Operating room nurse; nursing instructor
It may be a cliche?, registered nurse Sarah Booth acknowledges, but nursing really is about “helping people.”
A more accurate definition is “caring for people,” she says. And whether she is in an operating room at Maine Medical Center, or teaching nursing students at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish, Booth is wholly committed to a career of putting those words into action.
A Portland native, Booth attended Catherine McCauley High School and earned her bachelor’s in nursing at Saint Joseph’s in 2005. After working for five years on an orthopedic and neurological trauma floor at Maine Medical Center, she now serves as a “circulating nurse,” in the operating rooms of the hospital.
“I am the eyes and ears and voice of the patient,” she says. “You have more responsibility because the patient isn’t awake.
Part of that responsibility is helping to make sure the operation goes smoothly, she says. “If something isn’t going right, no matter how difficult it may be, you have to speak up.”
Working in the operating room is a “whole different world,” she says. Undergoing surgery is “a very private time in a person’s life,” she adds. “They are letting themselves be vulnerable.”
And on Thursdays, when Booth leaves the hospital to teach new nursing students enrolled at Saint Joseph’s College, she brings an appreciation for that vulnerability. As a clinical instructor, Booth works with about half a dozen students each fall. As first semester sophomores, the students are embarking on their first clinical experience, in a nursing home setting.
“They are scared out of their ever-living minds,” Booth says.
“‘This is a human being,’ I tell them,” says Booth. “‘It’s not a computer or a piece of paper.’”
Moreover, she says, the nursing home “is not a hospital room. This is their home.” The students must “introduce themselves, shake hands,” she says. “You should do that with anyone you meet for the rest of your life.”
Caring for patients, Booth says, “is a privilege, not a right.”
Her semester with the students begins with a month in the classroom, learning the basic skills of nursing care. “They learn how to do a head to toe assessment. They get an idea of what [nursing] is like, and then they get assigned to a facility.”
Once a week for the remainder of the semester, Booth and her students gather at the facility for hands-on nursing instruction.
At age 30, Booth says she is young enough to remember that first clinical experience. That helps her relate to her students, she says.
“They see me having recently gone through this,” she says. “I try to engage them, get them to react and not be in their shell. I ask more of them than they’re comfortable with. They need that.”
Booth says that although she has worked in operating rooms for three years, she is still learning in that environment. That helps her identify with her students, as well.
“It’s hard to be the new person,” she says. “You need to shut your mouth and put your head down,” and do the work. “You need to be humble and let someone show you.”
Humility and empathy and hard work. Sarah Booth brings all three to her career, both as a practicing nurse and a nursing instructor.
“It’s not a job to come and do this,” she says. “It’s a joy.”