Superheroes of Nursing 2012: Meet Linda Armstrong, the Protector!

No two days are ever the same for Linda Armstrong, RN, BSN, which is one of the things she enjoys most about her job. Linda is a resource intensive care nurse at UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh. She goes anywhere in the hospital and does whatever is required when a patient needs her nursing skill, providing an ICU nurse’s perspective and her special brand of critical thinking. “If a patient is decompensating, they’ll ask me to take a look,” she says.

Her day can begin quietly or with a crisis. She usually starts by rounding through all the ICUs and the ED, paying particular attention to patients with a higher acuity need, staffing conditions, and patients who need to be transported for tests. If there’s a newer nurse on duty, Linda will be sure that she has the resources she needs and that she knows Linda is available to help. Linda is the co-chair of the hospital’s Quality and Safety Council where she has the opportunity to have a voice and influence policy. She also drives the Post-cardiac Arrest Hypothermia Program and has written the protocol and educated nurses from five ICUs and the ED on best post-cardiac arrest practices. Along with all of this, Linda teaches ACLS certification, CPR, and a charge nurse class.

“I feel that I have the best of all worlds because I do a lot of teaching in my role to mentor other nurses. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she says.

Being named the Protector is an honor that recognizes Linda’s exceptional skill and dedication as a nurse. The Protector is strong in skills and steadfast in spirit and makes everyone feel safe in their pursuit of outstanding care. It’s a description that suits Linda perfectly.

Linda is as protective of her patients as she is of her fellow nurses. “I am an advocate for my patients and treat them as I would treat a family member,” she says. “I will do what is necessary to be sure we are doing the right thing and the safe thing for our patients.”

The Path to Nursing

Linda originally had plans to become a teacher but was urged to go to nursing school by a friend who was also planning to be a nurse. Although the friend changed her mind, Linda enrolled and graduated from St. Margaret’s School of Nursing. She began her nursing practice on an orthopedic floor, later moved to a telemetry unit, and eventually into the ICU where she admits that the unpredictability keeps her on her toes. A few years ago, she earned a bachelor’s degree after being out of school for more than 20 years.

Linda was nominated by Nicolette Mininni, her advanced practice nurse. In her nomination, Nicolette described Linda as the “eyes and ears of what needs to be addressed to improve patient safety during a crisis.” She also cited Linda’s passion to ensure that patients get the care they need in a timely manner.

Nicolette is someone Linda admires. “She is the driving force who is always pushing me to be better,” Linda acknowledges. When Linda learned that Nicolette had nominated her, she was overcome with emotion. “To be nominated by someone you look up to and admire is just unbelievable,” Linda says. “It meant the world to me.”

The ability to listen to patients and to do what’s in their best interests are qualities that Linda believes are essential to being a good nurse. “The key is listening and being compassionate,” she says. “These are the qualities that I try to model.”

It’s Not Always Easy

Like all nurses, Linda has to cope with difficult situations and lots of stress. Recently, one of her units lost some young patients. “It’s hard sometimes to accept that,” she says.” You work so hard to help these patients.” To help her cope, she talks with her husband and mother and her colleagues. She also is going to a gym to work off stress.

To keep her skills sharp, Linda reads nursing journals and attends conferences. And she asks questions. “I like to understand why things are happening to patients,” she says, “so when our physicians do rounds, I ask questions.”

Despite the difficulties that go with the job, Linda has never regretted her decision to be a nurse. “Every day I learn something,” she says. “It’s a great profession.”

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