On becoming a neuroscience nurse: “Don’t be afraid of it,” counsels Neurosurgery Department team member

(Note: the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses sponsors Neuroscience Nurses Week every year. To celebrate, we are featuring long-time Neurosurgery Department team member and neuroscience nurse, Steve Baker, RN, MSN)

“When you are embedded in a specialty like neurosurgery, it generates a lot of pride,” Baker said. “And like every clinical specialty, there is a complex body of knowledge that goes with it. I couldn’t pretend to be an endocrinology, oncology or cardiology nurse. All nurses possess skillsets and knowledge unique to their chosen patient population.”

The depth and breadth of neurosurgical conditions and procedures keeps Baker on his toes. “I’m constantly learning,” he said. “What’s challenging is finding the time to learn everything.”

Steve Baker, RN, MSNBaker (pictured at left) is a tremendously humble man who insists on fierce self-improvement. On his daily bus ride home, he spends the first 15 minutes asking himself, “What came up today that I wasn’t sure about? What didn’t I know? What do I have to do so it doesn’t come up again?”

His primary role in the department is to support neurosurgeons Matthew Hunt, MD, and Ann Parr, MD, PhD. Hunt specializes in spine issues as well as brain tumors and neuro-oncology; Parr focuses on spinal conditions. “I’m pretty deeply embedded in the spine world,” Baker said. “I tell my patients that I’m the ‘tinker toy’ guy. Doctors Hunt and Parr do a lot of the constructs that get put in people’s backs.”

Baker enjoys working with his physicians. “They understand my role but treat me like a colleague,” he explained. “They’re open to having things bounced off them and take my input into account. I enjoy the daily banter between people with whom you’ve worked for a long time.”

While he enjoys his relationship with the neurosurgeons, his patients are his true focus. “I try hard to come across to patients in a down-to-earth way,” Baker noted. “I enjoy establishing relationships with them, so they have no qualms about calling me for anything.”

His phone rings a lot.

When working with his patients, Baker tries to help them understand what’s happening with their bodies. “If they have a schwannoma [a tumor of the tissue that covers nerves], for instance, I do my best to explain how they will be affected,” he said. “I also try to demystify the procedures they must undergo.”

If he gets stumped by a question from a patient or a physician, Baker knows his Neurosurgery Department nursing colleagues have his back. “Everyone is knowledgeable and not afraid to ask questions of each other,” he said. “We’ve all embraced the concept of ‘know what you don’t know,’ and not being afraid to ask for guidance. No one can know it all.”

When asked what advice he would give someone considering a career in neuroscience nursing, Baker said, “Don’t be afraid of it. It can sometimes be scary because it often involves the brain and your brain controls much of what and who we are. But you can’t be afraid of the depth of knowledge required for this specialty.”

Our hats are off to Baker and all his neuroscience nursing colleagues at the university. To echo the theme of this year’s Neuroscience Nursing Week, we celebrate their passion…care…excellence.

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