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In intensive care medicine, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is an extracorporeal technique of providing both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are so severely diseased or damaged that they can no longer serve their function. Initial cannulation of a patient receiving ECMO is performed by a surgeon and maintenance of the patient is the responsibility of the ECMO Specialist and gives 24/7 monitoring care for the duration of the ECMO treatment. – Wikipedia
Job Title: ECMO Specialist, Relief Charge
List your education/certifications: Registered Nurse, Associate Degree in Nursing (BS and MS in Education)
Certifications: CCRN (Pediatric Critical Care), CPN (Certified Pediatric Nurse)
Where do you work:
Children’s Hospital; Critical Care Center; 26 bed pediatric ICU/TCU combined unit
How long have you worked this Specialty?
My entire nursing career, 9 years
How/Why did you get involved? Was there someone/something that inspired you to choose this specialty?
I knew in nursing school I wanted to be a critical care nurse What do you do all day? Most of the time I take care of the cardiovascular patients but we deal with all pathologies from birth to usually age 18. We are a Level I trauma unit as well as an ECMO center.
What frustrates you about your job?
Nursing is my second profession. I have been most frustrated by micromanagement and lack of professional respect within nursing. I do not have difficulty with 99% of physicians-they are very collegial and willing to educate/explain when you ask questions. Professionally, I am dissatisfied and I do plan to leave the career in the next few years.
What about your job makes you proud to be a nurse?
Is there a specific situation that stands out to you as a gratifying moment? I know I have made a difference in the lives of my patients and my patient’s families.
Do you feel you receive adequate support for your responsibilities? I have the resources I need to perform my job.
What (if anything) do you get called about on your off-hours?
Generally my off-hours calls are to clarify something I have reported while in charge. Otherwise, my calls are from peers seeking advice or needing to vent. I am an informal leader on the unit so it is not unusual to get a call or text from a peer, sometimes we meet for lunch or dinner.
What is something a nurse who does not work in your particular field might find surprising about your job?
We are a total care unit. We do not use CNAs, rather the nursing staff take care of all the patient needs.
Does your position involve teamwork, or is it more of an individual job?
We do have a very good atmosphere of teamwork. Our culture is one that believes that without teamwork, patients are at serious risk.
Did you position require any extra training besides on-the-job training that you were required to complete?
Taking care of the patient population that I do has required an extra 7 weeks of classes with the nurse practitioners, attendings, and surgeons. Taking care of the ECMO patients required an extra week of class plus orientation. All of this was paid for by the hospital but was in addition to my usual FTE.
One of the biggest complaints given by hospital unit-based nurses is that they rarely have time to eat or go to the bathroom. Do you find that to be the case with your job as well?
Not usually. We are busy the entire 12 hours, but if we are not able to take a lunch, we notify the charge nurse who will make arrangements for someone to watch our patient(s) if at all possible.
What is your definition of “poop hitting the fan?”
Never really experienced it. Life on the ICU is always changing. It is best to expect the unexpected and to be prepared for the worst at all times.
Are there travel opportunities in your specialty?
Yes. There are PICU travel opportunities as well as those specifically for ECMO specialists. ECMO Advantage is a company that assists with staffing for ECMO needs.
Are you a Specialty Nurse? Would you like to share your story? Contact me via the ‘Submit a Specialty Interview” button below. I would love to hear about your specialty.
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