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Release Date: 6/27/2012

Urgent care nurse believes compassion is contagious - she caught it from a loving family and caring co-workers

Cindy Roma, R.N., right, discusses a case with co-worker Jennifer Anderson at St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s Fenton Urgent Care.

Cindy Roma, R.N., right, discusses a case with co-worker Jennifer Anderson at St. Anthony’s Medical Center’s Fenton Urgent Care.

Her co-workers have dubbed her “St. Cindy”, because “she never has a bad day.”

Cindy Roma, R.N., laughs at the nickname, but it’s obvious she’s proud of the sentiment behind it. The 53-year-old south countian has been a nurse at St. Anthony’s Medical Center for 32 years. She feels like it is her “calling.”

“I honestly think that because I was shown so much love and caring in my own family, it was a natural thing for me to want to care for other people the same way,” Roma said. “I have the gift of faith, which enables me to offer hope to patients that things can get better.”

Roma earned her associate’s degree in nursing from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau in 1979, the same year she joined the staff of St. Anthony’s. She started out working in general medicine areas, in order to acquire strong, basic nursing skills and a broader perspective of her field. Over the next three decades, she served patients in rehabilitation, in pre-and-post-surgery and in the Emergency Department. She “floated” for several years, working any area of the hospital where she was needed; and for a year she tried coding, but missed the patient contact.

In 1986, her first of two sons was born, and she began working PRN (called when needed); and about three years ago, she began working almost exclusively at St. Anthony’s four Urgent Care centers, which are located in Arnold, Crestwood, Lemay and Fenton. Roma spends most of her time at the Lemay and Fenton facilities.

“The hours vary week to week,” Roma said. “During a recent two-week period, I worked two 12-hour shifts and three six-hour shifts. I may come in for as little as two hours at a time.”

A typical day starts at 8 a.m., Roma said, with some patients already waiting for the urgent care doors to open. Some people don’t have primary care physicians, so they come to the urgent care with the unexpected daily emergencies – colds, cuts, flu, upper respiratory infections, dehydration from vomiting or work-related accidents, Roma said. Some patients need true “emergency” care, rather than “urgent” care, and paramedics are called to transport them to St. Anthony’s Emergency Department.

“It’s so interesting, working at the urgent care, because you never know what you will see on any given day,” Roma said. “We serve different cultural communities and even encounter language barriers at times – it can be challenging. But we have the opportunity to touch people’s lives for a moment – give them care and send them back home – and, hopefully, they feel better when they leave us than when they arrived.”

Most urgent care patients are seen within an hour of arrival, which is much better than the long waits at busy Emergency Departments, Roma said. “Usually our ED is packed; but the urgent care centers have made a difference by seeing patients who aren’t true emergencies. Patients like it because they can be seen quickly and close to home.”

Anyone considering entering the nursing field – no matter what area they choose – needs to be flexible, empathetic, understanding and compassionate, Roma said. She illustrates with a story of an elderly patient who was dying. The woman’s husband came to the hospital every day to be with her, but he left to go home at night.

“My head nurse called and asked me to come in and sit with the woman, because she thought ‘tonight might be the night’; that nurse was passionate about not wanting the lady to die alone,” Roma said. “I held the woman’s hand, touched her forehead and stroked her hair, through the night. Sometimes touching is all it takes to give someone comfort and reassurance that they are not alone.”

Roma credits that nurse, and so many other nurses she has worked with through the years, with helping her learn what it means to be compassionate.

“In today’s world, there is so much technology required in nursing,” Roma said. “You must be able to depend on your co-workers – nursing is not an independent calling. When you feel weak in an area, you go to somebody else for strength so you can fill the needs of that patient. Nursing today is a total team approach. I’ve always been nurtured through my co-workers; they have divided my sorrows and multiplied my joys.”

The best part of her job, Roma said, is “caring for so many different people and knowing that, by being there, you are making a difference in their lives. The benefits of the job far outweigh any sacrifices you make.”

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