Crystal Whitred says her family was shocked when she decided to pursue a career in nursing. As a child, Crystal was squeamish about needles, pills and going to the doctor. When it came time to apply to university, nursing wasn’t on her radar. She started out studying Italian and anthropology, but after realizing these fields weren’t the right fit, Crystal says she felt drawn to nursing. And when she started studying nursing she knew immediately that she was in the right place. “It clicked right away. It felt like a true calling. It was the first time I found something that I was really passionate about.”
Crystal has now been a Registered Nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital for a little more than three years and she’s passionate about her profession and the organization. “Sinai has always felt like home away from home – a place where I can be myself, where I can grow, where there is no judgment and you feel safe. It’s like having another family. I have never worked in a place where there is this much sense of community,” she says.
This supportive environment is important to Crystal who says she’s always thinking about how she can develop and grow as a professional. “I think it’s important in life to try to not be complacent. You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you. It’s always been important for me to get out of my comfort zone, because that’s how you learn and grow.”
This year, Crystal took an opportunity to move to the Surgical Oncology unit. “When I decided to make the move from one unit to another, I wanted a new challenge. It’s given me the chance to grow as a person and as a nurse,” she says. “I find this style of work—on this unit and in nursing in general—suits my personality. Things can change very quickly during a shift. I always expect the unexpected and I’m ready to handle whatever situations come my way.”
Crystal’s energy and positive attitude seem unflappable. But she says sometimes the emotional side of nursing isn’t easy. “When you’re caring for patients, you feel empathy for them. At the same time you can’t let everything get to you on an emotional level. It’s a fine line that we have to balance.”
Team work and camaraderie on the unit are a crucial part of managing the pressures of the job, for Crystal. “Even though everyone is busy, we all check in with each other. When we pass by each other in the hall we’re asking ‘How are you doing?’ or, ‘Do you need help?’ It’s part of the culture and creates a positive environment where we’re attuned to each other,” she says.
When it comes to work-life balance, Crystal says it’s something she’s working on. She likes to keep her days off almost as busy as her work days. “A good day for me on a day off is to be productive. I’ll have a big long to-do list and check things off as I go.” One of the items at the top of her list is exercise and she’ll spend two or three hours at the gym. “People ask me how I have the energy, but I find it actually gives me more energy!” she says.
Family is also important to Crystal. Her parents live in Japan where she was born and raised, but Crystal says that they keep in touch as much as they can and their positive influence is ever-present. “I am who I am because of them. I wanted to be just like them.” And although they may have been initially surprised by their daughter’s career path, “I know they’re proud of me and happy about what I’ve achieved so far,” says Crystal.
People of Sinai Health is a series that provides a glimpse into the lives, jobs and stories of the people that work at Sinai Health. Do you know someone who would make a great addition to this series? Email [email protected] to let us know.