Erica Brewer, OR Nurse

Rx for Success: OR Nurse Erica Brewer Schedules Travel Nursing Around Farm Life with Vivian

In Vivian Health’s ongoing Rx for Success series, we profile a healthcare provider from our platform each week, highlighting critical career moments fueling their renewed passion for healthcare.

Recently, Vivian spoke with Erica Brewer, RN, about her life as an operating room (OR) nurse and owner of a family vegetable farm in rural Wisconsin. She talks about both passions regularly on her TikTok account, FarmWifeNurseLife, where her posts run the gamut from beekeeping demonstrations to situations that she comes across as a travel OR nurse, like the unintended consequences of patients inserting foreign objects into their bodies.

Some of those stories are too . . . um . . . sensitive for Vivian to reprint, but she recounted for us one charming tale of a little boy who so badly wanted to keep a rock he found on a school field trip that he hid it in his ear. It was later successfully surgically removed.

OR Nurse Erica Brewer

Guiding New Caregivers as a Veteran OR Nurse

As a nurse in the second decade of her career, Brewer has indeed seen quite a bit. But it was in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that she found herself putting that experience to new use.

“I was seeing new caregivers coming in post-pandemic, even medical residents, and because of the pandemic and their education, having little hands-on experience,” she recounted.

Due to their limited clinical training versus classroom training, these new cohorts were sometimes looked down on by their peers at short-staffed healthcare facilities.

Brewer told us, “I really tried to put myself in the shoes of these poor new staff [members] coming in, human beings like me, just wanting to start their dream profession and maybe not being as welcomed as previously.”

In this unusual period, Brewer found herself working to upskill not only novice nurses but also medical students and residents.

“I’ll never forget, there was a medical student that was with a surgeon in a case, and they were putting on their gown and gloves, and the surgeon was absolutely frustrated with the medical student that they didn’t know the nuances of doing that,” she recalled.

The surgeon criticized the med student in front of the team and asked Brewer to train them.

“I mean, that’s just a kick in the gut,” she said of the student. “Just seeing the deflated eyes and heart of this poor student who’s just there to learn, I went out, and I was the morale boost.” 

Brewer explained that in regular times, facilities have dedicated staff to conduct such training, but lately, facilities have even asked travel nurses like herself to step into that role. 

Brewer described this period as her opportunity “to be a fresh face to uplift some of the new nursing students, to just give them the reinforcement that they’re doing the right thing or spend a little extra time to help them solidify their own skills.”

One Career Path into OR Nursing

OR Nurse Erica Brewer - New

Years ago, Brewer’s own healthcare journey started as a certified nursing assistant and then getting her certification as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for several volunteer fire departments as she worked her way through nursing school.

“Having that EMT experience, I did my internship as a nurse in the emergency room (ER), but when it came time for graduation, that ER didn’t have any openings,” she explained.

As an alternative, Brewer found work as an operating room nurse fresh out of school, a leap not often made by a starting nurse.

“There were already hiring gaps in that particular specialty, so they were willing to take me in and teach me right out of school,” she explained. “It was a very intense six-month orientation process.”

Brewer later left operating room nursing for a while to try an ER urgent care nurse role, but that stint only reinforced that OR nursing was her true passion.

“I can honestly say I don’t think I would’ve lasted as long as a nurse if it wasn’t for operating room nursing. I really appreciate the balance that this profession has given me of being able to be one-on-one with a patient, be their voice and keep them safe,” she said.

Brewer outlined the responsibilities in OR nursing, including preparing the OR, such as inventory and sterilization of instrumentation, lining up all the necessary medications and preparing padding and positioning equipment. Responsibilities also include preparing the patient at the incision site, preparing dressings and coordinating with other departments that may be needed, such as radiology. 

Brewer sees one of the key benefits of OR nursing as being able to focus intently on one patient at a time with a smart team of caregivers. 

“Within that room, there’s an anesthesiologist, a surgeon, oftentimes a physician assistant, and then also a surgical tech,” Brewer explained, “so, there are multiple minds in that room to care for that one patient, and I love that collaboration.”

Balancing Farming and Nursing with Vivian

Erica Brewer, Operating Room RN

Travel and per diem nursing have allowed Brewer to maintain a passion for farming that goes back to her childhood. 

“Our family business as a kid was raising horses in a very rural area,” she recalled. “Once my work was done, we’d go down the road and help on the neighbor’s dairy farm. We would help each other quite often.”

As an adult, Brewer and her family purchased their own farmland in 2016, where they do vegetable farming, raise 16 hives of bees and operate a food truck. Brewer sees a connection between a farmer’s work ethic and nursing. 

“I’d always appreciated that agricultural lifestyle and the work that comes into growing food – just the hard work of those farm families,” she said. “I think that’s really also shaped who I am as a nurse and just appreciating the work that goes into a surgical case to get the job done successfully.”

To find nursing work that fits around the busiest parts of the farm season, Brewer turns to Vivian. She explained that Vivian provides an easy way to keep herself organized, particularly regarding her certifications in healthcare.

“Whether it be basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, those certifications have expirations to them,” Brewer explained. “Vivian gives you reminders before they are due to expire. It’s wonderful because, in the staff setting, you usually have a manager who keeps track of that, but you don’t always have that advantage as a traveler.”

Travel and per diem nursing allow Brewer to create a lifestyle that blends all her passions.

“I can really have a balance of the quality of life and enjoying my family, my other passions and endeavors, and still honoring the skills and the opportunities that I’ve been given to be a nurse in the operating room and not walk away from it,” she said.

Find your own balance between quality of life, family and passions through per diem and travel nursing roles on Vivian.

Michael Hines

Michael Hines is a freelance researcher and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. For 20 years, he's written on various healthcare topics, including healthcare employment, telemedicine, healthcare legislation, obesity, immunotherapy and genomics. He also writes about technology and AI, public policy, finance and investing, consumer products and corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.

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