SU student broadens his skills at Mayo

(The Advocate) For the past 10 weeks, Southern University nursing student Fred Reed III has been at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tending to patients whose failing hearts needed to be replaced or at least reinforced with mechanical arteries and prosthetic valves.

Reed, a senior who expects to graduate in May with a degree in nursing called the summer internship, which ended Saturday, “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Coming from Lake Providence, a town of about 4,000 people, Reed, 21, is aware he defied the odds in June with his selection to the Mayo Clinic’s Summer III Externship program for future nurses.

Each year, the Mayo Clinic chooses a select group of nursing students to work early mornings and late nights in Rochester alongside nurses caring for patients.

This year, the Mayo Clinic accepted 12 percent, or 108 students representing 63 colleges and 31 states out of 900 who applied, according to Southern.

Reed, an aspiring nurse anesthetist, was assigned to the cardiovascular surgery progressive care unit, where he took care of patients who’d recently undergone open-heart surgery.

One patient was an 84-year-old former Mayo administrator who’d had a stroke shortly before Reed met him.

“He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t talk, he was basically bed-bound,” Reed said. “I helped him take his first steps after his stroke. It was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

Another patient was a three-year-old boy with a rare, genetic heart condition that required doctors to replace his aortic valve and give the young child a permanent pacemaker, Reed said.

“Getting that little boy to calm down when his parents were not around, and getting him to trust me, a stranger, is something I’ll always remember. He chose me to trust to do his assessments and to take his vitals,” Reed said.

Throughout the experience, Reed said he got up before sunrise, caught a shuttle to work and then got to work learning which patients he would be seeing that day.

“You prioritize who needs what; you get their medications; you get people up and walking; and you listen to make sure they don’t have fluid in their lungs,” Reed said. “But the biggest thing was checking for pain. Once their heart is opened up, all the patients need chest tubes which are not the most comfortable things to have.”

Christopher Kohler, a nurse manager on the Mayo campus worked with the students throughout the summer. Kohler said Reed went from “soft-spoken and timid” at the start of the program to “absolutely confident” by the end.

“He’s got a great future ahead of him,” Kohler said. “He’s enthusiastic and compassionate and he’s very thoughtful with the patients in their rooms but also on the floor with the staff.”

Pursuing a career in the medical field was a logical one, Reed said, considering his father, Fred Reed Jr., is a doctor and his mother, Vivian Allen is a registered nurse at the Glenwood Regional Medical Center in West Monroe.

Allen said she always had an idea her son would find his way into the medical field.

She was pregnant with him while in nursing school. On his first Christmas, the nine-month old largely ignored the toy building blocks and plastic lawn mower she bought him in favor of the medical bag with the toy stethoscope inside.

“I kind of always knew where he was headed,” Allen said. “I never had to push him.”