Serving with pride, ASU nursing alumna opens up about her career as a VA nurse
Persistent, positive and practical. Those are the immediate adjectives that come to mind after interviewing Jaime Buchholz for this alumni spotlight piece.
“I got three rejection letters before I got into nursing school,” she said.
For most people, one or two letters would be enough to call it quits a third would definitely signal the end of the road, but not for Buchholz.
The Gilbert, Arizona native stayed true to her dream and as fate would have it, got into the summer accelerated program at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU which meant almost all of her clinicals were at the Phoenix VA Hospital.
“During my last semester I got the externship at the VA so I was paid and I got hands-on nursing experience in between my clinical days, which got me hired that following October to become a nurse at the VA where I’ve been ever since!”
That was nearly 6 years ago. Buchholz graduated with her BSN from Edson College in August 2013.
Since then, she’s gone on to earn her Master’s of Science in nursing and started working with ASU students during their clinicals at the VA but has no plans to pursue teaching full time at this point.
“I always love when students come to my unit but I am not ready to leave the bedside yet. I thoroughly enjoy my patients and the connections I make with them and their families.”
Those connections have become an integral part of her work. Buchholz’s patient population is known for their toughness which can make it hard for them to be forthcoming.
So, she’s learned to meet their reluctance with a positive approach, making it a point to get to know all of her patients.
“Who wants to tell the 27-year-old girl that there’s blood in their stool? It’s embarrassing. But when we sit and talk and we bond they’re more likely to tell me stuff, especially veterans who can be stubborn and hesitant to admit they’re uncomfortable or having a problem.”
Taking that extra time with patients and opening up the lines of communication - no matter how awkward the topic - has been a game changer.
Her outlook and technique make Buchholz standout but it’s this next thing that truly sets her apart.
Like many medical professionals, she has witnessed death up close, it is an inevitable part of the job. As a result of her experiences, she’s developed a reverence for the end of life and come to a pretty compelling conclusion.
“There is no greater honor than giving someone their last bath, whether that is before or after they pass. I have seen our nation's heroes at their most vulnerable and have been a part of their last moments on this earth, and I am thankful for each of those moments.”
It’s such a beautiful sentiment and perspective about a topic that is often met with fear and avoidance.
Full disclosure, Buchholz didn’t start out with this outlook. She’s had her fair share of ups and downs, hard lessons learned and worry-filled nights especially early-on in her career.
“I was most scared for my first code, so when we did what we could and they left us to go to the ICU, that’s a very scary moment where you play that ‘what could I have done differently, did I do something wrong?’ Those are the moments you wonder what could I have done.”
She says finding an outlet and processing what’s happened are key in order to move on. For her that includes talking to friends, snuggling with her adorable dog Sulley, watching Disney movies and sometimes having ice cream for dinner.
“These conversations are tough, and I know some nurses who don’t like to talk about death at all.”
Her advice for new alumni and current students is, “understand your triggers. If death is a hard thing for you, don’t take your first job in a hospice facility because while embracing your discomfort can help you grow, you don’t want to be miserable and kill your soul. Understand your limits and grow to them.”