For National Nurse’s Week 2021, which takes place May 6-12, we are proud to highlight some of our amazing nurses at Mass Eye and Ear. Sergio LaFrazia, BSN, RN, is a nurse in the pediatric otolaryngology (ENT) clinic. Focus was fortunate to speak with Sergio and ask him what made him choose nursing, and what drives him each day.
How long have you been a nurse at Mass Eye and Ear?
Mass Eye and Ear is the first hospital I’ve worked at; I became a nurse in January 2020, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Here I work with children with ENT-related issues in our pediatric outpatient clinic on the 2nd floor. I was just starting to get acclimated to everything in our clinic when suddenly, everything changed that spring, and I was temporarily shifted to help screen patients coming into our lobby. Once we were able to reopen everything, I’ve been back in the pediatric clinic since.
What made you choose nursing as a career?
I was working in health care in various roles for several years, including as a CT technician and as a paramedic (EMT). But I am a social person, and I always knew deep down that I wanted to work closely with patients. I thought about applying to school to become a physician assistant, but my sister, who is also a pediatric nurse, told me she thought I’d make a great nurse and should think about going into the field. I thought as a nurse that I would be able to have a major impact on patients. I was fortunate to get accepted into the MGH Institute of Health Professions accelerated nursing program, and 18 months later I had my nursing degree. Throughout the program, I always had an idea that I wanted to work in pediatrics.
What is your favorite part about working in pediatrics?
As an EMT, I worked with a lot of adult patients who were facing issues towards the end of life that we had to manage as best we could. In working with pediatrics, I believe that you can have an impact on a child early, which can potentially last throughout their whole lives.
Many of the children I see at a young age have hearing difficulties, which can affect their speech and social development if left untreated. By helping children with how they perceive the world at a young age, we can make a positive difference in their lives. The same is true for children with persistent ear infections, who can seem fussy, or have affected speech development as well. Another example we’ll see in the clinic is a child may have breathing issue affecting sleep, like large tonsils, sinus problems or obstructive sleep apnea. The child can feel tired all the time, resulting in it impacting behavior and performance in school.
All of these issues affecting children can snowball without treatment. We try to do everything we can to help our young patients because we know what a major impact it can have on their lives and their families. I get a lot of satisfaction from being a part of that.
Mass Eye and Ear leadership thanks our amazing nurses.
What is something unique about working with children?
With children, it’s especially important to try and make sure that they feel comfortable and safe. I often bust out the stickers when they come in! Little things like that will make such a huge impact on a child’s experience at the clinic. I love talking with kids about their favorite things, like Frozen or superheroes, or making conversation about the superhero shirt I’m wearing or stickers I have on my ID badge. In what other job can someone wear a superhero t-shirt to work and have it make such a positive impact?
We help kids feel more at ease. For example, if a child needs a tonsillectomy, we give them books that a parent can read to them at home where the main character is undergoing the same surgery. It’s like when a child reads Harry Potter and wants to become a wizard; if they read a book and see a kid doing well with what they are facing, they’ll realize that they will be okay too.
In a pediatric clinic you also work closely with parents, how do you approach that?
Any parent, especially parents of a newborn, can come to our clinic feeling scared. Imagine your infant is not eating properly, or your child is whistling all night when breathing? I try to provide parents lots of reassurance that they’ve come to the right place and that we are going to do everything we can to get take care of their child.
I explain the process, what to expect, how we are going to follow the child throughout treatment and give them information to handle any situation that might come up. I truly believe we have the best clinicians. Since the Pediatric Airway, Voice, and Swallowing Center has specialists from different areas like ENT, gastroenterology, pulmonology, speech-language pathology, we can give families everything they need in a one-stop shop, rather than having to make appointments with different specialists across Boston. I tell them, “You are in the right place.”
Children, especially young ones, take cues from their parents. So if they are nervous and have an elevated heart rate, their child will pick up on that and be nervous too. Helping to make sure everyone’s emotional state is calm can benefit everyone.
Any advice for nursing students or those who are considering going into the field?
Try to carry a positive attitude as often as possible, because attitudes are contagious and they will spread to your coworkers and patients. I’m fortunate to work somewhere where all our nurses work in step with each other and are on the same page, and attitude is a big part of that.
Watch our tribute to Mass Eye and Ear nurses for National Nurses Week.