TUCSON - In a career that increasingly sees more demand than supply of workers, and where burnout is high, Ana P. Marin could be considered a super-nurse.
The University Medical Center trauma nurse has been a registered nurse for 18 years, her entire working life.
In between administering medications, taking blood and changing bedpans, Marin managed to help create a hospital-wide bereavement program that has earned her national notice.
When she isn’t doing 12-hour shifts on “Five West” — the hospital’s 16-bed intensive-care unit for trauma patients — she donates her nursing skills and uses her vacation time for a variety of nonprofit groups.
On Tuesday, Marin, who speaks fluent Spanish, left Tucson for a one-week Operation Smile mission in Cali, Colombia. Operation Smile sends medical missions around the world to treat children with cleft palates and other facial deformities.
Though nursing is a job typically performed away from any limelight, Marin recently earned a hefty dose of recognition for her dedication.
Not only did the national NurseWeek magazine give her an excellence award last month for the Southwest region, but the March of Dimes honored her in August as an Arizona Nurse of the Year, calling her a “nurse humanitarian.”
She also recently published an article about global health in a national publication called MEDSURG Nursing.
A bit of an overachiever?
Perhaps, but Marin, 42, doesn’t appear to see it that way. She doesn’t aspire to management and has never wanted to be a physician like some of the other nurses she’s met over the years. She simply enjoys what she does.
“I thought about getting my master’s, but I love being a bedside nurse,” said Marin, who moved to Arizona from New York 16 years ago to work at University Medical Center.
Marin’s patients on Five West include people recovering from gunshot wounds, serious car crashes, severe head injuries and major surgery.
Those experiences — watching the grief of families who lose loved ones to trauma — inspired Marin and fellow nurse Pam Spencer to create a program for people in mourning. Together, they co-chair the medical center’s bereavement committee.
“She is exceptionally dedicated and loves what she does. I’ve seen a lot of burnout, but never with her,” Spencer said.
For the past six years, anyone who loses a loved one at the hospital has received a bereavement kit.
The kit includes local and national resources for dealing with grief, and a “Mourner’s Bill of Rights” with 10 credos.
About 600 people died at the hospital in 2007, and their friends and family members all had access to Marin and Spencer’s program, which includes the option of receiving plaster impressions of their loved ones’ hands — a program that first became popular in the pediatrics unit.
At the anniversary of a patient’s death, Marin has ensured that families receive a “thinking of you” card from the unit where the patient was hospitalized.
She has also worked with the Donor Network of Arizona to connect with families of patients who have died and gone on to become organ donors, and has coordinated ceremonies to honor the families.