The Calm Amid the Chaos
“He’s standing there with his wife and having a lot of chest pain. I said, ‘Okay, let’s get you back here and get an EKG on you.’ And as we’re starting to walk back, he grabs his chest and he falls to the ground.”
That’s just part of a standard shift at UK HealthCare’s emergency department for charge nurse Khay Douangdara. Khay ended up doing chest compressions in the lobby, then worked with other nurses to continue doing CPR through the halls of the hospital to get the patient to the cath lab at Gill Heart & Vascular Institute. Thanks to their rapid care, the patient survived and returned home with his wife.
UK HealthCare’s emergency department is one of only two Level 1 Trauma Centers in the state—the highest level of trauma care available. It means that Khay’s department sees the most serious cases from across eastern, central and southern Kentucky. As a charge nurse, he’s in charge of managing those incoming patients, as well as handling issues within the department.
Working in the emergency department is demanding and unpredictable. The conditions Khay and his coworkers see are incredibly varied. The only constant is the need for immediate, high-quality care. It’s work that not just anyone can do, and Khay has been doing it for more than a decade.
“Psychologically, it wears on you. I come back every single day because I know I’m providing good service and helping out people that really need it. I work with a great group of people and without the support from each other I wouldn’t keep coming back. You have to find different ways to cope. If you let it wear you down, you will never survive in the emergency department.”
Even outside work, Khay is driven to serve. A child of Laotian immigrants, he travels to Laos every couple years to perform service projects: re-roofing a school, donating scrubs to a hospital, distributing school supplies.
“I always wanted to go into a career that was focused on helping other people. In my culture, you want to do what is good for other people, to help and serve. My mom really instilled that in me: we want to do better and leave the world a better place.”