Spotlight on St. Joseph’s/Candler nurse Matt Nelson

Matt Nelson, BSN, RN

Clinical Nurse Manager, St. Joseph’s Hospital Emergency Department

Nursing for six and a half years with the last year and a half with St. Joseph’s/Candler

SJ/C: Why did you decide to become a nurse?

Matt: After graduating from college my original plan was to go to graduate school to become a physician’s assistant. I graduated from undergrad with a degree in athletic training with plans to become a paramedic before attending PA school. During one clinical for my paramedic courses, I was working in an emergency room with a nurse. I remember going home and telling my wife, ‘Nope, I want to be an ER nurse. This is exactly what I want to be,’ so I went home and figured out the best route to nursing school and ended up applying to the accelerated BSN program and started the next semester. 

The amazing thing about the emergency department is you have the opportunity to make a connection with the patient during one of their worst moments, so you truly get to make an impact on their life, on their day, and most importantly, on their health. ER nurses advocate for their patients and ensure they are heard while they are receiving care; that’s why I was drawn to emergency department nursing.

SJ/C: Why did you choose to work at St. Joseph’s/Candler?

Matt: When my wife and I decided to move to this area I toured several different hospitals, but a couple of very important factors I loved about St. Joseph’s/Candler were the values of the organization and the not-for-profit status. The values of the organization I came from were very similar to the values that we have here. I love that everything is community-driven; taking care of the communities that we serve. That’s what I knew and was comfortable with, so that was one of the big driving factors for why I chose St. Joseph’s/Candler. 

I also love working at St. Joseph’s Hospital because of the complexity of care that we provide in the Emergency Department. From strokes to heart attacks, we care for a variety of critically ill patients, so that also drew me here to St. Joseph’s.

SJ/C: What are some of your responsibilities as the clinical nurse manager in an emergency department?

Matt: I have always loved being at the bedside, but I was excited when this position opened up to get back into nursing leadership.  Nursing leadership is unique because you have the opportunity to care for your community, both directly and indirectly. As a clinical nurse manager in the emergency department, one of my most important responsibilities is ensuring our staff has all the appropriate equipment and supplies needed to care for our patients. Other day-to-day responsibilities include working closely with our Resource Coordinators and charge nurses to manage department throughput, maintain appropriate staffing, and provide a safe environment for staff and patients.         

SJ/C: Your entire nursing career so far has been in an emergency department. What do you enjoy about the ED that keeps you here?

Matt: The best thing about the emergency department is never knowing what’s going to walk through the door. It’s the unexpected that excites us; it’s the variety in that your day is never the same. From a nursing standpoint, you never stop learning in the ED; there’s always something new to learn. I tell every person I interview, ‘You’re not doing your job right if you don’t learn something new every day.’ I genuinely love emergency nursing because of that variety, being able to connect with your patients at their sickest time, and also seeing that patient’s condition improve and knowing you had a part in their care. 

SJ/C: What are some challenges that come with working in the emergency department? 

Matt: Right now, the challenges — and this is nationwide, it’s not just here — people are sick and our hospitals are full. ED nurses are not only taking care of ED patients, but they are also having to care for those patients that are admitted with no in-patient bed to go to. I think that’s probably one of the hardest things. Working in an Emergency Department, you always have to be flexible and adaptable. We have to adapt and overcome all the challenges we face because, at the end of the day, the ED never closes and we never stop taking patients.

Some of the hardest days are when we have extended wait times in our waiting room, holding multiple admitted patients, EMS is backed up, and no readily available open rooms to see patients. It’s that kind of constant stress that ED nurses deal with almost daily. Some days it’s healthy stress, other days not so much. But the ED is one big team – we’re one big family, and at the end of the day, we all have each other’s backs which makes these challenges easier to handle. 

SJ/C: What does it mean to you to be a Magnet nurse?

Matt: Working for an organization that is Magnet-designated demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to nursing excellence and most importantly, its patients. We have has been designated a Magnet facility for the fifth time, which is another reason why I chose St. Joseph’s/Candler. The big thing with Magnet for the patient is they know they are receiving the best evidence-based nursing care. And as a co-worker, it’s knowing that you have a voice, and leadership wants to hear your opinions. This culture empowers bedside nurses to make changes, which is so important.

And then, as a leader, having that support from senior leadership is vital. This job, and any other manager’s job, is hard because you have direction from the top down while also combating concerns from the bottom up, and you’re situated in the middle. It’s been great to have the support from senior leadership because they truly do care. They want to hear your ideas and voices, and truly make those changes, which is a great part of being a Magnet facility.

SJ/C: What advice would you offer to new nurses or those considering a career in nursing? 

Matt: The beauty of nursing is there are numerous things that nurses can do. If you find something that you don’t like, don’t toss in the hat. There are so many different avenues that are available in the nursing profession within St. Joseph’s/Candler. As far as emergency department nursing, for new nurses, I would say to always be open-minded and learn as much as you can during your clinical rotations. If you’re out shadowing, always ask questions. Never be afraid. I always tell people — it’s a weird word of advice, but — don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable, because you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations to learn. But also know someone is always there for you and has your back.

Family: Wife, Ali, who’s an occupational therapist, and a three-and-a-half-year-old son, Grant
Hobbies/Interests: Playing tennis, pickleball, running, anything outdoors, and being with family

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