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Moments That Matter

For 16 hours straight Corinda VanDyke stayed strong, not once shedding a tear.

“I knew I needed to be their rock,” recalls the 26-year-old registered nurse at Sanford Women’s Family Birth Center in Fargo. “This family was going through a tough situation. I needed to be the one they could rely on.”

Tough is an understatement.

After 35½ weeks of happily preparing for birth, the mom and dad learned their baby no longer had a heartbeat. From early dawn on, Corinda stayed at the grieving mom’s side, helping her through hour after hour of labor and heartache. When Corinda’s 12-hour shift ended, she asked to stay on to see this through. At 11:08 p.m., the baby was stillborn.

“When it was all over, the baby’s grandpa came up to me and gave me a big hug. That’s when the whole day just flooded me,” says Corinda. “I broke down and cried.”

Emotional? Absolutely. But affirming, too. “That was one of those moments when you realize nursing was the path you were meant for,” she says.

An almost-missed calling

Corinda grew up in Dickinson, N.D. But her childhood never included playing with dolls or playing house.

“We spent most of our time playing outdoors – no TVs, no video games. We were barely allowed inside,” she says.Physically fit and tan, she moves with an athlete’s grace.

At 16, Corinda began working as a nursing assistant in an assisted living facility. It was hard work, but from day one she loved it.

“You’re there with people when they’re at their most vulnerable. You build relationships,” she says. “Even then I felt like I could be strong for others. Whenever there was a death ¬– and in a nursing home that was often – I was never afraid to step up and help.”

After she graduated from high school, Corinda set her sights on a career as an OB/GYN doctor. It was on the pre-med track when she had an epiphany: She wanted to be at the bedside caring for patients.

“During those eight years of being a nursing assistant, the answer was right in front of me,” she says. “I just took a roundabout way of getting there.”

Corinda completed her pre-med degree and immediately pursued another: a bachelor’s in nursing. She graduated in 2010 – a member of the first class of the University of North Dakota’s accelerated nursing program.

A dream come true

Corinda knew exactly what area of nursing she wanted to pursue – and where.

“My passion was labor and delivery – at Sanford. I was so excited just to get an interview,” she says. “When I got hired, I called everybody, my parents, grandparents, friends. I remember telling them ‘I’m an OB nurse! I’m an OB nurse!’ ”

Now that she’s two years into her chosen profession, she finds it’s everything she’d hoped for. She’s an educator, answering myriad questions and concerns for first-time moms. She’s a trusted professional, recognizing the importance of keeping patients informed and staying honest. And she’s a comforter, bringing calm even in the face of the unknown.

“There are so many things I love about this area of nursing – advocating for the patient and getting to know her, supporting the family, and sometimes just being a good listener,” she says. “Coming to work every day is not a job for me. It’s what I enjoy.”

Instilling confidence and strength

Corinda’s abilities have caught the attention of others. She now serves on Sanford’s organization-wide Palliative Care Committee, becoming the first representative from the Family Birth Center. In May, she received the “Star of Nursing” award at the celebration-of-nurses event held in Fargo.

“To be nominated was a really big honor, but to actually win, that was a surprise,” she says.

But the most meaningful prize of all occurs during quiet, one-on-one connections at the bedside. That’s when Corinda – in words, actions and presence – passes on the characteristics that define her.

“I’m there giving my patient the confidence that she can complete the task that’s ahead of her, that she has the strength to get through the very hardest moments,” says Corinda.

When it matters most, a nurse can make all the difference.

Posted Date: July 2012