Valerie Millis, RN, Lourdes Hospital

When I was in high school, it was my goal to go into nursing. I just wanted to take care of people and make a difference. 31 years later, my favorite part about my job is meeting new people. I’m a people person and love to interact with the patients and their families. 

As a nurse, I believe it is important to have a few characteristics. You have to be caring, be strong-willed and be able to set your feelings aside from what you are doing so you can be at the top of your game. 

It’s amazing the miracles that come out of my career. I remember a patient that came out of heart surgery and was not expected to make it. He had been defibrillated several times in the operating room. We took the family into the room and explained that he probably would not survive, but the doctors would talk to them. As I talked to the family I got cold chills and had this strange feeling that the patient was going to recover. The patient ended up surviving and lived at least another good 15 years. It just gives me cold chills to even think about it. 

Another patient of mine came out of the operating room and was not expected to make it. He coded for an hour and then it stopped. I called the doctor to talk to the family as I waited in the room with the patient. His ventilator was off and as I went to turn the monitor off, all of the sudden I saw a heartbeat appear on the screen. And then another one… and another! The patient came back to life and was able to come off of the ventilator that night and move to progressive care. He called me into his room and wanted me to talk to him. I told him what happened and he cried while saying “I just wanted to meet you to thank you.” 

It’s amazing how people remember you when you make an impact on their life. When I first started working in the ICU 30 years ago, I took care of a 16-year-old who was in a car accident. She had a traumatic head injury and was in the hospital for a while. A few years ago, I was at Sam’s Club and someone said “Valerie!” I looked around and found the person who was shouting my name. They came over and told me I took care of their daughter, the same patient who was in the car wreck 30 years ago. They thanked me for everything and caught me up on how she was doing today. It’s an amazing part of my job to make such an impact on someone.

As a nurse, I always keep in mind that miracles do happen. There is a lot of tragedy, but a lot of miracles too. Nursing has taught me that life changes within a moment and to cherish every second. 

Valerie Millis, RN, is from Golconda, Illinois and has been an intensive care nurse for 31 years at Lourdes Hospital.