by Jason P. Smith
Kirstie Pike, a certified ER/trauma supervisor, infection control coordinator at Gunnison Valley Hospital and a 2004 Nightingale Award recipient, said her choice to go into nursing was not planned – in fact, it came down to the toss of a coin.
"It was an accident, really," Pike said of her decision to go into nursing. "I followed my high school boyfriend to the University of Northern Colorado – I was looking at pre-med at CU – and there was no pre-med offered at UNC. So, I flipped a coin and chose nursing. I couldn’t have made a better choice."
As for that boyfriend Pike followed to UNC, well they have been married for 13 years. "The moral of the story is to trust in the fates," she said.
Graduating from UNC in 1990 with her BSN, Pike has spent the majority of her career – 14 years – at Gunnison Valley Hospital, a 24-bed rural facility.
In 1995 Pike took on the position of ER/ICU supervisor, and in 1996 she took on the infection control coordinator position. "In rural facilities you get to wear a number of hats," she said. In 1997 Pike became the trauma nurse coordinator for the facility and helped initiate the hospital’s state trauma designation. Although that may seem like a lot of hats to wear in just a short amount of time, Pike enjoys the challenges. Just a few years later, she helped to start a cardiac rehabilitation program.
"In 2000 I was lucky to work with an amazing crew of people to start up a cardiac rehabilitation program for our facility," Pike said. "This was a need that had not yet been tapped, and we are seeing more and more patients every year. I continue to split my time between administration and working at the bedside."
Although one would think working in a variety of roles throughout the hospital would be a big challenge, Pike said one of the biggest challenges she has faced is creating and maintaining a dedicated emergency department crew. "In a small facility, nurses are faced with the challenge of working all areas – but it became clear as our ER volumes increased year after year that we really needed an ER crew that had the desire and dedication to throw themselves into this department," she said. "It took a lot of work, a leap of faith from administration, and serious dedication from the nursing staff to complete this task.
"The end result has been phenomenal. I believe this ER crew is absolutely amazing and very capable of handling any crisis – I really am proud. The energy level is high, the motivation is great and our patient satisfaction indicators are excellent."
Being a Nightingale award recipient in 2004, Pike said, has been one of the highlights in her career. "It was a completely mind-blowing experience all the way around," she said. "There were so many amazing people, and to be even considered among them was a huge honor."
Smaller hospitals usually mean lots of work in a variety of areas, but Pike said she is happy with where she is now and has no plans to go anywhere. "Gunnison Valley Hosptial is amazing," she said. "It is truly a remarkable thing when one can wake up and look forward to going to work everyday. The staff at the hospital is awesome, and I mean all of the staff – every department shines and people are happy.
"It is a small, tight-knit facility with almost a family atmosphere," she said. "I also must say that in these times of nursing shortages, mandatory overtime, dangerous patient loads and bad morale, the nursing staff at GVH faces none of these problems. I believe we can credit our administration for ensuring we have more than enough nurses, ample education opportunities, great nurse-to-patient ratios and awesome morale."
Also involved in the community, Pike has worked to help improve health and safety in the community by serving on a Victim’s Advocacy Board, Substance Abuse Coalition, Domestic Violence Coalition and Child Protection Team. She works as a 4H leader and is creating a Fitness and Nutrition Program for school-aged children as well as for seniors.
For the Nightingale Awards, Pike described her love for nursing as that "indescribable something that is inherent to all nurses to take on the roles and tasks for the greater good, better outcomes, or simply just to make someone a bit more comfortable."
Always looking for the next challenge, Pike said she plans to pursue more avenues in the future, including an advanced practice degree. Describing her career in just two words, Pike said it has been "action packed."