Paeton Watkins

Paeton Watkins, the 2019 Rippy Fellow, recently spent an evening shift shadowing staff at Stillwater Medical Center’s ER. Watkins credits nurse Owen Allen, with teaching her about compassion and care not only for the patient, but for their family as well. Watkins stated that a lot of what she learned from Mr. Allen was watching how he interacted with those under his care.

Paeton Watkins’ Rippy Fellowship program is designed to give her an insider’s view at a wide variety of healthcare careers. 

Recently, Watkins shadowed Dr. Robert Breedlove, dermatologist and founder of the Breedlove Externship, another Stillwater Medical Foundation internship. 

Dr. Breedlove has met with every intern since the program began in 1984. He told Paeton that each time a student shadows, he asks them, “If you had the opportunity to go back and have a do-over, would do something different with your life, would you change your career or not and why?” Dr. Breedlove explained to her the most interesting parts of their answers always lie in the “why.” 

Not long after, as Paeton shadowed Owen Allen, a nurse in Stillwater Medical Center’s ER, she asked him Dr. Breedlove’s question. Allen stated he would always choose nursing as his career, that it is his passion.

“I came into nursing to be able to advocate for my patients and put them first; to help people and change lives, Allen explained. “That’s why I got into nursing. It still amazes me that I get to do those things every day.”

Owen’s response made a profound impact on Paeton. “It wasn’t so much the words he said,” she shared, “I knew his answer from his actions.”

For example, when I first arrived at the Emergency Room for my shift and I was placed with Owen, he quickly had to step away from the nurses station to take a phone call. He came back, apologized for the call, and sat back down. Within a few moments he had to step out again. He came back, and this time, he told me he felt like he owed me an explanation for why he was back and forth. He told me about how his dog was having medical issues, specifically seizures, and he was trying to educate someone on how to help his beloved best friend. I was immediately empathetic, I have two dogs of my own and could not imagine being in that situation. I offered to shadow someone else, to ease his stress and not add more to his already full schedule. He said it was no bother for me to stay with him, and I asked if he was certain. It was his reply that surprised me. He said, “Of course, this is part of the medical field. You put your patients, their feelings, their lives, their needs, over your own.” I had thought about it before, but no one had ever said it to me. I realized how truly important it was, and that if you can’t do that or don’t want to, then you probably shouldn’t go into the medical field. 

Paeton watched as Owen cared for an elderly patient who, in addition to other needs, was nonverbal and had a disoriented cognitive state.

“He was so kind and compassionate,” relayed Miss Watkins. “He communicated with a family member and let them know what was going on. I’ve never seen someone so dedicated to their patient’s well-being, in and out of the hospital. He didn’t just show compassion and care to his patients, but their family members too.”

There was one more thing that really stood out to Paeton. Throughout her internship, she’s noticed when patients are asked if they need or want anything, their immediate reply is no.

“Maybe they’re worried they will hold up their nurse or doctor from their other patients. For whatever reason, they almost always say they’re fine,” she noted. However, every time Owen left a patient room, he assured them he had time for whatever they may have needed and not to hesitate to ask him at any time.

“You could see how much this eased the patients and their loved ones’ anxiety,” she stated. “It’s healthcare professionals like Owen that remind me why I want to go into this field. He takes the time to make them comfortable, to assure them he has time for their needs, and he inspires those of us fortunate enough to observe the job he does.”

For additional information about the summer internship program, please visit smc-foundation.org or you can reach Jeffery Corbett, Senior Program Officer, at jcorbett@stillwater-medical.org

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