ER Nurse / Lactation Consultant

The career of a nurse often has many twist and turns.  The experience a nurse builds in his or her career can often lead to very different areas of specialization that could only be accomplished with the nursing background.

Liz Pevytoe worked as an emergency room nurse for 5 years until she was able to find her dream career as a lactation consultant.    Liz was kind enough to share her experiences as an RN and to illustrate how she evolved as a nurse into what she does now as a successful lactation consultant.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the ER as a nurse?

I spent 5 years in a rural Texas ER. It was the only hospital within a 40 mile radius, so we saw all kinds of clients.  We would stabalize clients and fly them to trauma centers as needed. On a daily basis, I would care for clients with anything from a common cold to an amputated finger and everything in between.

  How did you get into the ER department?

I applied. Apparently, I rocked the interview. They told me that my answer to “How do you feel during a code? ” Got me the job. My answer was “Pumped and excited”.  I had 6 months experience as a medical surgical nurse prior to my applying for the emergency position.

How did you like your hours as an ER Nurse?

My favorite shift as an ER nurse was the 3p-3a spot. It was a busy shift and I like busy.

Can you give us an idea of  some common cases as an ER Nurse?

Common cases we saw were: chest pain, abdominal pain, common colds/flu, and traumatic injuries.

What were some of your likes and dislikes as an ER Nurse?

I loved the experience and confidence I gained as an ER nurse. I truly feel I can excel as a RN in almost any area because of that experience.

My biggest dislike was the emotional drain of the job. Having to perform rape exams was beyond horrific. And caring for friends/family loved ones in a dark time was also taxing. In the end, the emotional aspect was why I left that position.

What are some qualities that an ER nurse should have in order to be exceptional?

I don’t know if I am a good one to ask this since I only spent 5 years there and left over 10 years ago. But if I had to answer, it would be : an ER nurse must be a fast thinker, excellent at improvising and be a superstar at multitasking.

At some point you decided to change your career path a bit and you became a lactation consultant, can you describe how that happened?

I had a baby, that is how it happened. I knew that I did not want to continue working 12-14 hour shifts in the fatiguing ER and raise a family. So, I began working at a pediatricians office during my pregnancy. After my baby was born, I breastfed her. When I returned to work part time, a doctor I was working with took notice that I was counseling moms on breastfeeding. He encouraged me to become a lactation consultant.  While I was obtaining my international board certification, I began teaching prenatal classes at a local hospital. That is when I discovered that education was a passion.

What exactly do you do as a lactation consultant?   And how do you get your clientele?  What is it that made lactation consulting the right fit for you and how did nursing play a part in your evolution to this current career?

I work as an RN, IBCLC both at a local hospital as a perinatal educator teaching childbirth and breastfeeding classes and in private practice as a lactation consultant assisting new moms with breastfeeding. In my private practice, I travel to the parents home locally and assist them with breastfeeding. I also provide online consultations via video chat and/or phone consultations to clients all over the world through my website.  My client base comes from physician or hospital referrals and online referrals from my website. I am very active on all the social networks. I am also active in local birth networks, where midwives and doulas refer to me as well.

Teaching and assisting moms is not just a job for me, it is a dream job. There is something magical about seeing a client become empowered in class or a mom find success in breastfeeding.

Were I not an RN, I don’t know that the same opportunities would have presented themselves to me. Many hospitals will not hire an IBCLC unless he/she is also a registered nurse.

Could you offer any final words of advice to nurses looking to get into this profession?

First of all, make sure it is something you are passionate about. Obtaining the IBCLC certifiication takes years and thousands of dollars. And there is no guarantee you will find employment as an IBCLC. There are only a handful of IBCLC’s at each hospital. I would strongly urge nurses to investigate positions before investing the time and expense into the certification. Private practice is fabulous but it does take 2-3 years to build a clientele large enough to provide consistent income.

Follow Liz on Twitter at @askthelc. Like her Ask the Lactation Consultant group on Facebook.