Luna grad plays critical role in nursing | Health

Jennifer E. Engen

Amerette Jeffrey is pictured with her sons David (back) and Christopher.

“Helping others gives me purpose and meaning,” Amerette Jeffrey says of her journey in nursing, which has taken a few twists and turns since she attended Luna Community College and graduated (with honors) in 2012.

A native of Las Vegas, Jeffrey works as a registered nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. As a part of the cardiac critical care unit, she helps provide care for critically ill patients. Some are on ventilators, many are on blood pressure medications. Some have had open heart surgery, lung surgery, procedures on their veins and arteries. Some have had heart attacks.

Intensive and critical care requires scrupulous monitoring and intervention, as the slightest changes in a patient’s condition could be significant – often to their very survival.

“Critical care is where my heart is,” Jeffrey said. “There is always something to learn – and never a dull moment.”

It was actually while completing her clinical rotations as a student nurse at Luna that Jeffrey discovered her love for providing care in the most difficult of situations. She benefitted from a successful preceptorship at Alta Vista Regional Hospital that led to her first job, working in the inpatient telemetry unit there. In telemetry, nurses monitor patient cardiac rhythms and respond as necessary to adverse changes.

Later, she moved to AVRH’s emergency department. “That is when I truly fell in love with being a nurse,” she said.

Growing up, Jeffrey certainly had the pedigree to become a nurse. She followed her grandmother and mother into the profession. “This had a lot of influence on me when I was growing up,” she said. “I am a giver and caretaker by nature, and helping others gives me purpose and meaning.”

“I didn’t have plans to leave home for college, and I was able to get my associate degree in nursing from Luna for free with the help of financial aid and scholarships,” she said. “I also took full advantage of being able to take prerequisite courses while I was in high school.”

The Luna experience, she said, gave her “a solid foundation” toward her career in health care.

After her time at AVRH, Jeffrey went on to other bedside nursing positions as well as a three-year stint as an educator for Presbyterian’s Heart and Vascular Service Line. “In this role,” she said, “I spent a lot of time working with new hires and supporting them during their orientation to the unit (my favorite part of the job).”

For a few years now, Jeffrey has helped plan a statewide nursing conference presented by Presbyterian; this year’s conference will be the 40th annual event.

“In this job I was able to do a lot of networking, and I learned so much about what goes on in a hospital away from the bedside. I got to work with other educators and managers to have the hospital prepared for JCAHO and Department of Health surveys. I’ve learned how much work is needed to just be able to issue CNE credits for nurses to renew their license, and a lot about compliance and safety. I still also help teach new hire trainings.”

The last two years have been challenging, Jeffrey said, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the entire health care system, hospitals in particular. 

“Staffing shortages, supply shortages, extra work for everyone, bedside or not,” she said. “We are working so hard and still facing many challenges from the pandemic.”

Through it all, Jeffrey remains motivated: “I really enjoy taking care of people and helping them to either get better or caring for them during their last days or hours.”

And while she has come a long way from her days as a student nurse listening to lectures and practicing skills for check-offs in the Luna Allied Health Sciences building, Jeffrey said she is still learning. She is currently pursuing studies as a family nurse practitioner and plans to graduate in March 2023.

She said she is grateful to her family for supporting her throughout her education and career.

Her advice to today’s nursing students: “Don’t give up! It’s hard and you will always be learning. That part doesn’t stop. Find your ‘why’ and don’t let go of it.”

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