GIFTED nurses often have fascinating stories to tell, and we’re committed to sharing the journeys of the nurses we serve. Each month, we interview a GIFTED RN so we can share their story in our GIFTED Spotlight series.
Today’s spotlight shines on Megan Selser, a GIFTED ICU RN with 7 years of experience who has been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since it began in 2020. We spoke to her via Zoom while she was on a GIFTED travel assignment in New Jersey.
Read on to learn about Megan’s nursing journey: her passion for nurse advocacy, touching recollections of past patients, and her thoughtful philosophy of care.
Early Life and Inspirations
While growing up in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Megan clearly remembers an early experience that inspired her to become a nurse.
In high school, Megan chose to shadow a nurse for a senior project. She followed one patient, a pregnant woman, throughout the entire process of giving birth. Throughout the experience, Megan noticed how much nurses were relied upon during every step of her care.
“Throughout the whole process — labor, C-section, and post-labor — the nurse was the constant,” said Megan. “All these other providers were coming and going, but that nurse played such a pivotal role in her care. That really spoke to me, and I felt like that was what I needed to do.”
Once her path became clear, Megan accomplished a remarkable feat — she became the first person in her family to go to college, attending DeSales University in Center Valley, PA. After graduating from nursing school, Megan remained in Center Valley for several years and worked as an ICU RN in the area.
Early Nursing Experiences
Megan said there were “so many” early learning experiences that taught her how to deal with critical situations and care for people in their most vulnerable moments.
Megan recalled a particular shift she had during her second year in the ICU that showed her how rewarding nursing could be:
“I was a newer nurse — about two years in, still working night shifts, with so much left to learn — there was a patient who had been there a while, but this was my first night with her. The patient was super sick. She had a very rare condition that took a long time to diagnose, and she was pregnant. She was intubated and on paralytics as well.
“Within two hours of my arrival that night, things took a turn for the worse. All of the sudden, the baby was in distress and we had to deliver it right away. I will never forget the surgeon calling and saying, ‘We need this place to look like an OR, now!’
The only people there were the surgeon, the attending critical care physician, two other nurses, and me. I had to get labs on the mother’s arterial line, and I was extremely nervous because while I’m doing this, I can see out of the corner of my eye that the baby is being delivered right there.”
Things were touch-and-go, and Megan’s patient was critically ill. But soon, the baby was delivered safely and its mother survived. Over the next few months, against all odds, the mother recovered.
“I can’t even explain the emotion of all of it,” Megan said. “I will never forget that. We were so invested in her and her family. It was like we needed her to do well. We checked in on her as much as possible, even when she was in a different unit. It was so amazing what the nurses did for her.
Megan said that experiences like this one help her find deep meaning in her work.
“Stories like that keep you going as a nurse,” she said solemnly. “Because I also have plenty of stories of things that didn’t go well, too.”
Nurse Advocacy & COVID-19
Megan has bravely and dutifully worked throughout the pandemic as a critical care nurse, providing essential care for COVID-19 patients in intense clinical environments. Since COVID-19 struck the United States in 2020, she has worked in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.
Megan shared that her experience as a nurse during the pandemic has been physically and emotionally taxing. She has also been affected by the experiences of her RN friends, as she observed them dealing with overflowing COVID units, working long hours, and having to cope with the loss of life and social connection caused by the virus.
Megan’s life beyond the bedside has been affected by the pandemic as well. She runs a photography business, which has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 as it has restricted her access to clients and gatherings like weddings and other special events.
As a result, Megan was inspired to embark on a mission. She has begun to translate her experiences with nurse burnout and the need for self-care online, advocating for nurses on social media.
“I decided to use what I’ve learned about photography, social media, and running my own business to apply it to nurse advocacy with my new social platform,” she said. “I feel like my new purpose is to empower nurses to realize that they have a voice when they work collectively. Whether it’s within their own hospital system or on a larger scale, I want to be someone who can connect them to those resources.
Inspiring Nurses & Healthcare Workers on Social Media
Last year, Megan launched an Instagram account (@nurse.on.fire_2020) with the following mission statement: “Just a travel nurse fighting for staff nurses, healthcare workers, and patients all over America.”
Megan’s account generated lots of momentum in December of 2020, when she posted an emotional video recorded during her assignment in North Carolina that went viral. In it, Megan testifies to the realities of being a nurse, particularly a nurse during COVID-19. She expresses deep concern for her patients, her coworkers, and herself, highlighting the stress and overwhelming pressure that she and her coworkers feel. The video is touching and deeply personal, and has been met with overwhelming support — it has received over 90,000 views so far.
“I was very raw when I recorded it,” Megan said. “I think nurses struggle and become burnt out because there’s a certain level of care they want to provide for their patients, and when they are unable to do so, they can suffer moral injury. It’s something that everyone should care about.”
Many of Megan’s posts provide words of encouragement for both travel nurses and staff nurses, highlight common problems nurses face today, and share success stories of her nurse colleagues.
Megan also stresses the importance of nurses taking time for themselves to process the experiences they are having at work, rather than attempting to compartmentalize. After her assignment in North Carolina, she took 3 weeks off. And although Megan is happily married, she is currently living alone on a frontline assignment in Morristown, NJ, where she spends most of her time with other nurses as a source of emotional support.
Unless you’re in healthcare, it’s almost impossible to fully understand it,” said Megan. “While I’m here I am leaning on my coworkers, and I stay with my best friend on my days off, who is an ER nurse.”
The Ideal Nurse
Any time we spotlight a GIFTED RN, we always ask them to describe the qualities of the ideal nurse. Each nurse must draw from an intensely personal and unique set of experiences to create their own philosophy of care.
Megan envisions the ideal nurse as a true patient advocate and a light during dark days, with deep compassion for both patients and their families:
“Advocating for your patient is number one, despite any effect it will have on you. Always put patient advocacy in front of everything else.
“I love to make my patients laugh. I know what it’s like to feel unhappy — so I try hard to be a light in someone’s day, in some type of way, even if they’re going through something terrible.
“I think a great nurse also celebrates wins, even when they’re really small. Someone who takes care of the patient and the family. Most of the time, like if a patient is intubated, you become the nurse for their family. Yes, you are there for the patient’s physical needs, but the family is what you’re taking care of. I try to involve the family as much as I can in patient care, because it matters.”
In addition to continuing her nurse advocacy work, Megan says that she will continue to be a travel nurse for the foreseeable future. Travel nursing provides her with schedule flexibility and the ability to experience a variety of clinical environments, which she feels is the best opportunity available right now.
Megan’s determination to provide a platform for healthcare workers to organize and be heard makes us proud that she is a GIFTED nurse. Her mission embodies the heroic spirit of the nurse, and we look forward to supporting both her nursing career and her advocacy in the future!
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