Memorial Heroes-Leanna Smith, RN Emergency Department


July 24, 2020

What is your official title?

Registered Nurse

How long have you worked here at Memorial Medical Center?

In August, it will be 7 years.

How did you come into this position?

I always wanted to work in the ER, but it intimidated me. I got my EMT license in 2013 and then immediately applied to a tech position. I was not hired immediately, because there were not any positions at the time, but I hung on for four months until something opened up. As soon as I got my RN license, I transitioned from an EMT to an RN.

What was your motivation for a career in Healthcare?

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a vocational school (in Delaware), where the vocation I chose was Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  It was there that I fell in love with the healthcare field for many reasons. After graduating from High School, I worked as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant in various places, and then got my EMT license about four years later.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day ultimately varies on where I am assigned for the day. If I am assigned triage, I quickly and efficiently assess patients, including vital signs and determine their acuity. The triage nurse is somewhat of a detective. Patients often are unsure why they feel ill and report vague symptoms. It is the triage nurse’s job to dig deeper and attempt to pull pertinent information from the patient. By doing this, it ensures that you have a good picture, and somewhat of a suspicion of what is going on with the patient.

If I am assigned a zone in the main ER, it’s important to quickly assess, and prioritize. Some patients may require immediate attention, while others may be stable enough to wait awhile. Assessing patients, administering medications, performing procedures, and working collaboratively with other staff members, is really how the ER flows. What I love about the ER is the teamwork, and how you are never really “alone”.  In the ER, you have to be flexible, because within a matter of moments, patients may deteriorate, or even higher acuity patients may enter onto the unit, requiring immediate care.

How would you describe your role’s responsibilities?

Working as a tech for many years, I remember that I would say countless times, “Let me get your nurse”. Now I am the nurse. The responsibilities are now much more, which at times can be very stressful. If I can’t get the IV on my patient, I can’t just say “oh well”. If I can’t find a ride home for my patient, I have to deal with the countless calls, and contacting the additional resources (case management etc.). The patient’s entire care is managed by the physicians, but the nurses are the ones who perform those tasks and ensure that everything is going to plan (medications, imaging, labs, etc.). A lot of the time you may feel overwhelmed, but the feeling you get when you figure out a solution, is when you feel so empowered. Nursing is such a wonderful profession.

In what areas do you help patients?

I ask myself this question every day when leaving work. Who did I help today? Did I make a difference? In the ER we perform a lot of tasks: starting IVs, administering medications, monitoring, and determining whether they will be admitted, discharged, or transferred. I feel that I “help” those that are truly emergent (STEMIS, CVAs and administering TPA and watching a patient regain strength in a limb). Most of our patients aren’t those though. Most are sent home, and some without definitive answers, “Everything came back normal”.

I was a patient a couple of times, several years ago and was admitted both times. What I remember made the most difference, and the nurses that I feel “helped me the most”, were the ones who treated me like a person vs just a patient. Understanding that an IV hurts terribly in the AC, that a warm blanket is super soothing, and just checking in frequently were the things that I remember more than all the medications I received.

Of course, medications and interventions are needed, but how else can I “help” patients you ask? I treat them with the same respect I would want, I listen intently, and I advocate for them. I remind myself; patients don’t remember what you did, but they remember how you made them feel.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I enjoy hanging out with my husband and baby. We love to be outdoors: hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, sailing (I have a small sailboat at elephant butte), traveling and exploring.

What is your favorite part about working for Memorial Medical Center?

I really enjoy working at MMC, which is why I have stayed so long. I have only worked in the ER, but my co-workers are incredible. We work in high-stress situations, in which you have to get along with co-workers. Communication and collaboration are huge, and I definitely feel like the ER has that. Besides my immediate co-workers, other employees I see in the hallway from other departments are just friendly. I feel that other people enjoy working here, so for the most part, people are positive.

At MMC, I’ve always felt supported, never felt pressured, and always feel like I have someone to go to if I have concerns. Our current director and manager are fantastic as well. They have always been supportive, flexible with work schedules, allow time off if requested, and always support our team. How could I not love working at MMC!