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Off-Duty Nurse Heroes to the Rescue

Getting Real: Nursing Today
January 12, 2016
Off-Duty Nurse Heroes to the Rescue

For nurses and other healthcare professionals, saving lives isn’t always limited to work hours. Having extensive healthcare skills and expertise means that nurses are nurses 24/7 and sometimes have unique opportunities to respond to a call for help.

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), “registered nurses have consistently shown to be reliable responders, and their compassionate nature typically compels them to respond to those in need.” When faced with a medical emergency during their off-hours, many nurses spring into action to help those in need. Here are just a few stories from nurses who saved lives during off-duty hours. 

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Here Comes the Nurse

When newlyweds Julie Stroyne Nixon, RN, BSN, and her husband Andrew Nixon were walking to their wedding after-party in Pittsburgh, Penn., they did not expect to hear someone yelling “Is anyone a doctor? Does anyone know CPR?” 

Seeing a woman lying unconscious on a bench nearby, Stroyne Nixon ran over to the woman and – still in her wedding gown – began performing life-saving chest compressions on the woman. 

“As a trauma nurse,” said Stoyne Nizon, “I am used to calm moments that quickly turn into moments of utter chaos, so it was instinctual for me to immediately run over to where the situation was occurring.”

A few moments later, Stroyne Nixon noticed that the woman’s breathing grew stronger and she helped the woman wake up and open her eyes. She asked the woman basic questions such as “What is your name?” and “Do you know where you are?”  Shortly after, paramedics arrived on the scene and Stroyne Nixon allowed them to take over. 

“Nursing is a career based on caring and compassion and we simply want to help others,” said Stroyne Nixon. “If we see someone who is hurt or nonresponsive, we immediately want to jump into action and help.”

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A Call for Service While Shopping for Diapers

Grocery shopping is typically an uneventful afternoon for Marcus Guajardo, RN, in Indianapolis, Ind. However, according to the Daily Journal, one afternoon when standing in the checkout line with diapers for his newborn, Guajardo heard a commotion a few lines over. He saw a man lying unconscious on the floor, with a blue face. Guajardo sprinted to the man. He realized that the man was under cardiac arrest and began chest compressions while store employees rushed to get emergency medical equipment. After a few moments, the man started breathing and color returned to his face. Guajardo continued CPR until firefighters arrived on the scene and hooked the man up to a monitor. Had he not received a call from his wife to buy some diapers, Guajardo would have left the store moments before the man collapsed and wouldn’t have been there to save his life. As it was, Guajardo was in the right place at the right time.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that outside of the hospital,” Guajardo told the Daily Journal. “I just saw his legs laying out of an aisle and I instinctively took off toward him. When I got there, you could tell this man was very close to losing his life.”

The Daily Journal reported that when Guajardo got back in line to pay for his groceries, the manager of the store had already paid for his items and packed everything up, to thank Guajardo for his quick life-saving actions.

“I did what any other nurse would have done," Guajardo told us in an interview. "I felt like I was really just doing my job. I was there at the right time and had the resources, training and knowledge to help. I'm glad I was able to make a difference." 

Inspired by his wife who has been a nurse for 13 years, Guajardo earned his nursing license three years ago, jumping fields from a career in business and banking.

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Take a Flight, Save a Life

Sophia Loo, RN, BSN, MSHA and Angela Bingham, MSN, RN, CNL, CHFN, were taking their seats on a flight coming back from a nursing conference in Orlando, Fla., when they heard passengers calling for help. According to Stanford Medicine News Center, a man a few rows in front of them was having trouble breathing.

Some of the other passengers stood up and were blocking the aisles surrounding the man, so Loo and Bingham rushed to crawl over empty seats to get to the man. They couldn’t perform CPR while he was still in his seat, so Loo recruited three passengers to move the man into the aisle.

The man was in his 60s and weighed about 180 pounds, so there was not much room to work with in the aisle and the two nurses didn’t have any medical equipment with them.

Sophia Loo, RN, BSN, MSHA

“We just went into nursing mode,” Loo said to the Barco’s Nightingales Blog, “but the stress was beyond anything I’ve ever known as a nurse. We were so focused on what we were doing — we knew the gravity of his condition.”

Flight attendants brought them the automated external defibrillator (AED) that the Federal Aviation Administration requires all commercial aircraft to carry. The nurses used the device to administer a shock to the man’s system, yet the man was still unconscious and the device didn’t read a heartbeat.  Loo and Bingham continued to perform CPR and at one point the man opened his eyes.

The Stanford Medicine News Center reported that after 15 minutes of CPR, a security person arrived to help care for the man. Later, paramedics also arrived and carried the man off of the plane. As he was carried through the narrow aisle, the man regained consciousness.

The other passengers, who had been mostly quiet during the process, cheered and applauded the two nurses for saving the man’s life.

“As nurses, our ability to thrive in a stressful environment is one of our strengths,” said Loo. “Nurses are often the first and direct link to patient care, and how we deliver that care and advocate for our patients is crucial - especially because time is often of the essence.”

Do you have a story of an amazing off-duty nurse? We’d love to hear from you. Share your story by messaging us on our Facebook Page or tweeting our Twitter handle, @JNJNursingNotes. And thank you – to all nurses –for your constant commitment to caring for patients, while on and off-duty. 

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