Haley MacEwen may not be a mother yet, but she gets plenty of practice caring for children as a part-time float nurse at Akron Children’s. Pregnant with her first child, who is due in March, today she has been assigned to care for a 9-month-old patient in the pediatric intensive care unit.
“It’s not unusual to get a 1-to-1 assignment in the PICU,” she said. “This particular patient has been here 9 days with a viral infection and was placed on a ventilator to offer more respiratory support. We let the vent do all the work when they’re this sick.”
Haley’s job is to watch her young charge’s vital signs, monitor his urine output and continuous tube feedings, administer medications, re-position him, and make sure he stays sedated so he doesn’t pull out the tube down his throat and potentially damage his airway.
As a member of the float pool, Haley reports to huddle at 7 a.m., where the bed control nurse goes over how many nurses are needed in each area during that particular shift. Today 3 float nurses are needed in the PICU and 3 more in the NICU.
“Once we hear about assignments we are allowed to decide among ourselves which assignment we’d like to take,” said Haley.
Growing up in the Akron area, Haley has a long history with Akron Children’s. As an injury-prone child, she was a patient multiple times.
“I broke my arm 3 years in a row,” she said. “The funny part is it was the same arm and in the same place.”
Haley knew at a young age she wanted to work with kids – originally imagining a career as a physical therapist.
“I was good in math and science and had an interest in health and the human body,” she said. “Once I realized physical therapy would require me to immediately go to grad school before I was employable, I looked into nursing.”
Eventually grad school came calling anyway. Haley is currently a student at the University of Akron pursuing her master’s in nursing and pediatric nurse practitioner certification.
“Ultimately I knew I wanted to go back to school to advance my career, but I wanted to do it on my own terms and when the timing was right for me,” she said.
Using the hospital’s tuition reimbursement plan, Haley takes 3 to 4 classes a year to maximize the hospital’s $5,250 tuition benefit per calendar year. Her out-of-pocket costs are minimal.
“The biggest drive for me to go back to school was to not waste this resource the hospital was willing to give me,” Haley said. “It’s nice they offer this benefit for both full- and part-time employees.”
After working as a nurse tech and then a staff nurse in the NICU, Haley joined the float pool in 2014. She enjoys the diversity being a float offers her.
“I get to work on different floors, with all different ages of patients,” she said. “I could have a crazy or terrible day and know that tomorrow will be something new. I’ve learned to be pretty laid back and go with the flow.”
Float nurses generally work a 12-hour shift and can be moved elsewhere if needed – including different units or to other Akron Children’s facilities like the Beeghly campus or the special care nurseries at Summa Akron City, St. Joseph’s and Wooster.
“If you float to somewhere in the middle of your shift, chances are you’re floating somewhere busier than where you were,” she said. “The good news is they’re always very glad to see me because they know I’m there to help.”
A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Haley says it can be harder acclimating on units she doesn’t work in often.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of all the units – like where they keep supplies,” she said. “Sometimes I have to ask a lot of questions, but everyone is usually very patient and helpful.”
Today she confers with resource nurse Colleen Manzo, who runs to the med and supply room for Haley since she cannot leave her patient.
Although she is scheduled just 2, 12-hour shifts per week, there is the opportunity to work more if she desires.
“With only 70-80 nurses in the float pool between all Akron Children’s locations, I can pick up extra shifts whenever I want. There is always a need,” she said.
The not-so-distant future holds quite a few personal and professional changes for Haley.
“Once I complete school I will no longer be a staff nurse,” she said. “As a certified pediatric nurse practitioner I will be the one writing the orders and doing procedures.”
As for the unknown – Haley and her husband have elected to be surprised about whether they are having a boy or girl.
“I’m looking forward to taking time off from both school and work to bond with my baby.”