#CareLikeFamily at Trident Medical Center: It’s more than a hashtag

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For Trident Medical Center intensive care unit nurse Stephanie Skal, RN, the hashtag #carelikefamily is personal. Last year, during the peak of COVID, she had emergency brain surgery and spent time recovering in the ICU – the department where she had helped countless other patients experiencing life-threatening and life-changing health events.

“Although I was scared, it was an amazing experience to be a patient and feel firsthand the care and compassion I had witnessed my colleagues provide other patients,” recalled Skal.

Thanks to Trident Neurosurgical Specialist Douglas Stofko, DO, the neurosurgeon who performed her emergency surgery, she is fully recovered and has a new appreciation for what it means to work in Trident Medical Center’s ICU.

“Every day, we take care of high-acuity patients who are recovering from surgeries related to trauma, heart, stroke and many other events and diseases,” said Skal. “My experience as a patient in our ICU reinforced my decision to work at Trident Medical Center. My director, manager and my colleagues create opportunities for me to be the best nurse I can be in an environment that is both supportive and challenging.”

Ranee Pender, RN, BSN, CCRN, NE-BC, is the director of Trident’s 28-bed ICU. She smiled when she heard how Skal described her work family.

“It takes a special person to work in an ICU. Our patients are among the sickest of the sick, and we are always looking for that special nurse who has the knowledge, self-discipline and patient-first attitude it takes to care for very sick patients.”

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Pender said COVID created challenges beyond patient care.

“During the peak of COVID, there was a high demand across the United States for nurses with critical care experience. We, like many other hospitals, are competing for the best of the best. But we have a lot of advantages over other health systems. One of the biggest is the opportunity for nurses to do what they love while living in one of the most desirable cities and regions in the country – Charleston and South Carolina’s Lowcountry.”

Trident Medical Center is a part of HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health care providers. As a member of HCA, nurses and all other employees at Trident Medical Center have a benefits package that is among the best of any hospital in the nation. Nursing careers and benefits can be found at https://careers.hcahealthcare.com/pages/trident-health-system?bid=5260.

Pender said there was one benefit during COVID that exemplified how committed the hospital is to its nurses.

“During the first year of COVID, no full-time or part-time nurses lost their job. In my more than 25-year health care career, I had never seen anything similar to Trident’s Paycheck Protection Plan. In addition to job security for nurses, our hospital provided COVID-related pandemic pay and other benefits. It was truly #carelikefamily in action.”

Sara Ballante, RN, and Christina Smalls, RN, work together in Trident Medical Center’s 43-bed medical/surgical care unit. They come from different backgrounds but share a similar passion for nursing. They are thankful for how their director and colleagues are helping them improve daily their clinical skills and prepare them for their next jobs as nurse leaders.

“As a nurse, you never stop learning,” said Smalls, who is entering her fourth year as a nurse after graduating from Trident Technical College. “I can’t say enough good things about how Trident Technical College prepared me to enter nursing. And the welcome I received when I joined Trident Medical Center was very special. I’ve felt supported in everything I’ve done at Trident Medical Center. I especially like our director, Emilie Fedorov, MSN, RN, CENP.  She’s one of the best examples I know of a director who listens with the intent of helping you find an answer to your question or help you advance your career. She creates a culture and environment where you want to come to work so you can care for patients and support your colleagues.”

Sara Ballante, RN agreed. After graduating last year from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, she joined Trident Medical Center during the peak of COVID.

“COVID is my point of reference when I think about my career. I don’t know what it was like to care for patients prior to the pandemic. What I do know is that from day one, I felt like I had the resources I needed at work to do my job safely for my own protection and the protection of my patients. And I have always felt the support of my co-workers.”

As she watches Sara, Christina and the other nurses in her department, Fedorov said it’s important for her to remember what it was like to be a new nurse.

“You put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and you’re always learning. You often go home exhausted, but that passion to care for people who can’t care for themselves is always present.”

“I’ve worked in large academic institutions. It’s easy for a nurse to get lost in such large institutions when caring for patients,” she added. “What I want to create for the nurses in the medical/surgical care unit is a sense of community. I want them to come to work each shift knowing they’ll be supported, listened to and challenged to maintain consistently high standards of care for their patients. And we’re doing it. It makes me especially proud to see how our nurses with more experience work with our nurses who are just starting their careers. There’s a camaraderie among nurses that is unique.”

As Pender and Fedorov review the opportunities they each have for their departments, they have one thing in common – a need to hire more nurses, including for Trident Medical Center’s 10-bed Neuro ICU that will open in the Summer 2021.

“Across the nation, it’s one of the best times to be a nurse because you’re in high demand,” said Pender.

Fedorov agreed, adding, “In addition to the career opportunities, it’s also important to consider the community where you’ll work, live, play and serve. When you search ‘Best Places to Live in the United States,’ look at how close Charleston is to the top spot in the search engine. It’s one thing to look at the pictures of this beautiful and historic region, but it’s even better to live here.”

To learn more about Trident Medical Center’s careers in nursing, go to www.tridenthealthsystem.com/careers.

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