A nursing degree, a desire to help others and a sense of adventure helped Registered Nurse (RN) Carol Soukup enjoy a long and varied career. Soukup earned an associate’s degree in nursing at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach, California in 1976, which helped her become an RN. She worked for one year as a nurse when a new position opened at her hospital.
“The interviewer asked why I wanted to be a charge nurse. When I said I like being with patients and helping them heal, she explained that I wouldn’t want to be a charge nurse – I’d be in between the patient and administration.”
Instead, Soukup saw the potential opportunities with being a “float” nurse working in multiple clinics. She traveled the U.S. and even the Caribbean, where she once helped the chief of the Kuna tribe with a foot infection. Soukup worked on a monitored cardiac floor, an intensive care unit (ICU) and a neonatal ICU (NICU).
“I fell in love with a baby in the NICU,” Soukup recalled. “When he went home, I became his in-home nurse. He was hearing impaired and I learned sign language and helped him communicate. I’d taken a speech pathology course and he also learned to lip read.
“He’d lost 90 percent of his intestines and had a central line. He wasn’t expected to live, but I thought that he would. He had liver failure at age 10 and received a multiple organ transplant. He’s the oldest living multiple organ transplant recipient. I worked with him for a total of 11 years. He’s 26 now – and he speaks well.
“I’ve seen miracles – and nursing has allowed me to be a part of it.”
Soukup has enjoyed an unconventional career at best online universities. “Someone once told me, ‘While you’re waiting for God to open the next door, praise him in the hallway.’ I went where I was uncomfortable and appreciated each opportunity.”
Her opportunities provided training in pediatric ICU, interdisciplinary care and hospice nursing. Being on pediatric bereavement and organ donation teams help Soukup build her patient advocacy skills. Soukup continues to learn: she takes 45 hours of continuing education every two years.
Now Soukup is using her lifetime of nursing experience, including hospice care and bereavement support, to support a Seattle-area organization called the Animal Hospice and End of Life Palliative Care (AHELP) Project. The AHELP Project is a coalition of veterinarians, animal service providers and animal lovers interested in providing support for and education about palliative care and hospice for animals.
As an AHELP volunteer, Soukup’s hospice training provides loving support for people whose animals are nearing end of life.
“I’ve heard comments like ‘It’s only a dog,’ but that invalidates their deep love and deep pain they’re feeling with the loss of a beloved pet. I want to validate their pain and help them be ready.”
Soukup added: “I love being a patient advocate.”
Tracy Campion is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.