Jan Nissl – Nurse

Jan Nissl is the nurse trainer for the Northwest AIDS Education and Training Center (NW-AETC) – Idaho.

Ms. Nissl has 24 years of clinical nursing experience in surgery, intensive care, home health, call center counseling and health education. She currently works as a triage content specialist and staff Wellness Coordinator for Healthwise, Inc. , a recognized leader in the Health Information industry, in Boise, Idaho.

Ms. Nissl has completed NW-AETC nurse preceptorships with the Madison Clinic in Seattle, Washington; Yakima Valley Farm Worker’s Clinic in Yakima, Washington; and the HIV Services Clinic in Boise, Idaho.



1. Why did you choose this health profession - nursing?
Loved biology in high school and had a great teacher. Thought about pre-med in college but went into natural resources at that time. After college, had a chance to go to nursing school with funding from American Association of University Women (AAUW) and jumped at the chance.

2. What do you find most rewarding about your nursing?
Hands down, working with and helping people. Also working with a team of smart people – MDs, therapists, nutritionists etc. to help people get well.

3. Is there anything that you don't like about being a nurse?
It is hard work: physically, mentally and emotionally. Many times you have a schedule that is ‘off’ hours from the rest of the world.

4. Does it require a lot of college to become a nurse?
Like many professions, it depends on your goals. I already had a 4 yr degree in a science major so a 2 yr RN program worked really well for me. Some of my classmates did not have a college degree and they did well in the 2 yr program. If you want to teach or have an advanced degree, then you are looking at a 4 yr BSN and schooling beyond that.

5. What was the best part of your college experience(s)?
I had 2 different experiences – my 4 yr experience was right out of high school at a large, well known university. It was a time of great learning – academically and socially as well as about myself. It was a great time of my life in a wonderful environment. I’m happy that I made that choice.
My 2 yr experience was very different because I was in my mid 20’s and really focused on nursing school while holding down a job. With a bit more life experience, I was able to juggle more so it was a busy 2 yrs but I loved the clinical time working with patients.

6. What are your responsibilities on any given day/week?
Currently I work in health education and wear 2 hats – writing triage topics for a health information company and being the wellness coordinator for the staff (225).
So it’s a balance of duties. The triage topics require clinical thinking and research. The wellness focus is on presenting wellness opportunities for staff and monitoring the incentive program we have.
Until a recent injury, I was also working hours in a local surgery department.
Working as an nurse trainer for AETC has been a new challenge. I’ve done clinical visits in Seattle, Yakima and Boise HIV clinics as well as taken CDC trainings and other workshops to stay on top of HIV nursing care.

7. What has been your best day as a nurse?
When a family member/patient tells you that you made a difference in their well-being.
It’s also great when staff or doctors commend your critical thinking and resourcefulness.

8. What has been your most memorable case/patient as a nurse?
There are many but one I remember like it happened yesterday. I was a pretty new nurse – out of school 1 ˝ yrs and in ICU about 6 months. A 40 yr old man with 2 teen boys needed a heart/lung transplant because of rheumatic fever as a child. He was on the list at a California transplant center. He was in our ICU with irregular heart rhythms and some respiratory problems. His wife and boys were there – a pretty happy family given what they were dealing with. I was his primary nurse for 3 days. On the 2nd night, he started declining. They called a code several times that night. On my 3rd morning with him, he coded and we weren’t able to save him. We left the room so his family could be with him. I went around the corner and burst into tears for their loss. I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was my patient’s wife. She hugged me and thanked me for giving him such good care his last days. So the interpersonal relationships are a huge part of being a good nurse.

9. What is the craziest case/illness that you have seen as a nurse?
Well, it had to do with a snake tattoo on a 20-something penis. That probably says it all.

10. Is there any advice you would give someone thinking about becoming a nurse?
If you are already thinking about nursing, then you know you like helping people and like the health sciences. Nursing has so many options – hospital staff, specialty fields, public health, office nurse, school nurse, overseas missions…the list goes on. You won’t become bored with your job because the opportunity for learning is always there. You can branch out any time and gain more skills. My suggestion would be to take on all the challenges you can – complicated cases, optional certifications, community volunteer options etc. The more experience you can gain while in nursing school with the support of teachers, advisers, clinical staff, the more confident you will feel with your patients (families) and their doctors.

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