We couldn’t be more proud of our VCU School of Nursing alumni who are working all over the world to keep our community and families safe and healthy. Meet Mary Vickerman (B.S.‘10/N), a nurse for more than 45 years. She has worked in the ICU, oral surgery, the PACU, the operating room, and finally as a clinical educator for Kimberly Clark.

Q. What healthcare settings have you worked in? 

A. I’ve been a nurse for 45 years. I’ve worked in the ICU/CCU as a staff nurse and assistant head nurse before managing the Oral Surgery Clinic at the VCU Dental School. I also worked as a part-time weekend supervisor at Retreat Hospital, as well as a staff nurse at St. Mary’s in the PACU. I eventually began working as the manager/coordinator of the PreOp area, which led to my desire to work as an operating room nurse. After working in the OR, I began working as a clinical educator for Kimberly Clark where I help with the education of new OR products and ICU devices. My clinical educator role has allowed me to travel and work in some of the prestigious medical centers in the country. It has given me a great appreciation of the scope of healthcare and the two distinctly different sides of healthcare – clinical and supply. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly been a major challenge and stress on both of these sides.

My retirement from the OR at St Mary’s is actually effective 4/10/20, but I will continue to work as a clinical educator for Kimberly Clark. I will miss it terribly but the time is right. 

Q. How has your VCU School of Nursing education prepared you for your work as a nurse, particularly in crisis situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic? 

A. I graduated as a diploma nurse in 1975 (Richmond Memorial School of Nursing). I went back to school to earn my B.S. in nursing from VCU in 2008. I had always felt every RN should have the same education to fully validate the profession of nursing. 

Thus additional education included reviews of some of the sciences — ethics, leadership, community health, and research models which all broadened my perspectives on the healthcare continuum.  

The research course and statistics have provided an enlightened view of the tracking methods of pandemic management.  Additionally, my work with Kimberly Clark has very clearly illustrated the importance of supply chain issues currently with COVID-19, as well as during the Ebola outbreak. 

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a nurse?

A.  My fondest memories of being a nurse come from my patients. There are so many memories that remain vivid in my mind…. from talking and crying with a man who was  dying about his fears of death and leaving a family behind; caring for a two-year-old on a ventilator who had fallen out of her babysitter’s car (car seats were not common in the 1970s) and being removed from the ventilator and watching her parents grieving over her; seeing surgeries that got all the cancer or turned out benign; giving a back rub to a restless patient and watching them relax and fall off to sleep; helping the elderly shave, washing their hair while they lay flat in bed; offering support to a concerned family member; and discussing organ donation from a loved one who had just passed. 

Being a nurse has been a privilege. To be able to touch another human being’s life and make a difference in their time of need, giving away a part of yourself and still wishing you could do more has really been a gift to me. 

Q. Can you share any words of encouragement or advice to current and future nurses? 

A. For all the future nurses out there, enjoy your time caring for others. Nothing can bring as much joy, satisfaction and fulfillment as nursing. Try to NEVER become complacent in what you do. ALWAYS be preoccupied with failure-in a positive way so that you DO NO HARM. 

I’m in the process of applying for a position on the Mercy Ships to work in their OR as a volunteer OR circulator/scrub nurse. Mercy Ships serve underprivileged areas and offer care around the globe to those who may otherwise have no access to surgical interventions. I believe it will round out my nursing experience and allow me to “pay it forward” for the many blessings I have enjoyed in my career. 

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Categories Alumni and Friends, Moments of Pride
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