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Nurses In Action: An Interview With Claire McElderry, RN, BSN, from Block Island Medical Center

Interview done by Janelle Amoako, MS, FNP-BC

How long have you been working at the Block Island Medical Center?

For three years; I was at Rhode Island Hospital’s Surgical ICU before then.

Going from the mainland to Block Island, what was that transition like?

Working part-time in the surgical ICU to now have a full-time job on Block Island is very different. Personal bonuses for me are that I can walk to work, I can ride my bike to work, and there’s no commute. When I was in the ICU, people came to me with IVs already inserted; it was a learning hospital, so doctors were learning as they were doing surgery. When I came to Block Island, I didn’t know how to put an IV in, so I had to learn some of the more basic nursing skills leaving the mainland.

When you took this position, was that your first time living on the Island? Or did you live on the Island all along?

I’ve lived on Block Island since 2000. This is a second career for me––my first career was in environmental science which I worked in for about 20 years. Then I just wanted to do something different. Nursing had always been something I was interested in, so I decided in 2014 to go back to school for it. The whole time, though, I was living on Block Island and commuting to the University of Rhode Island. When I had the opportunity to come back and work on Block Island, I jumped on it. I had done some internships here while I was in school and in the summer, worked with Linda (the nurse that was here prior), so I learned a lot.

What do you think is something that people would be surprised to learn about the Block Island Medical Center? Give people a snapshot of what it’s like to work here!

I think people would be surprised at how busy we are, yet how much we get done with a small staff. I’m the only consistent clinical person that’s here 52 weeks a year so it can be hard, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work in my community.

If you were talking to a new grad RN, what would be your advice for someone interested in a community health role? Or interested in terms of following a trajectory similar to yours?

Jump in! Don’t be scared. Coming in older to the profession, I think I was hesitant and I probably thought too much about a lot of things. Don’t be scared to jump in––that’s the only way you’re going to learn. If you can get ahold of a preceptorship, I think they’re really valuable. I had a residency program at Rhode Island and I thought that program was well done.

What would you say to that person who is thinking about a career shift? There are a lot of people that, like you said, come into nursing at different stages. But also people that have been nursing for years and maybe they’re feeling very burnt out…what would you say to that person?

It’s never too late. Make a goal, stick to it, and be determined to finish. It’s never too late to change.