Hilary Stambaugh

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Hilary Stambaugh

Class of 2012

I.C.U. Just the acronym for Intensive Care Unit signals the area for patients who are in need of utmost care. The ICU, which can sometimes strike fear in the hearts of patients and their families, is the exact area where recent TU grad Hilary Stambaugh works.

Stambaugh (BSN '12) always knew her ultimate career goal was to care for people, and she had every intention of attending medical school when she enrolled as a biology major at the university. That all changed when her duties as a transporter at Tulsa's St. John Hospital included taking patients to and from various procedures.

"I talked to countless patients who spoke highly of their nurses," she recalls. "Spring semester of my freshman year, one of the intensive care hospitalists that I now work with convinced me that medical school was not where I belonged if I wanted a lot of one-on-one time with patients."

After consulting with her adviser, she applied to the School of Nursing and graduated three years later.

Of the many classes she took, Stambaugh credits her senior leadership class with giving her the "closest glimpse" of what her life would be like after graduation. "I learned about time management with patients and how to better communicate with other staff members, patients and families," she notes. "Many patients don't make it out of the ICU, and I like being the nurse for them and their family members in some of the hardest parts of their lives."

Additionally, she said that the leadership class instructor, Merry Kelly-Rehm, was great at prompting students to think for themselves. "This class made me realize I knew a lot more about nursing than I thought I did," Stambaugh says.

Even though the stress can be intense, Stambaugh's job is the perfect intersection with her caregiving goal. "I enjoy having one or two patients at a time and having close, personalized relationships with them and their families," she says. "I also enjoy working with other ICU nurses because we all know just how hard it can be some days."

As a student, Stambaugh notes that she didn't always appreciate her "block" classes — those whose subject matter seemed far from her career goals. However, she says, "being in classes with non-nursing students was very helpful. Nursing schools are designed to be pretty streamlined, so new graduates have the same basic knowledge. So taking other classes made me more well-rounded. This in turn, has helped me better communicate with members of the interdisciplinary team — physicians, social workers, lab techs, pharmacists — and especially patient families who come from every walk of life."

Moreover, Hilary expanded her horizons and deepened her understanding of cultural differences by studying abroad in Morocco. "I learned more about Middle Eastern conflicts, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States' place in the world from a completely different perspective," she notes. "The ability to interact in a more culturally aware manner is invaluable in giving unbiased, culturally-sensitive nursing care," she said.

Choosing The University of Tulsa was an easy decision for Stambaugh. She liked the university's size and location, and said, "What really clinched TU for me was how much credit I received for completing IB courses and receiving my International Baccalaureate diploma in high school. All that IB credit enabled me to switch majors without delaying my college graduation."

At this writing, Hilary is transitioning from being a staff nurse at Tulsa's St. John Medical Center's Adult ICU to an assignment with American Mobile (a travel nurse staffing agency) as a nurse in Los Angeles where she will work a 13-week assignment of 12-hour night shifts in an ICU. "I will essentially be doing the same thing that I've been doing at St. John, just in California!" she quips.

Her advice to those interested in a nursing career is practical: "Shadow a nurse or work in a healthcare related area." She would also caution those seeking a nursing career about the hazards of burnout and compassion fatigue. "However, the nice thing about nursing is that you can change areas without having to return to school. Once you've decided it's a good career, I would say jump in wholeheartedly! Study hard and be the nurse that you would want taking care of your mother, father, sister, brother or child."