide care going into that day, that week, that new chapter with great intentions and realizing it is people that truly matter— you’ll never go wrong. Apply the Golden Rule to everyone you meet both in and out of the care setting.
Is there anything else that you would like to add? I’m humbled, appreciative, and honored to have been nominated and chosen among so many great nurses I see and call my team members every day! Thank you!