Experience as a Teen Drew Woman to Nursing

‘We’re the soldiers on the battlefield,’ says Upstate University Hospital nurse

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

As a teenager, Syracuse resident Naquia “Kia” Worrell inexplicably wanted to be a stockbroker. To this day, she’s not sure why she thought that was a good idea, but an experience while she worked as a kitchen aide in a nursing home changed her career aspirations and her life. One day she saw a patient in the dining room fall out of a chair, choking.

“It was traumatizing,” Worrell recalled. “I was 17. They didn’t teach us CPR.”

She immediately alerted a staff member whose only response was, “It’s not my patient.”

The calloused attitude shocked Worrell. The patient did receive help from another staff member and was all right.

Worrell told a supervisor about what happened and asked, “’How do I become her boss?’” she said. “That started me on the road to take nursing training. It developed in me a passion for helping people.”

Worrell earned her Associate in Applied Science degree at St. Joseph’s College of Nursing in 2012, and, from the University of Phoenix, her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2016 and Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in nursing education in 2018.

Her initial goal was to go back to the nursing home at age 20 and rectify the lax attitude nurses had about the care provided for the residents; however, during her education, she was exposed to emergency room nursing. She felt that offered a way to touch the community and influence many others for good health.

After receiving her RN credential in 2012, she was one of four graduates selected to work at the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

She worked there for three years and transitioned to Upstate University Hospital in 2015.

“I needed a change, as I was getting my bachelor’s degree and I had my daughter,” she said.

She started working in ambulatory care in the pulmonary clinic, coordinating care for patients who have returned home after a hospital stay.

“I was able to see nursing from a completely different view and try to keep my patients out of the hospital and make plans to keep them healthy and form relationships that last years,” Worrell said.

Once she earned her master’s degree, she was tapped to head the pulmonary hypertension program.

“We hope to have that regionally accredited by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, a national organization, by 2021,” Worrell said.

Upstate University Hospital had hoped to complete that project by the end of 2020; however, COVID-19 has taken time and resources away from the accreditation efforts, she said.

COVID-19 has also affected the day-to-day activities of nurses.

“It’s challenging all nurses to be flexible and creative in the way we do our daily care to our patients,” Worrell said. “We’re also being challenged to be better team players and support one another. Our communities are looking to us as leaders. We’re the soldiers on the battlefield along with other personnel and they’re looking to us for guidance to keep them safe. We can use our platform to better service our community.”

Even outside the crisis, personnel shortages make nursing difficult. To meet those challenges, “nurses become flexible and adaptable with what we’re given,” Worrell said, “but if we had more, we could serve the community so much better. Nurses can be such a huge help to make sure patients are not only doing well at the hospital but also make sure they take care of their health throughout their lives.”

That’s one of the aspects of nursing Worrell enjoys the most: making a difference in patients’ lives, whether it’s listening to a patient or saving a life.

Worrell said that those considering nursing should follow their hearts.“If you have always had a feeling that you want to be able to help people, it’s a very giving profession. There’s no applause for any one person. It’s not one of those ‘recognition professions.’ If you enjoy taking care of people and want to see others be their best self, go for it.”

She believes that people interested in nursing should have good communication skills with people of all backgrounds and a positive outlook.

Worrell hopes to someday change how nurses are able to advocate for patients on a broader basis to all sorts of healthcare providers.

“Whatever that looks like, whatever role I’m in, I want to make those types of changes,” Worrell said. “I want to get back to nursing homes to ensure changes happen. They should get the care they deserve. They have lives and stories. They deserve dignity. The CNAs need to be weeded out if this isn’t for them. They need to learn compassion and to appreciate the people.”

In her free time, Worrell likes to spend time with her daughter and fiancé as well as perform in her band, Menage a Soul, which perform at venues like Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, wineries and festivals.