Brittany Wiener’s cross-country journey to becoming a nurse was always destined to lead her back home.
As a child, Brittany wanted to be a veterinarian. But she soon realized that most vets, unlike Dr. Doolittle, don’t have a lot to work with sometimes.
“I wanted patients that could speak to me and tell me what was wrong and what they are feeling,” Brittany said.
Seemingly overnight, Brittany's post-anesthesia care unit was designated as her hospital’s COVID-19 area and the coronavirus patients began to flood in. Work schedules were quickly changed and hospital policies adapted, she said, to deal with the crisis.
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Wiener’s compassionate ways eventually led her to a career in healthcare — first as a certified nursing assistant in New York and then to Los Angeles for seven years. Eventually, Wiener decided to go back to school and in 2016, she enrolled into West Coast University-Los Angeles’ Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Two years later she graduated with her BSN, but not from the LA campus where she started.
“My family all lived on the East Coast, in New York, and I knew I was going to move back once I graduated. I knew that there was a new WCU-Miami campus so I applied for a transfer,” Brittany said. “My sister was pregnant with her first baby and I wanted to be with family as I was away from them for seven years. Now, I can be with all of my three nieces and watch them grow up.”
While the WCU-Los Angeles campus still holds a soft spot in her heart, Brittany said she really enjoyed her time at WCU-Miami and appreciated being welcomed “with open arms” to her new campus.
“I’ve made wonderful friends at both campuses throughout my journey — which I am extremely grateful for,” she said. “I think the most difficult thing about leaving LA was leaving all of my friends that have become my family. Your friends in nursing school become your family as you study day and night together and learn all about each other's strengths and weaknesses.”
Despite her years of healthcare experience as a CNA, Wiener said she still struggled to find the best way to study. Just as she was confident she’d figured something out, Brittany said, a new topic was introduced and she had to learn new ways of retaining the information.
As a result, Wiener constantly found herself asking classmates for support — something she recommends everyone do.
“Advice I could give a new grad is: Understand that you don’t know a whole lot and to ask your colleagues for help,” she said. “Use all of the resources that are provided, wherever you are working so that you can provide the best care for your patient.”
Now a registered nurse back in Long Island, New York, Wiener works as a charge nurse in the orthopedic and telemetry units at her hospital.
Despite her busy schedule, she’s also the head of her floor unit council and was picked by her managers and chief nursing officer to be on three other groups, including the CNO Advisory Board, a staff perspective panel and a part of her hospital network’s RN strategy project.
“I have really been involved and pushed myself and absolutely love the feedback I’ve been getting from my managers,” she said.
As a nurse leader, Brittany said she’s constantly reminded of why she loves her job. The most recent reminder, she said, happened while working on the telemetry unit.
“We watch our own monitors on my unit and we get alerted on our phones if something is abnormal about the heart rate. As a charge nurse, you are responsible for the whole unit," she said. “There was an alarm coming to my phone about a patient where the heart rate was bradycardia and then quickly asystole — which means there was no pulse. I immediately went to the patient’s room and saw they had stopped breathing and had no pulse.”
Wiener quickly called a “code blue” and started CPR. The code team soon entered the room and the team “did everything in our power to help this patient,” she said.
“I alternated with another RN the entire time performing CPR and together, as a team, we saved that patient’s life,” she said. “That day, along with many other days, really allow me to confidently say, ‘This is exactly why I’m a nurse.’”