Nightingale College’s learner body includes individuals from all walks of life, with different stories and backgrounds. From refugees to stay-at-home-moms, our learners, no matter what differences and experiences they bring to their cohort and the College, all have a similar passion: caring for others by becoming a nurse. The Learner Spotlight series features a learner who has overcome obstacles, experienced extenuating circumstances, followed a passion, or faced their fears to become a nurse. This edition of the Learner Spotlight shares the story of Tiffanee Cravens, a St. George learner whose dream to be a life-flight nurse was formed years ago after flight nurses saved her mother’s life.
Tifanee Cravens hung up the phone after a cheery afternoon chat with her mother. It was 2010, and although Cravens lived in Oregon, a few states away from her mother in rural Utah, she and her mother were in close contact. Cravens was expecting her first child, and she treasured the support from her mom.
Cravens worked as a bookkeeper for a small business. Between the work and preparing for a baby, she was pretty busy, but still took time to connect with her parents. It wasn’t unusual, then, when just a few hours after talking with her mom, her dad called her as well. She picked up the phone, and then her heart sank to her gut as her dad informed her that her mother had suffered a stroke and was being life-flighted to a hospital.
Now, nine years after the incident, Cravens is graduating from Nightingale College’s ADN program with the Fall 2018 cohort, with plans to become a flight nurse herself. She looks back on that call with her dad as a moment that would change the trajectory of her life forever.
When she first heard the terrible news, Cravens couldn’t believe it. She had been on the phone with her mom just a few hours before. “It was probably the most horrible feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Cravens said. She immediately booked a flight to Utah, but was understandably filled with apprehension. “I wasn’t sure what I was walking into,” she said. “I didn’t know if my mom would be alive. I didn’t know how my family would react.”
When she arrived, however, all nervousness melted away. “I got there and I was able to just be really calm, and I was able to be strong for my brother and my dad. I just wanted to find out what was going on with my mom, and I wanted to be there to help take care of my family,” she said. Later, she would remember how calm she felt, and it would have weight in her decision to join the medical field.
Luckily, her mom was pulling through and in the care of dedicated doctors when she arrived. As she anxiously waited to hear more news on her condition, she sought out the flight nurses who had taken care of her mom. “I was just very grateful. I had an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for them,” Cravens said. “Even more so now, because I have a better understanding of what was going on, and I’m just thankful for the knowledge that they had that saved her. She was not a simple patient. She had a lot of complications.”
The diagnosis came in: her mom had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, meaning one or more blood vessels in the brain had ruptured, causing bleeding in the brain. She survived, but she lost sight in one of her eyes, suffers memory deficits, and underwent a personality change. The change was hard for Cravens, who essentially lost the person she knew as her mom. “It was really emotional for me. I was fairly close with my mom and it hit me hard, being pregnant, and knowing that my mom would never really know my children.”
Her mother was in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit for over two months. Cravens stayed with her mom for much of the time. During this time, Cravens spoke with the nurses who took care of her mom. She had a strong desire to help people, as they were doing for her mom.
Cravens’ mother came home, but she was never the same. The role of caretaker fell to Cravens’ father. Her mother required lots of care, including help with daily care, bathing, and medications, but she could walk with a walker.
This experience with her mother sparked Cravens’ interest in the medical field, and she became a CNA in 2012. Soon after, she got her EMT certification then her paramedic license. She has now worked as a critical care tech in the ER for over four years.
She eventually moved to Utah to care for her mom, after the load became too much for her father. In fact, her father became so burnt out that Cravens was and became the only one caring for her mother, outside of some hired respite care.
The burden was heavy for Cravens. “It was really hard and sometimes, I honestly still struggle, with the personality change and everything. In a way I feel like my mom kind of became someone totally different. The old part of her, that I knew, is just totally gone sometimes. So it’s hard,” she said.
Cravens has been grateful for the nursing knowledge that has helped her provide her mother better care. She said that those skills have made it easier to determine the cares her mother needed. Just last year, Cravens was able to help her mother get the care she required through three medical emergencies. Her mom has now moved to a memory care unit full-time.
Now, as Cravens graduates as a nurse, she hopes that her experience with trauma, her experiences will give her a leg up on her dream of becoming a flight nurse.
“There are a lot of times that there are scary situations that can happen in nursing, especially in like the ER, or post-op, or a physical,” she said. “And even in my career already, I’ve have kind of just been able to step back and use my critical thinking and see what needs to be done for the patient and calmly talk with family. I’ve just been able to remain calm, and see a clear picture of what’s happening, and just assess everything that’s going on, from the patient, to the family, and between the doctors and my fellow nurses.”
We’re sure that it will be an absolute asset as a nurse! And while this clear mind will give her a leg up on flight nursing, her care for her mother helped Cravens become a compassionate nurse.
There are so many people who put their heart and soul into caring for others, as Tiffanee Cravens has done. We want to thank all of those nurses and caretakers who exercise patience, extend love, and exemplify the values of Florence Nightingale.
As Tiffanee Cravens looks forward to becoming a registered nurse, she plans on continuing to visit her mom as well as continuing to love and serve her husband and six children. As a fun side note, Cravens’ husband works as a helicopter medic for search and rescue! Once Cravens becomes a flight nurse, they’ll sure be a pair.
We wish her the best on her career adventures. Keep your eyes to the sky for her life flight chopper. FLAME FORWARD!