Nurse Talks About What Makes Shepherd Center Different
Mike Marshall, RN, BSN, a charge nurse in Shepherd Center’s Intensive Care Unit, reflects on Shepherd Center's culture of hope.
Mike Marshall, RN, BSN, 36, is a charge nurse in Shepherd Center’s Intensive Care Unit, which means he has managerial responsibilities, such as staffing and budgeting, as well as nursing duties. He also is the liaison between nurses and the administration, and he teaches Advanced Cardiac Life Support to doctors and nurses. In February 2016, the Perry, Ga., native was nominated for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Nurse of the Year Award.
Q: How did you get interested in nursing?
A: I wanted to go to medical school, but thought that becoming a nurse would give me financial independence and be a bridge to medical school. But nursing turned out to be more in line with what I wanted to do.
Q: What do you enjoy about nursing?
A: What I like about nursing is that you have a lot of personal contact with patients and their families, but the field of nursing is even better than I ever thought it would be. We have a lot of young patients who are trying to have better lives after tragic circumstances. That young population is what makes Shepherd Center special. I love working with people of all ages, but I especially love seeing kids get better. I also love the people I work with. They’re like family. I feel respected by my peers and by the leaders of the hospital.
Q: Do you encounter resistance because you’re a male in a profession that historically has been predominantly female?
A: Less and less. When I went to nursing school, less than 10 percent of the class was male. But it’s changing. Fifty percent of the people graduating from medical school now are women, and at this very moment, of the five nurses on duty in the ICU, four are men. So roles have changed. Occasionally a patient will prefer a female nurse, but it’s rare and I try to be mindful. I do not take personal offense if my patient asks for a female nurse. My goal is to make the patient feel at ease with whatever procedure needs to be done. We all work together to provide the calmest environment for our patients whenever possible. But if it’s a critical situation, we do what we have to do.
Q: How do you cope with people who are going through extremely challenging situations?
A: I stop and think how I would react if my life was turned upside down, and I treat people the way I would treat my own family. We spend lot of time educating families about what’s going on and then calming their fears. We try not to give false hope, but we also want to give them reason to keep going when they’re feeling very lost. Our philosophy is to see past the injury.
Q: You’ve worked at other hospitals. How is nursing different at Shepherd Center?
A: This is a special place. Our patients stay longer here, so we become more attached to them. We celebrate with them when things go well and grieve when they don’t. We have a culture of hope, and we do what’s best for the patient, even if it’s more difficult for us.
- Mike works out six days a week, and he gets up at 4 a.m. to lift weights before starting his shift. He says it helps him to think clearly and rationally while performing his job.
- He’s a Renaissance man! In addition to enjoying hiking and traveling, he plays the piano. While he used to play for weddings and funerals, now he plays mostly for fun.
- He loves working with Shepherd Center’s therapy dog, Frosty. “We spend hours rounding on patients and traveling throughout the hospital,” Mike says. “No matter how bad things get, Frosty makes me feel as if everything will be all right.”
- How does he think his co-workers would describe him? “I actually asked my co-workers about this and they said, ‘Playful, elegant, smart and magnanimous.’”
- University of West Georgia, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Interviewed by John Christensen
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.