‘Rylynn made me a better nurse’


Katie Mikeworth, RN, cared for 2-year-old Rylynn Riojas while the toddler waited for a new heart. Katie’s shifts with Rylynn were not only medically focused. Katie and Rylynn spent time painting nails, playing with dolls and bonding over all things girly. Read Katie’s blog about their times spent together and how one little girl changed Katie’s perspective on nursing…and life.

Rylynn Made Me a Better Nurse Nursing is not a glamorous job. It involves masks and gowns, diapers and throw-up, and many other not-so-glamorous things. So, receiving a manicure within the first hour on-the-clock was beyond a glamorous treat for me. No, it was not Nurses’ Week, nor was it a surprise from my manager. This special manicure was a surprise insisted upon by my patient, Rylynn Riojas.

Rylynn is a 2-year-old little girl I had the pleasure of caring for last year in the cardiac intensive care unit at Children’s. My very first shift with Rylynn was the night she came back from the operating room after the implantation of a Berlin Heart. I joined Rylynn’s care team in the cardiac ICU after a few shifts taking care of her last summer, and I was part of her care team until she was discharged with a new heart to the cardiology floor. She instantly touched my heart, and it’s not rocket science (or heart surgery!) to figure out why. Rylynn took a while to warm up to me, but after a couple of weeks…we were pals. I always looked forward to work, hoping that I’d be her nurse. Rylynn’s personality is – in one word – fun. Did I always get to take care of the fun, happy, smiley Rylynn? No, but that’s the case with any toddler. There were some really tough shifts, there were some really busy shifts, but mostly there were the shifts where everything went smoothly and Ry was awesome.

Coming into work and getting a sparkly rainbow manicure from Ry sitting at her Dora the Explorer table was a highlight of my time with her. We played with Play-Doh, watched Dora and other cartoons, played with her stuffed puppy and baby dolls, and colored pictures a lot. There was even one time when I was convinced by this 2-year-old’s laughter to dance with her stuffed giraffe – that was my height. I couldn’t help myself; hearing Ry giggle after she had gone through so much was just the best. So, I danced.

Joining Rylynn’s care team impacted me more than I thought it would. A care team isn’t just for the patient; it’s for the family as well (and, as it turns out, the nurses benefit, too). The Riojas family is warm and caring, silly and friendly, but most importantly, they are genuine. Not only did I become a better nurse while caring for Ry, but I feel like I grew as a person from being around her family. Taking care of Ry and her family for four months was more than a positive experience for me. Rylynn’s parents fought hard every day for her and supported each other, never losing hope and always staying positive. This is the attitude I want to have every day for my patients and their families: an attitude of hard work and selfless giving with complete faith in miracles.

So, I said before that nursing isn’t a glamorous job, but maybe I was totally wrong. Miracles are pretty glamorous, and as a nurse, I got to be part of one.


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