Teacher Profile: April Armstrong

Daniel Hayes_April Armstrong_Credit to hubby Derek Armstrong.
Photo courtesy of Derek Armstrong

April Armstrong is a nurse.

Where have you worked in the past, and what were some differences between the places you worked?

I graduated from Simmons in 2000 with a degree in nursing and was fortunate enough to get a job right away at  Children’s Hospital. I worked there for 13 years. I hopped around between 3 different departments there . I did general medicine and nursing for six years and also worked in a stepdown unit, and then transitioned to radiology and spent six years there. That was a mix of inpatient, outpatient ICU, ER, NICU and we had NICU (premature) babies from other hospitals in the night time. I worked the night shift for a while and we did scans on them. Radiology was another high technology field and the wave of the future in a lot of high tech imaging and procedures and it was very interesting to be a part of. When I was in college I did a clinical rotation in a school nurse setting, and had always thought about heading in that direction, so I figured it was time for another move.

Have you ever worked at another high school?

No, never. I’ve had experience with seeing a range of ages from preemie babies, even though I came from Children’s. Many patients continue their care there for several years, so I still see 60 year old patients. When I first started, I saw a lot of teenagers, so this was a good transition back to my roots.

Was your family involved in medicine?

No, I’m really the first one to come into the field of nursing and medicine. My mother took care of a woman with Parkinson’s and she would go and assist, no medical training or degree, but seeing her do got me thinking about nursing.

What was an average day like at Children’s?

My most recent position at Children’s I worked nights. I spent three years working a permanent night shift. I went in 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., and it was very hit or miss. It could be wild and crazy non-stop, or

I spent three years working a permanent night shift. ”

kind of slow. I was in charge of the second floor and the radiology department, helping to manage the patients in and out, whether it was fluoroscopy studies, X-rays, CT scans, MRI, whatever they were in for. I mostly sat in MRI, and then went to other techs as needed. The different techs for CT scans and others were in teams, but MRI was one person so I became a bit of a dual role as the nurse and also a little bit like an MRI tech. MRI is a big safety zone risk; the entire room the magnet is in is a magnetic field. I was an extra set of eyes to make sure people were getting in and out of the machine fine, even if they didn’t need my assistance, so that was an interesting learning experience. Prior to that, when I worked on the floor I had anywhere from two to seven patients a day, usually more at night. It was very busy, but very rewarding. You’re out there helping people, making a difference. You can see kids improve with the things you’re doing. You can see a smile on someone’s face when they see you’ve gone the extra mile for them.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

That’s tough. I would say helping families, helping kids. One thing as a nurse that you have to get used to is that not all people you help are going to get better, especially in the hospital setting.

One thing as a nurse that you have to get used to is that not all people you help are going to get better, especially in the hospital setting.”

Chronic care type situations are not all going to get better, but you can see the difference that you make in other ways, just seeing a parent be relieved because they got information that they needed or seeing a child feel better because of something that you did. I love teaching and helping.

What do you do for free time when you’re not helping the world?

We don’t get away too much; we have two small kids. I have two active wild, crazy boys. They keep us active, and we usually spend our time hopping from one park to the next, one playground to the next, the zoo to the aquarium to the train ride. They love trains. We see our family up in Maine, right above Bar Harbor, we go up there to visit when we can so the kids see grandparents.

Do you deal with a lot of colds?

Between the kids, the patients, the line of work, I believe that I have been exposed to every kind of germ known to man. GI ones never go away, but colds I can avoid for the most part.

And we keep helping bacteria evolve.

How many kids do you see a day? How has the transition been?

I was told we would see 30-50 on the high end, but so far we’ve seen 25-38 kids a day. I’m very excited to be here. I love the work, and Mary, the other nurse has been a great mentor; showed me around, getting acquainted with the staff and hopefully with the kids.

What is the strangest experience or story you can tell me?

My strangest experience was working the night of the Boston Marathon bombing. I was home during the day, supposed to be sleeping with no kids. you have no distractions, you think, “Oh, I should get this and this and this done.” I finally finish my errands and I need to get home so I can get some sleep before work. I had seen an odd post on Facebook about walking home, so I thought I’d check the news before I went to sleep, and I didn’t go to sleep because I saw the report of the bombing. My husband was downtown, and he hadn’t heard it. No one had heard anything. We were kind of  panicked because our kids were in a downtown daycare, but I was kind of worried because we only had one nurse in radiology on holidays. I called and she said she was fine, but I said, “I can come in now or later, whenever.” I was trying to figure out whether I should go in or go get the kids, it was incredibly stressful. When I went in it was eerily quiet. Crazy quiet. No patients, no

My strangest experience was working the night of the Boston Marathon bombing . . . When I went in it was eerily quiet. Crazy quiet.”

No patients, no doctors ordered scans on kids, because all hands were on deck for emergencies, and because I spent a lot of time in MRI nobody was coming up to MRI because it’s a magnetic field. All the shrapnel was magnetic; everyone was already through at the ER. It was upsetting being there and knowing that I couldn’t help because I was the only nurse here. But to know that so much chaos had happened I just had to remember that my post was where I was.

Daniel Hayes can be contacted at [email protected]