By Matthew N. Skoufalos
Teresa Jersild, RN, BSN, CNOR, believes that every OR nurse enters the field “because they want to do the right thing for their patients.”
“I went into nursing because I like to help people,” she said. “I like to make them feel comfortable. I like people in general, and I like the science of it.”
Out of nursing school in Au Clair, Wisconsin, Jersild headed for the operating room, training intensively in orthopedics and cardiovascular specialties for 12 years, many of which were spent learning on the job.
“I have always liked the OR,” she said. “I like to provide what the patient needs at the moment the patient needs it. I like to be with the patient right after surgery.”
When it was time for her Midwestern roots to branch out into the Southeastern United States, Jersild took a job at the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta. The pediatric environment “was a wonderful place, and good things happened there,” she recalled, but with a newborn son of her own, working with children who had been injured and fallen ill made the job too emotionally taxing for her to stay.
Fortunately, Jersild found a position right across the street: at Northside Hospital, where she’s worked for the past 25 years. Today she manages the third-floor surgical unit there, having risen through the ranks from her beginnings as a staff nurse.
Jersild’s career at Northside began as a laser coordinator with a particular interest in endometriosis cases. At the time, she recalls, the disease “was just starting to be noticed,” and women who complained of its attendant pains were often referred for mental health services.
“Some of these ladies, there’s just no way they needed to see a psychiatrist,” Jersild said. “We have quite a few doctors who treat it now; we only had one at the time.”Later, Jersild accepted a position as a service coordinator in the gynecology department, an assignment that married her enthusiasm for women’s health with an interest in cutting-edge technology. She associated the expertise and reputation of the physician staff at Northside with their access to the latest and greatest in medical devices, which Jersild said piqued frequently her technological curiosity.
“Because we have a lot of high-profile doctors here, we get to see a lot of new technology,” Jersild said. “Now, it’s like second nature to everybody. We started with video systems that were so grainy you could hardly see anything, and now you’ve got 2D, 3D, robotics, and the imaging is amazing.”
“If you look at all the different electrosurgical modalities, we have pretty much everything here that anybody would ever want,” she said. “There’s always something to see or to do or to learn.”
For all the technological achievements on display at the facility, Jersild said the engine of its service delivery is the professional staff.
“The other thing that’s important here is the people and that we treat each other well,” she said. “You can have all the equipment in the world, but if people aren’t enthused about it, it won’t help you a lot.”
Jersild has also previously worked as the nurse education coordinator at Northside — an experience she described as “a really great time for me”— and in which she traded on her passion for the job in the training of new staff.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have people here to mentor me and help me along in my career,” she said.
After so much time in the profession, Jersild said her enthusiasm for nursing remains undiminished. She believes that helping to encourage coworkers whose interest in the field may have waned is a critical part of maintaining morale in her department. Sometimes any nurse may require support “to find something that they are excited about,” she said, and emphasized that “work[ing] with people who you see are losing their enthusiasm to keep it up” is a critical part of her position.
“I think a lot of that is by showing them that they’re important,” she said; “showing them that they are your future. A lot of it starts with having a positive attitude, just going out there and helping your coworkers.”
Nurses must always keep an open mind, Jersild said; recognizing that they work in a field where change is inevitable is an opportunity to feel liberated, not overwhelmed or hemmed in.
“[Nursing is] always changing, but it’s an awesome profession,” she said. “You can always find something to do. There’s always so many different branches that if one doesn’t work out, you can find something else.”
Jersild said that nurses encounter people from all walks of life while on the job — especially other nurses. The synchronicity was laid out for her plainly in a moment she shared with one of the hospice workers who was caring for Jersild’s ailing mother.
“[The hospice nurse] had had surgery on my unit, and she just wanted [me] to know how big a difference it had made for someone to come in and make her feel that she was special,” Jersild said. “It made me feel better that she was taking care of my mother.”
“You have different people that you work with, and they go on to do different things,” she said. “There have been patients who will come back a second time through and ask for you, just tell you how much better they feel.”