When Erica Thomas was growing up, her great-grandmother’s stories about being a labor and delivery nurse had a profound impact. She started a nursing internship in high school and blew past the minimum hours almost right away.
“We were supposed to do five hours a week,” she recalls, then laughs. “I was doing 40 because I loved it so much.”
Not surprisingly, she turned the internship into her chosen profession and has been helping deliver babies and support parents at Augusta Health for 20 years. She’s actually had three children herself at Augusta Health in that time, and she feels that being a patient has deepened her commitment to patient care.
“Once you’ve had a baby, you understand the other side of it, how exciting and scary it can be,” she says. “That helps me to be a better nurse, because I feel I can connect on that level.”
Recently, she helped a pregnant woman who’d been in a serious car accident. The patient wasn’t stable enough to be transferred to the trauma unit at the University of Virginia, so Thomas stayed with her throughout her admission to the ER, radiology and an emergency C-section. Both mom and baby made it through the harrowing ordeal without serious injury.
The experience earned Thomas a nomination for a DAISY Award (see sidebar), a major acknowledgement that surprised and delighted Thomas. “With this kind of work, you really are inclined to give it your all, and it can be exhausting,” she says. “So to have that kind of acknowledgement was very humbling.”
Even when the work is tiring, though, she knows she’ll never get tired of the experiences. “I love what I do and being able to help families,” says Thomas. “It’s exciting and fulfilling.”