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Education to Reach His Dream



For years, Randy Heinbaugh dreamed of being a nurse.

Working in a hospital cabinet shop, he saw nurses at work and was intrigued by the job. He knew he’d love to work in a field where he could combine caring for others with technical expertise, but he figured this dream would always be out of reach.

“I knew that I would love being a nurse, but I thought I’d probably never get to do it,” says the Sanford Bemidji emergency room nurse. “Eventually, we decided that I would just quit my job and take the classes. It was scary, but I knew from the first day that I had made the right decision.”

At age 35, the former general contractor took his first nursing class. He had two children in school, but his wife, also a registered nurse, encouraged him to quit his job fixing houses and laying drywall to learn something that they both knew he’d love to do.

Heinbaugh worked at the Bemidji hospital as an orderly while starting classes in 1990 to learn the skills he’d need to be a licensed practical nurse. Within four years, he had progressed to being a paramedic and then a registered nurse, working as a medic out in the field and treating people in emergency services.

“I was so interested in furthering my education in the medical field, I just didn’t want to stop,” says Heinbaugh. “I just loved everything about it.”

Educating others

Over the years, Heinbaugh has reached out to others. He mentors new nurses and teaches courses in trauma nursing and emergency pediatric nursing. In his early years in his nursing career, others helped him learn and he wants to pass his knowledge and experience along.

“When I started out as an ER nurse, I was with some of the finest nurses that I could have started with,” Heinbaugh said. “I’m in the position today because of four or five people who I was very fortunate to work with, to learn from side-by-side.”

Heinbaugh’s work as an emergency room nurse occasionally takes him to different parts of the hospital. One recent day, the flight nurse found himself working beside his wife, Rayleen, in the pediatric intensive care unit. This spring, they were called in to help a young patient, a drowning child who had been pulled out of a frigid lake.

Never give up

For five hours, the nurses did continuous cardiopulmonary resuscitation– the longest that Heinbaugh has done CPR. Suddenly, the boy began to breathe. He not only survived the accident, but came out of his near drowning with perfect brain function, the nurse said.

“It gave us all goose bumps,” said Heinbaugh. “After something like this, you stop and take a breath and realize that five hours just went by like 10 minutes. This is what I went to school for and do all this training for.”

Over the years, Heinbaugh said hospital leadership has always supported his efforts to get more education. He loves learning more and helping his colleagues be the best that they can be, every day.

“We all go into this profession to support our families, but really the rewards of nursing are priceless,” he says. “We save lives and you just can’t put a price on something like that.”

Posted Date: July 2012

Education to Reach His Dream

Randy Heinbaugh saves lives in Sanford’s emergency room every day. Education has allowed him to live his dreams and provide the best care for his patients.