Q&A with Neuro/Ortho Nurse Cara Landes, RN interviews Neuro/Ortho nurse, Cara Landes, RN. Her experience has ranged from neuro/ortho to working in a trauma center and hospice. She has now launched her own business in health and lifestyle coaching,

Below Cara talks about her experiences in nursing.

Q: What is your current position?

I am a registered nurse, as well as a certified health and lifestyle coach.

Q: You've had experience in trauma nursing, neuro, and ortho - can you describe the similarities and differences between these specialties?

I would say that the similarity is that [in each type of] nursing you have to have very strong assessment skills. First, it's imperative to be able to understand the status of the patient. Second, you have to have the knowledge and skills to assist patients in meeting their goals.

As far as differences - I would say, trauma patients are very, very sick. They are unstable in a lot of ways. Many of them need one-on-one nursing care. It's very intense, very involved patient care. Whereas, with your neuro/ortho patients, a lot of them are stable, coming in for more elective surgeries. Maybe they come in for a hip replacement, a knee replacement or something like that. Overall, they're stable.

Q: How did your experiences lead you to where you are today?

In my first experience with trauma nursing, I worked at a level-two trauma center. From there, I moved to California and worked in neuro/ortho and then hospice. I would say mentors were the number one reason for my success throughout the field. [They] were excellent in what they did and many of them had been in the field for 20, 30 years. They were just great inspirations to me, [and showed me] what I could do as a nurse.

Q: In your current work, what is an average day like?

Every day, I need to do an assessment on all of my patients. I need to [find out their] baselines. After that, I need to call the doctor for any changes, look at lab values, and connect with the family so that they have some idea of what the condition of the patient is. [I also have to] educate them on the diagnosis and the patient's goals.

As a certified lifestyle coach, I work with clients one-on-one, helping them to formulate a goal. A lot of them have a goal [already, so I] identify that goal, formulate a plan, and provide support and resources.

Q: In general, are there any specific traits that work well in this career?

It takes many skills to be a strong nurse. You have to be able to juggle multiple tasks. You have to be at the top of your game all the time. In the area of entrepreneurship, a nurse brings a lot of skills with her: communication, teaching, education, leadership, and multitasking. Many nurses are self-starters - a lot of times you're not going to have a boss, per se, who's going to do your daily outline or something like that.

Q: What are some of the challenges that nurses in the field today face?

There are many different challenges that nurses face, and with the economy, I would say that nurses are more stressed.

Nurses used to have more help in the field. There are fewer nurse assistants being used. [Now], nurses are not only doing the critical care for the patient, but they are also taking their vitals, taking them to the bathroom, feeding them and those kinds of things.

Q: What opportunities exist for nurses today that may not have in the past?

Nurses have a lot of opportunities. I really think that more nurses are going to be able to see the call of entrepreneurship. There are many different fields out there that nurses can go into - home-based businesses, wound care, legal nursing, health education, just to name a few of them.

Q: What kind of changes have there been in nursing in the last few years?

For myself, like many nurses, I never realized the amount of things that would be my responsibility and would take away from direct patient care. Nurses are being given more and more responsibilities, especially with the economy being the way that it is.

Q: What should future nursing students seek in their education to prepare themselves for the career?

One thing that really helped me was taking the cap and review course. That will assist students greatly in preparing to take the boards.

Q: Any other particular recommendations for aspiring nursing professionals?

One thing that I see with nursing students is that sometimes they go into the profession and really don't know why they want to go into it, or what they're going to get out of it. Health care is really changing. We see such a diverse amount of patients. Patients are sick - really, really sick, even on the med-surg floors now. Obesity is growing and diabetes is a real problem. So I think it's really imperative for students to know why [they want to become nurses].