By Matt Skoufalos
At six, Lindsey Jones’ son, Tyler, started coming home from school with bruises. Jones, a preschool teacher, decided to follow up with her family pediatrician. Not long after, they were referred to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Tyler was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder.
For a number of years thereafter, the family spent a significant amount of time under the care of cancer and blood disorders specialists at All Children’s Hospital, which meant weekly visits, lots of testing and extensive discussion of treatment options. Although Tyler’s condition eventually self-corrected by seventh grade, the intervening years made for a complicated time in their lives. Through it all, Jones told her husband, Randy, that she felt like she needed to switch careers and become a nurse.
“He said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, then go for it,’” she said.
More than that, Randy, Tyler and her younger son, Trevor, all came together as a unit while she did it. The career change was a challenge – nursing school is difficult under any circumstances, much less as a mother of two who’s changing careers – but Jones had “a lot of family support.”
“They were really great in helping to make sure that the family part didn’t suffer for the professional part,” she said. “Everybody was at their after-school activities and doctor’s appointments, and dinner was ready. I am extremely thankful for that.”
After she completed nursing school, Jones was hired into the nurse residency program at All Children’s, and began her career on the same floor where Tyler was treated. From that moment, she says, “I never looked back.” Within eight years on the job, Jones went back to school for her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She’s been at the hospital ever since.
“It’s pretty cool that I get to work in the same place where my son was treated and give back in that way,” Jones said.
She also got to see what it feels like to be at All Children’s from the perspective of a practitioner and not a patient – in short, Jones said it “was definitely an eye-opener.”
“Working in nursing in general is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “You see stuff that the normal person isn’t involved in. It makes what I do every day very sacred. I never take for granted the fact that our patients are sometimes going through the hardest thing they’ve ever gone through in their entire life. It’s an intimate moment.”
Experiencing the other side of managing chronic health conditions as a nurse, Jones still remembered her perspective as a parent and all that came with it, from wanting information and questioning physicians, to managing anxiety over the needs of a child. She had those memories to draw upon as a nurse, as they helped her process the uncertainty of those moments with the roles reversed.
“I remembered wanting to know what’s going on, and wanting to do everything that I could to make my kid feel better,” she said. “I think it benefits me in a way because I can see from both sides of how that looks and how that feels.”
“I always told my husband if I could help one person, just one person, in the way that we felt we were treated and we were helped – how everybody made sure that we were OK, but also made sure that Tyler was OK – I just want to be able to do that,” Jones said. “It will have fulfilled my hopes and dreams for my work.”
“Being eight-and-a-half years into it, and being able to say confidently that I’ve been that person for numerous families, it makes my heart so happy,” she said. “I really, truly feel like I’ve found my way, and this is what I want to spend my life doing. It’s a very intimate space that we hold with our patients and their families, and I never ever take that for granted.”
For as much as nursing school offered her the textbook knowledge required of the job, the career has another, equally necessary, emotional component that arises in the aspects of patient care and bedside manner that only come with on-the-job experience. Jones said her background in education helped prepare her for managing the variety of personalities she encounters each day.
“Being at the bedside, you definitely learn a lot that you don’t necessarily learn in a textbook,” Jones said. “I think it’s good learning, and you get a crash course. You’re not going to mesh with everybody and that’s OK.”
Although Jones has no intentions to transition away from her assignment at All Children’s Hospital, she appreciates how the profession has allowed her to flourish. The knowledge that she could change assignments as the demands of her life require, even if only to pursue a master’s degree, is a comfort. Today, Tyler is a healthy college freshman and Trevor is a healthy high-schooler; the ability to support them in a profession that she loves, and in which she feels valued, offers a great deal of emotional security, she said.
“There’s a nurse for everything, so you can always go and do something else,” Jones said. “Sometimes you go into a profession and you’re stuck in that lane. I’m thankful and lucky to work in a place that allows me to do a lot of other things that I’m interested in.”
“When I was younger, I never in a million years thought that I would be where I am today,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Here I am, and I couldn’t be happier with the career path that I’m on and the place that I am.”