Eric DeMartino, BSN, RN

Staff Nurse, CCU – New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital

It was the summer of 2011 where I found myself in and out of hospitals more than ever before visiting my grandfather. He had been recently diagnosed with COPD and congestive heart failure, so I’d spend time and visit him frequently. My grandfather would always ask about how work was going for me, but I didn’t have a plan for my professional career yet, or even knew in what direction it was going. I was a new college graduate from SUNY Oneonta, and wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. I had a Bachelor’s in Science in Biology with a minor in Chemistry, on a pre-dental track. The major issue there was that I no longer had the desire to pursue becoming a dentist. I was working for different catering companies around New York City, and simultaneously trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my professional life that would make me happy.

During my visits to the hospital, my grandfather was always telling me how nice all the nurses were to him and that he was very well taken care of. I then began to notice how attentive the nurses were towards my grandfather, addressing his needs and spending the most time with him of any other hospital staff. They involved me in his care and made me feel very comfortable when I’d leave.

After my grandfather’s passing that summer, it still stuck with me how highly he spoke of the hospital nursing staff in the CCU. I always wanted to work somewhere in the healthcare field and now decided to do some research in pursuing a nursing career. I came across the accelerated nursing programs and decided to take the rest of the pre-requisites and apply. I also started volunteering in the ICU at NY Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn to make sure this is what I wanted to do. I distinctly remember on my first day seeing a deep pressure ulcer, and frighteningly thought to myself, “What am I getting myself into here?” I quickly adapted to being exposed to unpleasant sights at the bedside, and really loved every moment of volunteering. I assisted the nurses in patient care and used the time to ask as many questions and pick their brains.  They were all really supportive and happy to see another male entering the nursing profession. The next thing I knew I got accepted into the NYU Accelerated Nursing Program, and started in the fall of 2012.

Nursing school was a wonderful experience; I was psyched to be back in school and on my way to gaining valuable knowledge and experience. I was fortunate enough to have clinical rotations at all the top hospitals in New York City and have very supportive and knowledgeable professors. I was really interested in working in an ICU, but I remember most people advising new graduates to start their careers on a medical-surgical type of unit to get a better foundation of nursing skills. However in my last semester I took a critical care elective, and our professor told us on the last day of class, “If you want to be a bedside ICU nurse, go for it right away. Don’t listen to people when they tell you it’s too much to handle.”

I graduated in December of 2013 and would go on to pass my NCLEX in March of 2014. While I was looking for a job for the next couple months, I decided to start volunteering at New York Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center. I was lucky enough to be placed in the Cardiac ICU. This was a very exciting experience, and I got to observe how an intensive care unit was run as well as keep my nursing skills sharp. I got along very well with the nurses on the floor, and after a month was interviewed and hired for a nursing position. I was the first new graduate my manager had hired in the CCU, and it was a dream come true for me.

I started working in June 2014, and had 14 weeks of orientation. My preceptor Jennifer had been there for two years, and she had to basically start from scratch; from the many different cardiac drips, to the bedside procedures, and even how to handle death. I had to learn how to manage an intra-aortic balloon pump, have a Swan-Ganz catheter set-up for the doctors to manage pulmonary artery and  wedge pressures, calculate patient hemodynamics, manage an arctic sun, experience a code blue, and the list goes on. These were all things that were touched briefly in nursing school, and now I was actually executing them in real-life situations (kind of shocking looking back at it).  My preceptor was there and helped me every step of the way, to build a solid base and confidence of how to handle the acuity of the patients on the floor. In September I was taking care of patients on my own. Every day of work has been a tremendous learning experience, and there is so much more to take in. My next short-term goal will be to obtain my CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) Certification in June. I’m not quite sure where the future of nursing will take me, but it’s exciting to see how many options and specialties there are for advanced practice.

Recently a patient’s son was interested in becoming a nurse, and he asked me questions about my path, including why I wanted to be a nurse. All I could think about was that summer of 2011 when my grandpa brought upon me this thought of entering such an amazing field. Those hospital visits helped guide me to where I professionally stand today, and I know that my grandfather is proudly looking down on me.