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Centra In The News

My journey into healthcare: Cathy Truxell, RN-BC

Published on Tuesday March 5, 2024
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As a little girl, Cathy Truxell didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up, but she knew she wanted to be helpful. After graduating from high school, she began working at a drugstore and moved from being a clerk to an assistant manager and then a manager. While she enjoyed interacting with people on a daily basis, she didn’t find the role fulfilling. About this time, she began thinking about what she wanted to do long term, desiring to find a job that would provide benefits and a stable income.

After taking an aptitude test at Central Virginia Community College, Cathy was directed towards pursuing a job in medical records and began taking a class in medical terminology. As she learned about the field of medicine, she realized that she didn’t want to only be working within the patient chart, so she began taking anatomy and physiology classes too. 

Because Cathy had finally found something she was passionate about, she applied herself to her studies and continued taking the prerequisites for nursing school at night while working during the day. This led to her attending the Lynchburg General Hospital School of Nursing.

While she explained, “I liked all the rotations in nursing school, everything was so interesting,” Cathy’s two favorite rotations were on the Maternal/Child Unit and the Psychiatric Unit. After serving as a nurse extern on the Maternal/Child Unit which at the time encompassed post-partum, labor and delivery, the newborn nursery, pediatrics and the intensive care nursery, Cathy applied for a new unit that was opening at Virginia Baptist Hospital–the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit.

As she began working on the unit, she realized the impact that she could have on young patients just by making an extra effort to connect with them. Caring for adolescent patients helped her to learn, “What you see is not what you get. You have to look past behavior. It’s a whole different thing to care for a teenager that’s sick.” 

Cathy found herself being drawn to children and teens who were difficult to care for or who would present behavior challenges in an effort to keep people away, but this didn’t deter her. Instead, she found that patients needed someone who would work to relate to them and wouldn’t give up when it was tough.

Her work on the unit also helped Cathy to learn that an essential tool she could utilize was herself. In other words, while a nurse in the ICU might use a ventilator as a tool for care, the nurse in a behavioral health setting will need to rely heavily on their own communication with the patient.

She went on to emphasize, “It’s not easy because you’re doing a double duty. Playing the game [with a pediatric patient] but also making an assessment. We play a lot because they’re kids but we’re applying the nursing process. It’s different in how you apply it, but we still assess, plan, intervene and evaluate. It’s just a unique application.”

When asked what the most challenging part of her career has been Cathy shared that the changes in length of stay and criteria for treating someone have fluctuated through the years. When the pediatric and adolescent unit first opened, the average length of stay was 30 days and at other times it was as short as three to five days. Working to adapt to these changes, their team would focus on what they could do rather than what they couldn’t do.

Her favorite part of her 38-year career? From patients and their families to nursing students and her own team—it’s the people she’s met. Cathy explained that she continues to learn empathy, citing the fact that you never know what someone else is going through, and no one is immune to having mental issues, family issues or social issues. 

For her, faith drives so much of her approach to caring for patients because she believes that each patient is a person just like her and that they have more in common than what might meet the eye, going on to convey the sentiment, “You’re always caring for someone’s child. Everyone is someone’s somebody.”