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Coast nurse likes touching lives, profession’s flexibility

Ocean Springs — Lynn Fowler has been a nurse since 1987 and has worked in four different healthcare settings — a dialysis nurse for a private physician, home health for five years, orthopedics, cardiac and hospital intensive care. With this varied background she’s seen the many rewards and challenges of the profession, but it makes her feel good at the end of the day. Since 2000, she has worked in the 12-bed intensive care unit of Singing River Hospital in Ocean Springs and sometimes works in the hospital’s surgery intensive care unit, too.

“I recommend nursing to males and females,” she says. “It answers all the outlets for me and has been rewarding and fulfilling.”

The daughter of Ocean Springs dentist Dr. Hank Roberts and Mrs. Janice Roberts, Fowler attended 12 years of school in Ocean Springs. She loved science and math and didn’t want to be stuck in a lab or sit behind a desk all day. So nursing was a natural, and she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I wanted to work with people,” she said. “Nursing gave me all that and flexibility. I can pick and choose the hours I work and where I want to work. It’s important to find a niche you like.”

For Fowler, it’s been important to take advantage of that flexibility in relation to being a wife and mother. She was able to drop out of nursing for four years when her children were small. During that time she helped her brother run a coffee shop. As daughter, Rebekah, now 15 years of age, and son, Matthew, now 12, grew older Fowler re-entered nursing.

“I like medical intensive care nursing the best of all I’ve done,” she said. “I like to learn different things. Every day there’s something different. There are a variety of technology and procedures.”

The 40-year-old says feeling really, really good when she makes a difference in patients’ lives and eases suffering are the things she likes best about her profession. “We touch lives,” she says. “Sometimes we have to ease someone’s passing and provide education for the family as to what’s happening. We studied that in school.”

She also likes working with the team of physicians and other healthcare providers. “It’s a total package and neat to see patients turn around,” she said. “We’re able to make bonds with them.”

Fowler finds it hard to see young patients who should not be ill and is troubled by those patients she calls “frequent fliers.” “It’s frustrating and sad to see patients come back because they didn’t follow orders, but we can’t change that,” she adds.

There are other downsides, too, such as the tedious paper work and government intervention. “The paperwork is awful and never ending. The government tends to over document and there’s a form for everything,” she said. “There’s even more with the new laws, but we’re hoping to transfer more information to computers. Many things have gone to that.”

During her 18 years as a nurse, Fowler has seen many positive changes including advanced technology and more autonomy in the intensive care unit. She feels that physicians are open to suggestions. “This independence and the fabulous new technology speed things up and patients are benefiting,” she said.

She would change the amount of government intervention is she could. “I would change the outside interference, especially in home health,” she said. “It’s all about getting people well.”

As professional hazards go, this nurse says she worries more about getting upper respiratory infections and hepatitis than AIDS. She follows strict precautions and wears gloves and face shields, especially since she was splashed in the face by body fluids and had to be tested.

“We’re diligent about precautions,” she said. “I would drive myself crazy if I thought about it all the time.”

Fowler works three days of 12-hour shifts. A typical day begins at 7 a.m. The first few hours are spent assessing patients with physicians as they make rounds and contacting other hospital departments for tests, x-rays and medications. Then there are visiting times and educating families, meals for patients and reports to fill out. Fowler sets aside time in the afternoon to do wound care. Informing the next shift of nurses about what’s going on with patients is a critical time at the end of the shift.

Looking toward the approaching fall, Fowler says there will be a lot of upper respiratory infections, pneumonia and flu as the seasons change.

Grabbing what you can

What about breaks and lunch? “Those are not in the schedule. We can’t plan those,” Fowler said. “It’s grab as you can.”

She appreciates that the hospital is great on providing continuing education for nurses. She went through a three-month orientation with a preceptor for the intensive care unit when she started there and attends classes throughout the year. She recently attended an inflammation workshop that was approved and paid for by the hospital.

When she’s not nursing, Fowler enjoys spending time with her children and husband of 18 years, Charles Fowler, a Pascagoula police officer. She likes cooking and seeing movies with the family along with listening to the music her husband’s band plays. Going to wine tastings with a group of girl friends is a special treat or just sitting on the back porch sipping wine and listening to the guitars play.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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