There are parts of Kevin Jones’ job that some people would find unimaginably difficult.
After working 12 hours through the night, the 34-year-old Community Medical Center nurse has sometimes come home to his family with his clothes wrapped in a plastic bag because they were soaked in bodily fluids.
There are parts of his job that require a very sophisticated combination of technical knowledge and human compassion, as when he holds the hand of a dying patient while they take their last breath, then wakes a sleeping family nearby to give them the news that their loved one has passed away.
And yet, Jones embraces every minute of it.
“I’m extremely happy with the career I’ve chosen,” he said. “It’s a hard job at times. We see a lot of stuff at the hospital. But it’s rewarding. People look at you and thank you beyond thanks that you’ve helped them through tough times. It’s an extremely hard field. You will make mistakes, and you feel awful when you do, but they build you up. You learn from them.”
Jones went to school for two years at what was then the College of Technology (now the Missoula College) and earned an associate’s degree in practical nursing. He started as an Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Community in 2005. He worked in that capacity for more than two years, then completed a two-year online education course and earned his Registered Nurse (RN) certification in 2009.
“I couldn’t commit to be in class,” he explained. “I had to work at least full-time because I was the primary provider for my family. My first kid was born in ’06.”
Getting a nursing job in a mountain town like Missoula, especially when there are other recent grads clamoring for jobs, isn’t easy.
“It definitely took some time to get a job,” Jones recalled. “When I did my rotation on the med/surg floor at Community, I got to know some people. I had to do a Capstone, which was 80 hours with a nurse, and I found a nurse I really connected with. That was my foot in the door. I got my face and name out there a little bit. Once I got my degree, I contacted my manager, and there were some positions opening up.”
Jones was hired on as a .4 part-time LPN on the night shift, and he slowly added extra hours. It took him about six months to work his way to a full-time shift.
“I had multiple different roles on the med/surg floor,” Jones explained. “After I got my RN, I stepped into a charge nurse role for several years, and then three years ago I became the staff development coordinator in a split role. I would do two days in the office doing education on the floor and still one day on the floor as a nurse.”
Eventually, Jones decided to work full-time as a nurse. He is still on the night shift, which is from 7 p.m. until about 7:30 a.m., three nights a week.
“I like it, but it definitely took some time to get used to,” he said. “I have two boys, so I get to come home to see the family in the morning. You make more money on the night shift. It’s roughly an extra $300 a month, so working the night shift is definitely an incentive.”
Jones said he likes the pace of the night shift.
“The day shift is crazy chaotic,” he said. “You have doctors making the rounds, physical therapists, occupational therapists. On the night shift, it’s just me and my patients. I’m solely responsible. We have an amazing team. You almost have to be closer, tighter. That’s all you have. You don’t have all the ancillary people. There’s a lot more camaraderie.”
Jones said the night shift is a great place for new grads to learn the industry.
“And if it’s something you like and you’re passionate about, you jump in full force and get with a team that fits your personality,” he said. “You’ll do great if you’re a people person, if you like to help people.”
All in all, Jones said nursing is a challenging but immensely satisfying career.
“I learn so much more from patients than I’ll ever get out of a book,” he said. “I started learning when I got on the floor, the basic knowledge, the interactions with patients. I learned so much more from actually nursing, how they respond, than I ever got from a book. I got lucky getting into nursing.”