Paper names Erin Vifian R.N., one of Wyoming's Top Nurses
By Kristy Bleizeffer May 9, 2021
She’s sunshine and love in a beautiful package, and her positivity radiates to anyone near her. Patients and staff alike are drawn to her."
Congratulations to Erin Vifian, R.N., for being named one of Wyoming's Top Nurses by the Casper Star-Tribune.
In celebration of National Nurses Week, the newspaper selected 10 Wyoming nurses for the honor, and four of them work at Wyoming Medical Center.
Erin is a registered nurse on our Medical Unit, and she was nominated by a coworker.
“As a new nurse who started at the hospital as my unit was transforming into a COVID Unit, Erin helped me learn how to care for myself as I poured every oUnce of love and compassion into my patients and felt I had nothing left inside to give,” reads her nomination letter. “She has been there to lead our team as a charge nurse, been a shoulder to cry on, and been our biggest cheerleader when things go right.”
Read more about Erin and her career in the interview below.
How long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse for a year and a half total. I’ve been at Wyoming Medical Center for just over a year.
What first got you interested in nursing?
I originally earned a Bachelor's degree in biology, hoping to teach. While I was going to school, I worked as a nursing assistant. I worked in long-term care, neurology/pediatrics, and float pool. I realized that healthcare is where my heart is. I thought that it would be a great next step to go into nursing.
What about it made you want to make nursing a career?
I just love caring for people and the fact that it is a continual learning process. There's always something you can learn in nursing. Nursing allows for so many different career avenues that impact others.
How long have you been on the Medical Unit?
I've been on the Medical Unit for a little over a year. I love it. I'm so glad that I was hired on Medical. I love my coworkers and they have really become like my family. We work well as a team and, even amidst the chaos, everyone has the ability to display different strengths. We build upon each other and help each other.
What kinds of patients or cases do you care for on the Medical Unit?
I feel that we get a good combination of everything. We have some neuro patients, cardiac patients, surgical patients, outpatient surgeries, and everything in between. We get a great mix of different diagnoses, so it's, once again, a continual learning process. No patient is the same, no diagnosis is the same, and no treatment is the same.
I am proud of the level of care that we're able to give, too. We get patients that tend to stay here a little longer sometimes, and not that I love that they're here with us, but it's kind of an interesting aspect to be able to care for both long and short term patients.
So, your first year in nursing was during a global pandemic. What has it been like for you?
When I started, we were already wearing masks. I have never actually seen the bottom half of a lot of people’s faces.
Diving right into that has been interesting. We were the COVID Unit for a while, and I started as charge nurse when we first became the COVID Unit. There was a really big learning curve for me at that time. It felt like everything was constantly changing with COVID, and they were always coming out with new information. I think it was a challenge, too, because a lot of patients were very sick and unstable. It fine tuned a lot of my assessment strategies, including what to look for in sick patients and how to treat them.
Were you a little apprehensive about starting your nursing career during COVID?
No, I was excited actually. In my interview they told me that they plan to make Medical into a COVID unit, and they asked me if I'd like to be a part of that. I'm glad that I was able to do it.
I think as a field, we had extra pressure to lead by example throughout all of this and try to educate people as best as we could. The goal was not to change what others believe, but just provide a positive influence using the facts we were given.
How did it feel to care for COVID patients?
For a lot of COVID patients, it was isolating and I think that was the scariest part for them. In one instance, I had a patient who was in here 28 days, and she was just in her room with the door shut by herself. Every time I was in her room I tried to sit for a little bit and keep her company and encourage her to get up and walk around in her room. I know it's not that big of a space, but it would make all the difference just to like get up and move. I just wanted to be there as much as I could to really encourage patients. That was my main goal, to just be someone to talk to in that lonely environment.
I think it made me a better nurse. In some ways I think it really opened my eyes to the different possibilities in nursing, too, and how to seek out information that is coming from all directions. It really helped me hone in on how to use my resources and work as a part of a team.
As a regional referral center, Banner Wyoming Medical Center covers about 250,000 Wyoming lives. We protect the health of our friends, neighbors, community and state. Does being part of that make you proud to work here?
I grew up in Wisconsin, where there are several hospitals in a small area. Wyoming isn't like that. We are the one big hospital for the area. It’s interesting that we get patients from all over Wyoming and even from other states like South Dakota or Montana. Honestly, I love our hospital and I'm really proud to work here. I think we do good work, and I think we've handled everything, especially this year, very well.
I think looking back, this year has been a really good learning experience. The difference that I've seen in my coworkers and how we've battled COVID is a huge accomplishment. I think it really solidified my love for nursing.
What did you think when you heard that you had been named one of Wyoming’s Top Nurses by the Casper Star-Tribune?
I felt really honored but also, to be honest, undeserving. This year especially, a lot of people have really had to step up, work harder than usual and put in a lot more time to this role. I think there are a lot of people who deserve this kind of recognition.
I am someone who is more in the background a lot of times and am not someone who seeks recognition, so for someone to nominate me is just really unexpected but appreciated.
My manager, Jocelyn, has created an environment of respect and collaboration on the Medical Unit. My coworkers are such a wonderful team and they've really helped me grow and learn as a nurse. I feel blessed to work in a great hospital with such incredible people.