published Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Helping thyroid problems exercises a nurse’s empathy

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    Heather Guffey, a nurse at Associates in ENT in Hixson, examines the swelling of Haley Petty's throat. Guffey specializes in thyroid disorders. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Name: Heather Guffey

Position: Licensed practical nurse

Location: Associates in ENT

First job: Working at Rock City

Best part of the job: “Helping people. We see a lot of different patients but (the doctor I work for) specializes in thyroid. So we have a lot of people coming who are having problems with their thyroid — they’re tired, they don’t feel well, they’ve got a nodule and they don’t know why, and they’re scared — so I just help them. We do work ups in the office. I give them my name and my extension so they can call me if they need anything, especially if they end up having cancer. I try to help them better understand what’s going on with them and hopefully it ends with a good outcome. I have a lot of people who say ‘Thank you so much, you’ve been so kind,’ and that just brightens my day knowing I’ve made somebody feel better and more comfortable.”

Worst part of the job: “The people who come in that we can’t help. We see some patients with certain diagnoses that there’s nothing you can do — not that they’re going to die, but there’s nothing you can do to help them. That is frustrating to me.”

What she’s learned: “I’ve learned to listen to people, to actually listen to them and hear what they’re saying. Being a nurse, you learn to have a lot of empathy for patients.”

How to make a career of it: Get a nursing license. Guffey said she was not trained specifically as an ear, nose and throat nurse, but has learned many skills on the job. She went to nursing school after working in a doctor’s office.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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