Monday, July 26, 2010

Q&A with Mike O'Donnell, RN

O'Donnell in episode five

In episode five of ABC's "Boston Med," which aired July 22, Mike O'Donnell, RN, helps save the life of a young patient, Olivia Quigley.

How long have you been a nurse?I've been a nurse just about 15 years; 10 of those have been at Mass General. I talked about it a little bit in the episode, but basically, I had never really thought about being a nurse until a close family friend sort of saw the "writing on the wall" for me and thought it was something I should consider. She was a nurse herself and asked me to think about it. So I gave it some thought, and here I am.

In the ER, you provide care for some of the sickest patients. How do you handle the stress and intensity of the job?It's been a learning curve, especially in the ER, where you witness a lot of tragedy. You have to first focus on what you're doing -- and then there's a kind of disconnect that enables you to kind of do it. This wasn’t something that was obvious to me in the beginning, and I would carry a lot of the sad stuff around with me. For the sake of self preservation, you don't have to stop being a compassionate person -- but you do have to try to keep your work at arm's length. I try to leave work at work, and when I get home, I try to appreciate how lucky I am, especially having seen what I’ve seen and having the health and good fortune that I have. And sometimes I go surfing, which helps.

What was it like to be filmed and followed by a film crew while working in the ER?It was a little uncomfortable at first -- maybe not uncomfortable, but just odd. I'm really used to moving around and doing my own thing, and not having to stop and talk about it. But the crew was really good at staying out of everybody's way and being inconspicuous and mindful of what was going on. And after a while, the more I got to know the field producers, the more comfortable I felt with them being around. Not only were they good at what they did, but they were nice people, and I enjoyed their company.

Where did you watch the episode you were featured in? Who were you with -- and what did they think?I watched it at a local bar with some friends and colleagues, including Adriana, an ER nurse, and Amanda, another ER nurse who was featured in the series. The feedback I've gotten so far was really good. My only goal, and really the reason I was interested in participating in the series, was to show people what nursing is -- to help them understand what it is that we do and why it is so valuable to the hospital and to patient care.

What was your reaction after watching the episode?It's weird to see yourself on TV, but I thought ABC, the editors and all the people who worked on the series did a great job of putting it together. I felt a little awkward watching it, but I walked out of the place feeling pretty good. The episode showed nursing in a positive light and in a way that people might not always get a chance to see.

Have any of your patients mentioned the show to you since seeing it?None of my patients have said anything yet, but a few people have recognized me here and there and mentioned that they're enjoying the show and that it’s nice to see nurses showcased. I've also gotten some requests for the turkey vulture dance.

After editing the footage, it's possible some things were left out from the story. Was there anything you wanted to add to what ABC portrayed?What they showed was what was most important in terms of the stuff that would leave an impression on people. They did do some filming at home with my family that I would've liked to have seen -- but I wasn’t disappointed in what they didn’t show. There's a lot for them to fit into one episode.

Have you let your kids watch the show?They've seen clips on the computer, but they're 7 and 5 years old, so I don't think they can watch the whole thing. I think I'm going to show them the turkey vulture dance. That's how their dad is at home -- so it won't be a surprise to them.

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