Meeting a Pandemic Head On | Missy Uveges ’19

Missy Uveges ’19 graduated from UCCS with her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and began work as an ICU nurse just months before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States.

For Missy, being a nurse is about rigor, autonomy, trust, teamwork and intensity – and decisions that mean the difference between life and death. She couldn’t imagine a better career.

“I realized that I really wanted to be in on all of the action, to really know everything about my patients, and have an impact,” Missy said as she reflected on making the decision to pursue a career in nursing. “I knew then that being a nurse was how I was to do all of these combined.”

We caught up with Missy to hear about her experience as a healthcare provider during a pandemic, her most difficult moment in the ICU to date and where she plans to go in the future.

Q&A: Missy Uveges ’19

When I was straight out of high school, I thought that becoming a physician was the be-all, end-all. After completing my first year at UCCS, I completed an EMT certification in Memorial Central's ER, where I realized that I did not want to become a doctor – what I really wanted to be was a nurse. I realized that I really wanted to be in on all of the action, really know everything about my patients, and have an impact. And I knew then that being a nurse was how I was to do all of these combined.

I was accepted into the nursing program and completed one extra clinical rotation over the summer, which included one day of shadowing in the ICU. I fell in love. I figured out very quickly that this was the specialty that I needed to be a part of: the rigor, autonomy, trust, teamwork, and intensity was so enticing to me.

A year later, I applied and was chosen to participate in a clinical practicum in my chosen area, the ICU at Memorial Central. Upon graduating, I had already had multiple interviews scheduled before my licensing exam in June, the most important being the interview with Memorial Central's ICU. I was offered the job at Memorial Central just before my testing date in June, leaving me the most anxious human being on the planet. However, I passed, and I began my New Grad orientation in July 2019.

I love that I will never stop learning and that there are so many different avenues that I can venture down if I want to change what I am doing.

The most important thing to remember about the ICU is that anything can change and almost always does, and very quickly. Flexibility is very key in this environment. I would say that my day is rarely the same and that is the way I prefer it.

I try to have a routine of assessing, preparing my patients' meds and anticipating procedures and other daily activities. During the day, there are multiple kinds of formal rounds. This is when all of the doctors, physical and occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, behavioral health specialists, dieticians, chaplains, social workers and myself get together and discuss all body systems and every aspect of each patient's care. This is where a large amount of collaboration gets completed, and where my voice is crucial in identifying needs and getting them met.

Many procedures like tracheostomies, central lines, and intubations also take place during the day, and I spearhead them because most are performed in the room with the sedation and other medications that I am actively titrating. At night, rounds from our doctors tend to be a "What do you need for tonight before I go home” sort of thing. At bedtime, I give all of my patients baths and stock their rooms – this is the trade-off for not having formal rounds overnight. As far as procedures go, only emergent procedures occur overnight.

I will tell anyone over and over again that this is my greatest achievement to date. I’ve never worked so hard for something and got exactly what I wanted the first time, and for that I am so proud. Later this year, I hope to buy a home, and that will be another great achievement of mine.

Photo credit: Katrina Marie Photography

This was possibly the most difficult year to start as a new grad in nursing – during the COVID pandemic.

When quarantine started, the only patients being admitted to hospitals were patients who had contracted the virus. The unknown is some of the worst of this pandemic. No one had any expertise or knowledge on this virus. We were doing everything (and I do mean everything) to help these poor people, and they were just dying, no matter what we did. We were baffled and the doctors were baffled by the multi-system organ failure that didn't happen sequentially, but much worse, simultaneously.

One specific patient I took care of was extremely sick: on the ventilator, sedated, pharmaceutically paralyzed, prone positioned and on multiple life-sustaining IV blood pressure medications. We all knew this was the end of the line. This patient had not been oxygenating well and despite all efforts, our physician decided that it was time to call the family and discuss our plan to make her comfortable to pass on.

Shortly after, because of the visitor restrictions, I was asked to call her family members to let them say their goodbyes. So with all of my PPE and my phone in a Ziplock bag, I went into the room and called nine family members on speakerphone, choking back tears while they said their last goodbyes to their unconscious loved one, and assuring them that they would be in my thoughts. I withdrew life-saving measures while maintaining comfort measures, and held her hand for the remaining minutes that she had left in this earthly body.

I don't refer to this as a career low, but it was one of my most emotionally challenging experiences. It was something I will never forget.

The clinical instructors that were hired by Beth-El were definitely the most impactful on my career preparation. They were undoubtedly the most relatable people and they pushed me the hardest and for that I am forever grateful to them. My special thanks to Susan Davis, Robert Weiner, Caitlin Korbelik, Susan Garrett and Nina Walchko!

Network! You must be willing to make meaningful connections with people. Always do what you are passionate about. You'll never be wrong, and you will always find a way.

When I am not at work I like to be doing mixed martial arts at my gym, cuddling with my hairless cat Louis Vuitton while watching Disney films, bartending and banquet serving or spending time outside.

Definitely the most surprising thing about me is that I do mixed martial arts. No one expects it because of my build and personality.

In the next five years, I hope to be in a home I own and be settling down to prepare to have a family. I also want to complete a master's degree and in 10 years, potentially become a flight nurse.

My best advice would be to have a work ethic, be dedicated, be teachable and be punctual. These traits are what society lacks and they are invaluable. They won't only get you far in your career, but also in life. Apply them to family, friendships and relationships, and this world will be a better place.

Want to be like Missy? You can! Find out more information on the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UCCS.

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