Nathan Crumley is an assistant nurse manager in Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center. His motivation for a profession devoted to burn patients predates his desire for a nursing career.
When Crumley was 18 his father was in an accident and severely burned. Watching the care his father received back home in North Carolina motivated him to return the favor and to ultimately pursue a nursing career.
He graduated from the University of Memphis and earned a master’s degree from University of Tennessee Health Science Center before coming on board at Firefighters Burn Center in 2014. Crumley’s interest in burn care centered on social support for those patients.
He had ideas for what support groups should look like while he was a student. Once he started working at Regional One Health he had the opportunity to work on the plan that would become a burn mentorship program.
The mentorship program is for patients and their families, and volunteer training began last year. Crumley is excited about the program’s possibilities for burn patients. It’s just one way a nursing career at Regional One Health allows him to help patients transition back to life.
Crumley remembers the support his family received during his father’s care back in North Carolina. That personal connection to burn families is why he wanted a nursing career, specifically at Regional One Health and the Firefighters Burn Center.
I really set my sights here on Regional One Health for that reason,” Crumley said. “There are not many burn centers close to here.”
Not everyone who works in Firefighters Burn Center has a personal connection to burn patients – or, in some cases, actually is a former burn patient. But there is a tight bond among everyone who walks through those doors. Crumley said it starts with the heat of the unit, which is kept warmer to help patients with body temperature regulation.
“There is a communal bond of sweat, so to speak, down there,” Crumley said. “The Burn Center has its own emergency Department, our own burn ICU, burn Step Down. It’s all the same nurses. As a staff we just bounce around. In fact, being able to have that quiet night as a nurse in Step Down but then able to spring into action to meet a helicopter on the roof you won’t find in a lot of places.”
That opportunity to bounce back and forth gives burn nurses the ability to prioritize effectively while sharpening a variety of nursing skills.
“Whenever I have someone interview for a job I always tell them they get a little taste of being a PACU nurse, ED nurse, Step Down and wound care by working here,” Crumley said. “We have people who are very dedicated burn nurses, and then some who are newer to the profession and come in and get those important skills and go on to do different things. Burn Center nursing gives you such a unique skill set that you can apply anywhere in health care.”
Crumley said he and the other nurses often get close to patients. Since the unit is self-contained, patients stay through their most critical care all the way to when they return for outpatient care.
“When they return for outpatient care and they have a Bluetooth in and normal clothes on and give you a high five, it brings the nursing experience full circle,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see your hard work and sweat walk in that door. Burns take a long time to heal, and to see them come back and show you pictures of their kids, it’s awesome.”