On her career path, Vicky Tilman took the long way around to find fulfillment. Once a legal secretary at a Moncks Corner law office, an ailing father, an unfulfilled dream and a leap of faith, combined to give her purpose and a glowing sense of pride. And as the stressors of a pandemic unfolded both personally and professionally, she still wanted to learn more.
“I didn’t become a nurse until I was 41. I had a whole other career prior to this,” Tilman said. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse but life takes its turns.”
After spending 17-years at the law office, Tilman diligently cared for her sick father, the caregiving rekindled old desires. “I thought if I could take care of my father that way, I could take care of anybody,” she said.
The military wife soon quit her job and started the journey to become a nurse. She ended up as an RN at Trident Health’s Medical Center in Moncks Corner. The emergency room there sees about 15,000 patients a year and of course, beginning last year, COVID-19 put additional demands on healthcare workers.
“It was a very scary time; it still is scary at times, but we know so much more about it,” Tilman said. “We have learned so much more about patients that get this virus.”
But early on as the virus numbers began to climb locally and some health care workers were stretched to their limits, Tilman added a new dynamic—learn more about emergency care and become the only Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) at the Moncks Corner Facility.
So, as if working through a pandemic wasn’t stressful enough, beginning in August she started out to get the certification. She often had to study for the certification test after working a 12-hour shift in the emergency room.
“COVID and the pandemic has consumed so much of everybody’s time and every body’s thinking; it’s hard not to think about it,” Tilman said. “So obviously trying to learn other things, push all that in there and still have the pandemic, just making sure you’re safe and your family is safe and you’re not bringing anything home to your family, those things certainly played a role in a lot of stress.”
So why didn’t she wait until things are less stressful and the virus loosens its grip? Maybe it’s Tilman’s sense of urgency, when now is the time. “You can work together with the physicians and make somebody better sooner,” said Tilman.
Towards the end of 2020 Tilman took the test and passed, giving her a national CES accreditation, it’s given her new insight into how to work with physicians, nurses and patients.
“It encompasses everything, it just allows you to have more knowledge, so you can utilize critical thinking,” she said. “So if someone comes to the door, what someone may recognize as minor, you may see something and say, ‘this is more than a minor injury.’”
Tilman is now 12-years into her healthcare career and it’s safe to say, the lifelong learner, has found her place on the frontline during a pandemic. “This is not being corny, I truly appreciate taking care of the community,” she said. “This is a dream I had, it just took me a long time to get it.”