To read the resume of Jim Roche, RN, BSN, is like reviewing a list of possible career choices in emergency care and nursing. Not only has he experienced a host of jobs over the past three decades — from his early years as an emergency medical technician to his current position as nurse-in-charge of the Nursing Float Pool — but along the way, he has learned more about himself and how to provide total patient care.
“Many people don’t make change because they fear they won’t be able to handle the new responsibility,” said Roche. “But it’s not good to get too comfortable. I learned that my greatest strengths came from embracing challenges. When you walk through change and uncertainty, on the other side there is a tremendous amount of growth.”
Roche always knew one thing about himself — that he wanted to be in human services. As a youngster growing up in Dorchester, he was surrounded by family members who were priests, nuns and other human-service professionals. “Early on, I knew that type of work would be extremely gratifying.”
After high school, Roche considered becoming a nurse but instead chose to be an EMT. Within a few years he transitioned to the next level by training to be a paramedic. But the call to be a nurse, which had simmered for years, eventually began to burn brightly, and he enrolled in nursing school at Quincy College, graduating in 1982.
His first job as a nurse was in the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, followed by the medical oncology unit at Carney Hospital. He joined BWH in 1986, where he has immersed himself in even more nursing specialties: the Burn/ Trauma Step-down Unit, the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit, where he worked for six years and was evening nurse-in-charge the final year, the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, the Emergency Department, and most recently the Nursing Float Pool.
But even though his professional journey has been enriching, Roche prefers to focus on how his experiences have helped him enhance patient care. “In the arena of cardiac surgery, the emotional and spiritual dimensions of care can considerably aid a patient’s recovery. The principles of holistic healing, therapeutic touch and guided imagery can help provide patients the courage and strength to be part of their own recovery.”
While pursuing his BSN degree at Emmanuel College, Roche continued to concentrate on holistic healing, gaining clinical experience at an AIDS hospice in Mission Hill and the Pine Street Inn for the homeless. “We all have our fragile side,” he said. “It’s so important to just sit down with a person and share experiences one to one, to truly be present to that individual, to listen and offer guidance.”
In the recovery room, he learned the value of postoperative comfort measures, such as providing a warm blanket or adjusting body position, or helping patients with coughing or breathing techniques. Empowering patients is also key to reducing pain and stress, for example, allowing them to control the delivery of analgesics by pushing a button.
Since September, Roche has filled the newly created position of nurse-in-charge of the Nurse Float Pool, which comprises approximately 150 nurses who are prepared to walk into a variety of clinical settings, including a group of 20 stat nurses who respond to in-hospital patient emergencies such as cardiac or respiratory distress.
In January, Roche will reach another career milestone by completing his master’s degree in education at Cambridge College. As a impassioned veteran of many specialties, Roche offers this advice to others who are considering making a change: “Explore new opportunities. There is more to life than one specialty or one job. The skilled nurse is the most resourceful nurse.”