You only have to exchange a few words with Beth Batcher—an Emergency Department (ED) nurse at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, CA—before you discover how passionate she is about nursing.
“I truly feel it is a privilege to care for people, especially in their most vulnerable times as when they come to the ED,” she says.
Beth got her first taste of ED work as a “traveling nurse,” working for an agency that sent her wherever nurses were needed. Young and single, she relished the opportunity to learn new things and travel places she would otherwise not have the opportunity to see.
“Being a traveling nurse gives you the opportunity to make work around life rather than life around work,” says Beth. “You get to advance your career by working with wonderful professionals at different institutions, yet you still get to travel and explore new places.”
Beth explains that she was mostly working in inner cities, where the demographics and population may be underserved. “That was something that was really special to me,” she says. “That’s where my heart is mostly, so it allowed me the opportunity to fulfill those personal and professional desires all at the same time.”
The constant challenges and fast pace of the ED suited her, and soon she was training other nurses in ED work. After marriage, she and her husband settled in San Diego, CA, where they started a family (two daughters, aged 7 and 9) and Beth found a career home at Scripps Memorial for the past 12 years.
During the past few years she has also taken on the role of a Clinical Mentor and educator in the Emergency Department to the nurses, as well as serving on several committees in Scripps hospitals system-wide, helping to implement more effective protocols for sepsis and more advanced resuscitation practices such as ECMO.
One of her peers describes Beth’s many contributions this way: “Beth is approachable, puts others at ease, and makes new staff feel comfortable coming to her as a resource. When I think of what a nurse should be, I think of Beth. She has touched so many people in so many ways. I’m grateful to work with someone who elevates our practice to such a high level.”
Given her many contributions, it’s not surprising that Beth was chosen by her peers and leaders as the Nurse of the Year 2017 for Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla.
“It is with great humility that I thank each of you for the incredible honor of Nurse of the Year,” she wrote in accepting the award. “It is amazing to be recognized by my peers and leadership for simply doing what I love.”
I had the privilege of speaking with Beth to find out how she has stayed healthy and happy while reaching the pinnacle of a demanding profession.
The ED has to be one of the most stressful places to work. What are some of the challenges for nurses there?
Nurse Beth: We are a large Emergency Department and a trauma facility in an urban environment, so we experience everything and anything. We care for all ages—from strokes, to CPR, to car accidents, to a little kid with an earache in the middle of the night. Everyone’s emergency is an emergency to them and that’s to be respected and treated accordingly.
Literally things change minute to minute. Anything that you can imagine can and does happen. Also, as a department, we are very progressive with our treatments and resuscitation. One of my several projects as clinical mentor in the ED is to teach resuscitation methods to nurses and techs.
We have to be able to function at such a high capacity. The pace of our day at work is 12-hour shifts, usually filled with nonstop, high-stress work. It is very intense, which is why I love it, because it’s consistently challenging me to learn more and give more.
But as nurses we also have to learn to give back to ourselves to recharge and rebalance to be better in our personal life, for our family, for ourselves, and obviously for our colleagues and the patients that we care for.
I understand that you started the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique as part of a program to help nurses do just that—recharge and rebalance.
Nurse Beth: Yes. I am so grateful for my friend and mentor, Julie Yanitor, who is a nurse who has been practicing TM for years and introduced it to our department at Scripps.
I think any way you can relieve stress and stay balanced is wonderful, whether it be from exercise, or journaling, or whatever your medium is, but TM in particular has completely opened up and awakened something that I haven’t experienced with any other outlets.
Speaking from my personal experience—and also as an emergency nurse and clinical mentor—TM allows me to gain a perspective so that I can be healthier overall to be better for others. After all, if you are feeling better within yourself, then you are better for your colleagues and patients, and it’s a beautiful snowball that just keeps moving forward.
And I understand that you can meditate during your breaks at the hospital?
Nurse Beth: Yes. Once Julie brought TM to the ED Practice Council—which is a group of nurses who come together to create better practices or solutions for challenges in our department—they helped create a meditation room for those who want to meditate or just want some quiet space while on breaks at work. They painted the room a soothing color, got us some chairs, a salt lamp and dimmed lights, and blankets. It’s a small little nook where we can break away to recharge ourselves so that we can come out and be better for our patients and be better for each other. My manager is dedicated to encouraging us nurses—or any one on the staff—who want to participate in this.
Would you say that TM also has helped you with challenges outside the job as well?
Nurse Beth: Right after I started TM, I experienced an unexpected tragedy. I know I’m a strong woman and know I already had a healthy perspective inside of me, but TM really provided a balance, a peace and a clarity that really did decrease the acute anxiety that everyone feels when experiencing a loss of great magnitude. It can be paralyzing in the beginning phase—but practicing TM snapped me out of it, like something clicked or something, and I moved forward quicker and easier.
I feel like it’s an overall evolution—besides the tragedy that was hugely significant in my life—I feel like it was an evolution of myself becoming more in tune with myself; like becoming a better version of myself. I feel like TM helps me handle stress, it helps me recharge, it helps me feel balanced.
Would you recommend the TM technique to other nurses or medical professionals?
Nurse Beth: Yes, absolutely, without a doubt. I can’t say enough good things about it. I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced TM to do so. Hopefully we can get more people involved, not only people in our department but throughout our hospital, and then spread that through the other hospitals in our system. A healthy caregiver makes for healthy patients and that cycle keeps continuing on for goodness.
I also want to say that I think that it’s important to have some fun and try to find the humor not only in life but in work, because that helps balance stress and that helps patients feel a little bit more comfortable. I work with great people, so there are a lot of smiles and laughs in-between. It’s great to use humor to ease any stress that the patients are experiencing and to make our day with our colleagues a little bit lighter as well. It’s more human.
And that’s what I feel we should do—be the best we can be, and do the best that we can for others. That’s what it’s all about—to be kind and to practice the golden rule of “do unto others as you would want them to do to yourself.” TM helps awaken something in you to facilitate that to happen. I really believe that attitude is infectious, so if you create things the way you want them to be—happy and motivated and positive—then it is inevitable that the people you come in contact with also will feel that.
Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.