Real Life Nursing: Krista Holcomb, Coming Back Paid Off

Krista HolcombKrista Holcomb, RN, BSN, nurse manager fellow, Preop/PACU, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Davie Medical Center, joined the organization in September 1991. She leads a staff of 25 teammates providing care for patients before and after surgical procedures. 

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

When I was young, my mom was hospitalized several times. Visiting her in the hospital, I found that it was an environment that I felt comfortable in. There were some great nurses who would talk to me and mentor me. I wanted to be like them and choose a career that would be challenging and rewarding at the same time. 

Why did you choose Wake Forest Baptist?

I came here in 1991, from Canada, purely by chance. A friend and I were supposed to do travel nursing, but those plans fell apart. We reached out to Wake Forest Baptist after seeing an ad in a nursing magazine. The recruiter was so kind and helpful; she set everything up for us, and we moved here. I remember thinking how big the hospital was, and while a little intimidating, it was exciting to be part of a well-known academic medical center. 

What has kept you here so long? 

Opportunity. When I arrived, I had been working in a small med-surg hospital in Ontario. I started here on the Neurosurgery floor and learned many things I would not have experienced otherwise. From there, I moved to the Trauma ICU for nine years and worked with a great team, which I loved. Working in an academic medical center allowed me to be part of some great leading-edge care. I loved learning alongside the residents and working collaboratively with them. After I had a family, I found the demands of the ICU a challenge, so I moved to the Outpatient PACU in 2005. That allowed a better life-work balance while still feeling challenged. I had a great mentor, who encouraged me to grow into a leadership role, which led to my current position. Being part of a large medical center provides opportunities to change jobs internally to meet your personal needs while still keeping your seniority. 

Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced during your career and how it has helped you cope during tough times.

Nursing is constantly changing. There were days in the PACU that were so busy, you would think you would never get to go home. Staffing challenges, bed shortages—days like that can be the most difficult but also the most fulfilling when your team comes together and pushes through. I have witnessed that during COVID-19, too. It’s important to remember that these tough times will pass, but the sense of teamwork remains. Feeling the support from your coworkers helps you get through the tough days. 

What makes a nursing career successful? 

A successful career is the ability to look back and see how much you have grown over the years—how much you have learned, the friendships you have made and the positive experiences you have provided for patients and family members. A positive experience may not always have a happy ending. It may be that you gave someone support and compassion on one of the worst days of their life. 

What would you say to a colleague who may be thinking about leaving Wake Forest Baptist? 

I would encourage them to hit the ‘pause’ button and evaluate why they may be leaving and what they would change about their current position to be happier. A while back, I left Wake Forest Baptist for a new job that sounded amazing. While I enjoyed some parts, it wasn’t what I thought it would be and it impacted my work/life balance more negatively than I anticipated. About a year later, I was glad to come “home,” but I lost my seniority. That was a hard pill to swallow, and it matters over the years. Starting that clock over is challenging. 

Currently, competition is creating opportunities to make more money, which may be tempting, but money is not always the answer. Look within our organization. We have many opportunities here to expand your career while retaining your seniority and that sense of familiarity. If you are unhappy, are there things you can do within your unit to improve it? Are there projects that can challenge you? Is school an option? 

I have always felt that no nurse should stay in a job where he or she is unhappy. It has a negative impact on your patients and teammates. But that doesn’t mean the answer is leaving a medical center that provides so many opportunities. In 1991, I would never have predicted that I would still be with the same hospital or that I would have grown into the nurse I am today because of staying here.