Nurse Anesthesia resident Heidi Lee, along with class president Rob Walsh, was recently a recipient of the Webster University Dean’s Service Award. Lee’s receiving the award was no accident: she’s one of the most active students in a program known for its go-getters.
“Heidi is always making things happen,” says program director Julie Stone. “She helps her class function as a strong cohort.”
The Wisconsin native admits her penchant for organizing activities followed her from her undergrad days at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “But you know what? If you’re organized, you look better, which makes our program look better, which makes us all look better,” she says.
“There is so much stress that goes on in this career, but it is rewarding stress,” Lee says. “You have someone’s life in your hands from the time you start the anesthetic until the time you leave them in the recovery room. You are responsible for how that person recovers and lives the rest of their life. And that person has a family and friends—it’s a lot of lives you’re impacting, so it’s a big responsibility to provide safe, consistent anesthesia.”
It is this high-stakes environment that helps classmates in the program form tight, lasting bonds. “It is kind of like a family,” says Lee, who’s been known to plan the occasional happy hour or two. “With all that responsibility, you’ve got to make sure you laugh a lot, stay lighthearted. Because you also must be able to see the big picture at all times and know when to focus on things and bear down.”
Lee was a nurse for 10 years before she decided to enter nurse anesthesia—largely at the impetus of nurse anesthetists with whom she worked. “I’ve always been the type of student to keep taking classes, to make sure I’m fresh with my skills,” she explains. “And this program really requires you to make sure you are current. There is so much information that’s constantly coming in and changing the way things are done.”
As a nurse in intensive care units and in recovery rooms, Lee also frequently interacted with Webster graduates and faculty. “I could see the quality in the way their patients came out of surgery,” she says. “That really says a lot about how they managed their anesthetic. Their patients—whether they were relatively healthy or very sick—they always came out looking good, stable, comfortable. That says something, you know: good goes in, good comes out.”