When she was looking at career choices in college, Amanda Mangra never considered nursing. As she tells it, “I didn’t think I was gifted enough to do anything in the medical field.” Times change.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she found she really didn’t have a strong feeling about the profes­sion. She did, however, have an interest in nursing, despite thinking she might not be able to handle the academic course load. So, she put herself up to a challenge: Take the entrance exam and, if she passed, head back to the class­room. She did, and a degree from Ras­mussen College soon followed.

Cardiac and critical care interested Mangra, she says, because she wanted the challenge of working with very ill patients, which requires high-level, critical thinking at all times.

“There is a lot happening at once in the Critical Care Unit, so one has to hone in on multiple things at the same time, while keeping one specific situation, or patient, as one’s priority,” she explains. “Your actions at any time could be life-saving.”

Exploring the right fit

With that in mind, she entered the workforce. She attended a job fair and spoke with representatives from Re­gional Medical Center Bayonet Point, and liked what they had to say. In particular, she liked the idea of StaRN, an on-the-job residency program that would give her intensive training in several hospital areas, then match her with preceptors to continue learning.

“I wanted to work in cardiac care, and was hired for the Critical Care Unit,” she says. “From there I went into the StaRN program, and spent four weeks with one preceptor on the day shift, and four weeks with another on the night shift. It was amazing. Coming out of nursing school you feel like you’ve passed the boards, so you have the basics down at least. Then you get onto a unit and realize that there is a lot you don’t know. I think every new nurse should have access to something like StaRN, because they can learn how to deal with equipment, see real-life situations and also work in simula­tion labs to gain experience with pro­cedures before working with live patients. If a new nurse is struggling, the program helps them become more competent.”

She also has high praise for the pre­ceptorship concept.

“With open communication, you can become comfortable with that person, and then you have a great learning environment/experience for one of the most crucial times in your life as a nurse,” Mangra says. “Mine would slow down and go over everything, and they learned what I did and didn’t know as a new nurse. They were hard-core. They didn’t baby me, but encour­aged and pushed me as far as they felt necessary in order for me to get better. My preceptors put me out there from day one, with almost everything hands-on, and really made me work.”

She says that in the end, it all came down to her willingness to take advan­tage of the opportunities HCA offers.

“If you want to succeed as a new nurse, continue your education and if you have a passion for helping people, and saving and bettering lives, you have to reach for it. Search for that help. If someone doesn’t have time to help me, I go on to the next person, and the next, because at some point I will find that teacher, and I will learn.”

Amanda Mangra is a critical care nurse at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, an affiliate of HCA.