Blue Devil of the Week: Pushing Nursing Forward

Duke nurse Laryssa Thompson makes a difference through her care and ideas

Clinical Nurse Laryssa Thompson, a 2017 Presidential Award winner, has accomplished much in her three years at Duke Regional Hospital.

Name: Laryssa Thompson

2017 Presidential Award Winner

Position: Clinical Nurse IV at Duke Regional Hospital

Years at Duke: 3

What she does at Duke: As a nurse in Duke Regional’s Intensive Care Unit, Thompson plays many roles. She helps care for patients and, as a charge nurse, manages and guides the staff that keeps the 22-bed unit running.

She’s also become one of the hospital’s key innovators.

She developed the Early Nursing Intervention Team which is a group of experienced nurses who respond to emergency calls involving adult patients anywhere in the hospital. The system ensures at-risk patients receive the best care while easing the burden on the staff in the ICU, which previously responded to such situations.

She also helped create the Mock Code Blue Team which helped train new nurses on what to do when a patient loses a pulse, and kept those skills sharp with unannounced dry runs.

“A Code Blue situation can bring about a lot of nerves and, if you don’t practice it a lot, it can be overwhelming,” Thompson said. “Our goal was for all the nurses on the floor to feel more comfortable with all the emergency equipment, know where to find things in the Code Blue carts and anticipate the algorithms so they could anticipate things and feel more in control.”

These efforts have resulted in more efficient and effective nursing care at the hospital and resulted in Thompson earning the 2017 Presidential Award, one of Duke’s highest employee honors.

What she loves about Duke: “The thing I love about Duke, particularly Duke Regional and especially my unit, is how close everybody is and what a supportive environment it is,” Thompson said. “My co-workers will do anything for you to help. Whether that help is on the floor, or emotional support or just anything that they can do to make you feel like you’re progressing professionally, that feels really good. And my manager (Nurse Manager Sandra Hawk) has been super-supportive and really key in helping me figure out the best way to present my ideas and move them up the chain so that they can affect more people in a positive way.”

The most memorable days at work: “The best days that I remember are the ones when a family member or a patient gives me a hug and says ‘You really made a difference. Thank you so much.’ Those are the days when nursing really feels worth it.”

A special object in her workspace: Thompson admits it’s quirky, but she’s proud of her worn down ID badge. The badge, which she got in late 2015, features her old rank and a streak of wear cutting across a photo of her with a hairstyle she no longer sports. She said she knows it’s due to be replaced, but as a physical representation of the work she’s put in, she’s not quite ready for an upgrade.

“I actually carry that as a point of pride,” Thompson said. “I clocked in so many times, I feel like the wearing away kind of shows the time that I’ve been here.”

First ever job: Thompson said she wanted to work as soon as she legally could, so at 15 she started answering phones at a dentist’s office back home in Ohio. One of her favorite memories of her time in that job was discussing the inner-workings of the heart with a dentist.

“I still vividly remember him explaining and drawing the four chambers of the heart and how they all connect,” Thompson said. “I remember thinking that was so cool. I wanted to know more. That didn’t make me think of going into nursing, but it supported the idea.”

Best advice received: Thompson said her mother, Hyldee Hess, gave her some words of wisdom that have stuck with her.

“Always do the best that you can,” Thompson said. “That was her advice and I’ve taken it as, you can always learn more, you can always do more, all you have to do is put in the effort.”

Something most people don’t know about her: As a kid, Thompson was a budding figure skater, even dabbling in competition.

“It got to the point where I needed to decide how committed I was going to be,” said Thompson, who estimated that her run as a figure skater lasted about four years. “They were talking about me coming in before school at like five in the morning. This was in fourth grade, so I didn’t pursue it. But I picked it back up in college and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t done it since I’ve been down here. I really need to find a good skate rink.”

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