Some people will bleed from gunshots. Others won’t be able to breathe. Still more will be rushed into emergency rooms with broken bones, heart attacks, and infections. Elizabeth Phelps, about to graduate from the University of Colorado College of Nursing with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, understands working in trauma care will be intense, thrilling, and exhausting. But Phelps can handle it. She takes care of herself. When Phelps becomes a nurse, she’ll help others learn to relax after tough days.
“Make the time. Even when you think you don’t have the time, you do. Put down the phone. Pick up something that gives you joy and do that,” says Elizabeth Phelps, BSN class of 2022 at CU Nursing. “If you don’t make the time, you’ll end up paying for it in the long run. Even if it’s just ten minutes a day for meditating or for whatever feeds your soul, do it.”
To take the edge off long days of clinical hours and homework, Phelps meditates, reads, rides her bike, tends to her plants, hangs out with friends, and plays with her 13-year-old cat Pumpkin.
Learning to Take Care of Herself by Seeing How Trauma Affected Grandfather
She learned about self-care by watching trauma take a toll on her grandfather. Years ago, he served in the U.S. Navy and then as a nurse in adult critical care. She says he never sought help for the things he saw. Instead, she says he used alcohol to forget and his fists to beat out the memories. At the time, it made her swear off the nursing profession.
“Watching that I thought, ‘I’m good. I don’t want that for my life.’”
After her grandfather died, Phelps and her family sought counseling. She says the therapy worked wonders. It made her reconsider the nursing profession, especially since her mom is a respiratory therapist and her grandmother is a neonatal ICU nurse.
Therapy Helped the Entire Family
“Seeing the beauty of therapy, I thought maybe nursing can be done, and done well. You just must care for yourself every single day because you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Her mom and grandma always told Phelps she’d be a nurse one day. But Phelps said no. They kept saying it even when she went into medical sales. Then, while delivering medical pumps to feed children in critical care, Phelps realized she loved working with the nurses who always got the job done.
Mother and Grandmother Predict Future as a Nurse
“I told my mom and grandmother I am not doing this. Then it was, “Oh, I guess I am doing this.”
Phelps had found her calling in the trauma center. It combines her “three loves: science, adrenaline, and compassion for my fellow man.”
“I like the pop of excitement and adrenaline. Trauma can happen to anyone, so you get all kinds of events. It’s a lot of strange things, but it keeps you on your toes. There’s something about it that fits me,” said Phelps. “I just love my trauma patients. We take them from broken to ‘hey come back and say hi’ after your rehab.”
She admits the stress is high and can get to her, which is why she takes moments for self-care. After she graduates, she’ll start practicing at Swedish Hospital as an RN. One who remembers to take care of herself just as much as she takes care of others.