A Nurse with an Open Heart

by University Relations

A workday for Glenn Grimes ’11 can be, by equal measures, both heartwarming and heartwrenching. A registered nurse at the University of Southern California’s Keck Medical Center in the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Grimes specializes in heart and lung transplantation, assisting patients and their families in the critical days before and after surgery. He uses his education as a skilled practitioner and Christian to serve others in these delicate moments.

“Our patients require extensive care to keep them stable,” said Grimes, who works 12-hour shifts forging bonds with patients and their loved ones. “Strong relationships help both day-to-day patient treatment and end-of-life care.” Although Grimes partners with a multidisciplined team, including physicians, pharmacists, respiratory specialists, physical and occupational therapists, and registered dieticians, he serves as the primary contact person responsible for assessment of the patient’s condition. Such specialized nursing requires a solid education, hands-on training, and a driving sense of purpose and calling. Grimes’ untraditional road to nursing produced all three.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in religion from Vanguard University, Grimes was serving as a church youth leader when God shed new light on his career. “I looked out the window one day, saw an ambulance drive by, and felt called to explore that arena,” said Grimes, who first became an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). “I spent a lot of time praying and applying to a variety of schools, and all signs pointed to APU’s accelerated nursing program,” said Grimes.

Now, as an ICU nurse, Grimes incorporates his faith into his job every day, working alongside hospital chaplains and striving to reflect Christ through his bedside care. “I believe God provides moments in our lives where we can share our faith with people, and nursing gives me a chance to do that.”

Often, they involve inconsolable loss. “We cared for a 30-year-old man waiting for a new heart,” said Grimes. “We provided full mechanical support for more than two hours, but we couldn’t bring him back. The pain we felt for his wife and two daughters rocked our ICU.” Fortunately, a measure of relief from that pain results from the celebration of successes. “We admitted a young man on life support whose heart failure required mechanical support with intra-aortic balloon pumps and biventricular assist devices. After six months and three more cardiac arrests, he made the heart transplant list. His mental and emotional strength kept us all motivated. A few weeks later, we got ‘the call’ about a match, and he went to surgery. The next day, his heart beat on its own. A month later, we celebrated his discharge. The first time he came to visit was very emotional. Many of us had performed CPR on him numerous times, so to see him standing tall with a huge smile on his face was amazing.”

Grimes intends to earn his master’s degree and doctorate in nursing to educate and train future nursing students. “Life and death are common themes in this profession, but watching people cherish every second of the gift of life is the reason I’m here.”

Originally published in the Winter '13 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.