Nurse Spotlight: Michael Acosta, Making A Difference In ICU

Jefferson Regional

Being a new nurse comes with its challenges, but Michael Acosta, JRMC Registered Nurse in ICU, has thrived in his new role by learning from seasoned nurses, listening to patients and making kindness a priority.

Michael began working at JRMC during what he said was a difficult time in his life. At that time he worked for Peter Brown, JRMC Respiratory Care Services Director, as a Transport aide, and Peter was incredibly inspirational to him. “He sat down and talked to me,” Michael said. “He told me, ‘You’re not a failure. This isn’t you – you’re going to do great things.’”

With this encouragement in mind, Michael went to the JRMC School of Nursing and graduated, intent on doing great things. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse at JRMC from the beginning, and even more when I started nursing school,” he said. “I was born here, and this is where I felt I needed to be.”

Michael not only feels that he ended up working in the right community, but also in the right department. “I found my spot in ICU,” he said. “I didn’t know that’s where I wanted to be before I was placed there. But ICU was our last rotation in nursing school, and I really enjoyed it. I knew I better try to work there after that.”

Now that Michael is working in ICU, he knows following that instinct was the right choice. “The teamwork is definitely special in ICU,” he said. “Everybody works together. Everybody treats you with a smile, and if you’re not smiling, they tell you to. Someone’s always there to help you, and everybody’s kind. I say thank you a million times a day. I feel supported, and I never feel like I’m alone there.”

One reason Michael loves ICU is the support he receives from his preceptor and mentor, Joe Heard, JRMC Registered Nurse. Michael began nursing at JRMC under the Nurse Residency Program, which provides new nurses with 12 weeks of close oversight, instruction and mentoring from a more seasoned nurse in their department. Those 12 weeks have ended, but Joe is still Michael’s mentor, and the two meet up regularly to discuss any questions Michael might have.

“He taught me so much,” Michael said. “He’s the reason I’ve been successful in ICU. He always told me, you can technically be a great nurse and not have the heart to do it. He said what matters is what’s inside and how you care about treating the patient, like whether you turn your patient every two hours or whether you take the time to clean them when they’re dirty. Joe had faith. He had faith in the Lord, in the nursing profession, in me. It started up top, and then it all trickled down and went together. The benefits of the Nurse Residency Program are everything – it means everything.”

One trait that has been instilled in Michael – through Joe’s mentoring and his own conviction – is kindness. “I believe the biggest part of my job, besides giving excellent care to my patients, is showing families that I care for them,” he said. “I have to treat the family the same as I would treat the patient – to take care of them as though they were that patient laying in the bed. It makes them feel 10 times better that way.”

Michael says it’s important for him to show he cares in every interaction with patients and their families. “I try to always have a smile and always take the time to sit and listen to what they have to say,” Michael said. “I try to never act like I have to run off and do something else. If I sit there and just talk – even for 10 minutes – it creates that bond between the family and myself. I have to create that respect through kindness and care.”

Michael’s warm attitude and care has not gone unnoticed. In February, he was announced as JRMC’s Daisy Award Winner because of nominations given by two families.

One nomination was from a patient’s grandchild. It read, “He treated my grandmother with kindness and a gentle heart. She called him her buddy. He was just as kind and caring to the family, and he showed us compassion during our loss. We need more Michaels in this world.”

The second nomination came from a patient’s wife. “Michael went above and beyond caring for my husband,” the nomination read. “We have a very large family, and he was very caring and patient when everyone had questions. We are so thankful to all of the nurses during his stay, but Michael especially stood out to us because of the extra time we felt that he spent with us. He made us feel like we were his only patient and patient’s family.”

Both nomination forms detailed Michael’s communication and kindness, which Michael said is a huge part of his job. “I have to communicate with physicians, families, my fellow nurses and patients,” he said. “Even the patients who are sedated, I talk to them just like they’re awake. I just carry on conversations with them like they’re talking back with me.”

At the end of the day, Michael said it’s most important to him to know he’s doing the right thing. “I just have to know that I’m doing right,” he said. “I have to know that I’m treating my patients like I would a family member or a good friend. That’s what it’s about – just knowing I’m helping people.”

Working at JRMC, Michael said he’s thankful he gets to invest in the community that invested him. “I just wanted to come back here,” he said. “Going to the school of nursing and them coming here was wonderful. I was born here; I lived here my whole life here. Now I get to make a difference here.”


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