Women of Resilience: Tierra McCottrell, RN, BSN

The Team Player

Do you remember the moment when you decided to enter the medical field and become a nurse?

I went through a process of elimination in my late high school years trying to develop a sense of self and really wondering what I was put here for. I was strongly considering becoming a FBI agent. Unfortunately, my mother wasn't too keen on the idea so that went out the door. Through a series of events in my senior year of high school I noticed I had developed a very strong sense of empathy, somewhere in developing that, I was able to identify that I wanted to enter the medical field.

You have spent time as a traveling nurse, how was that experience?

I absolutely loved travel nursing! It's incredibly scary but also insanely gratifying. I do believe that travel is not for everyone, it takes a certain personality type. Nurses typically tend to be "type A" individuals, but as a travel nurse one has to be okay with letting a few things go, and realizing you won't know everything! But as long as you can learn the systems and identify the resources in that particular facility you will be just fine. Now back to the good stuff... The best part about being a travel nurse is the actual traveling, we get to see the world on someone else's dime, meet new people and have new experiences! It's amazing what watching a beach sunset can do for one's psyche after a stressful work week!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from a variety of places. I'm inspired by the men and women of the military and their ability to put their lives on the line every single day. When I think about all they do it makes me feel like being a nurse is the least I can do, honestly. I am also inspired by the people who are fighting battles every day for their lives. My patients with cancer are the most inspirational and strongest people you can ever put yourself around, being poked, prodded and probed on a daily basis when you don't feel very good to begin with, it takes a tremendous amount of strength. My last source of inspiration comes from my coworkers, we are a team and if you ever saw a group of health care workers comes together with the mutual goal of saving someone’s life--I promise you there is nothing more powerful. We put everything we have into that room and that moment, to make sure the patient lives to see another day, so they can go home to be a father, mother, sister or brother to those they love.

How important is a good support system?

A good support system is essential both inside and outside of the hospital. Nursing makes my heart beat and I don't know where I would be without it. Nursing can take its toll fairly easily on someone; I know if I didn't have help it would be impossible. It's a known fact in healthcare that as nurses we are the nucleus of the patient’s world, we make the decisions, we are accountable for those same decisions whether they helped the patient or hurt the patient. We answer to every single person involved with that patients care; doctors, family members, ancillary departments, and of course the patients. Due to the level of responsibility we have its imperative to have the backing of our colleagues and superiors. At home, it’s equally important to have people in your corner who can understand the level of stress you're under on a daily basis and understand that no matter how hard we try; nurses take their work home, emotionally.

What advice would you give women who are interested in becoming a nurse?

My advice is simple, nursing is a tough field, and only do this if you love it. Gratification for what you do may not come right away, takes time, and it's definitely a journey.

You have been in the field for a long time, what are some lessons learned?

The biggest and most important lesson I learned was that you are only as good as your team. There must be a mutual respect amongst staff; I respect every hat that is worn in the health care field. I treat my nurse’s assistant and janitorial staff with same respect that I do the doctor. In health care it really does take a village and every-single member is intricate and needs to be treated as such. I am thankful and grateful to them for providing those services and I make sure to let them know.

What are a few of your favorite must-haves?

This question makes me laugh because every nurse has a "bag" that has their must haves in it. Depending on the field of nursing they chose to go into everyone's bag may vary slightly. I am a special float pull nurse which means I go everywhere in the hospital so my bag is pretty full. But my must haves are pretty simple 1) A jacket because every unit has a different temperature and it gets cold at night, brrrrrr especially in ICU 2) At least four black ink pens, I typically will lose one and two of them probably don't work 3) My stethoscope, because I cannot function or assess the patient appropriately without it, I hate borrowing other peoples because I prefer mine, I guess you could say I have a very special relationship with my stethoscope