Jevon Whittington comes from a long line of nurses. His mother is a nurse, as is his twin brother; his sister is a nursing professor at D’Youville University. But as he approached the end of high school in 2018, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his future.
“I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, so I started school studying physical therapy. I did a year of that and the pace just wasn’t for me. It didn’t feel right,” he says.
After transferring into the nursing program at D’Youville, Jevon knew he made the right move. Patient care was at the heart of what Jevon wanted to do in his career and becoming a nurse would afford him that direct care and connection with patients and their families.
“I started realizing how vast and various nursing opportunities are. There are so many different things you can do,” he says, now as Jevon Whittington, BSN, RN, an operating room (OR) nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I didn’t think any other profession would give me that.”
He settled on a career in medical surgical nursing and wanted to work at Roswell Park in particular. “I made sure I was able to get my capstone assignment at Roswell Park. I was placed on 7 West and the ICU and shortly before starting, I went to a job fair in April 2022, a month before I was going to graduate. When I learned the operating room hired new graduates, that opened my eyes to a field I hadn’t even considered.”
Operating room nurses must be quick and ready to act, building on the traditional skills they learned in school. For Jevon, the career choice also provided a confidence boost to a young nurse who was eager to specialize, but thought he’d have to wait longer to do so.
“The nurse manager of the OR made sure I was able to shadow and see what I was getting myself into. There are a lot of places that won’t let you into the OR to see what it’s like until the interview process,” he explains. “I was provided an opportunity to shadow and observe and, fresh out of school as a graduate nurse, that further drew me to Roswell Park. It means a lot to be able to support patients and to come to work every day for them. I feel like I’m participating in something that truly matters, that’s making a positive difference in the world.”
Learning while providing care
Jevon also credits the nursing community he found at Roswell Park for welcoming him in and for their willingness to help him continue to learn important skills. He’s been with Roswell Park a year now and continues to learn from and feel supported by his team.
“Like any nursing job, you know you’re not going to see everything there is to see during orientation. Perioperative nursing was unlike any field of nursing I had experienced up to that point,” he says.
“So much of my time here in this past year has been spent learning and just really trying to grow, stretch and understand my role. It’s really cool to look back on where I was a year ago. I wasn’t sure that this was it for me at the time because I’m the kind of person that loves anything as long as I’m good at it, and I could tell it was going to take a while for me to get good at this. But it’s been a really interesting learning curve and it’s worked out really well for me. I love the field I’m in.”
In particular, Jevon has enjoyed getting experience with robot-assisted surgical procedures and open laparotomies. “The only OR training that came up in school was malignant hypothermia,” he says with a chuckle. “When you’re learning about different disorders and things, you learn about the surgical treatments as well. But, in general, we didn’t touch on the different tools surgeons use, monopolar versus bipolar cautery, all things that pertain to nursing care in the OR. When you’re learning as an OR nurse to do some of these things, it’s quite the experience because you’re learning during real surgeries; there are few simulations."
Nursing careers at Roswell Park
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Patient care doesn’t end at the bedside
Jevon might not be spending all his time at a patient’s bedside, tending to their routine care, but he knows he’s making a difference in their cancer treatment. He wants other potential nurses, especially those who want to get into operating room nursing, to know that there’s a place for them here at Roswell Park.
“We do establish connections with patients in the short time we spend with them,” he says. “I’ve seen nurses do very well at connecting with patients in just a few minutes. I’ve experienced it myself, having these touching, meaningful moments with patients who are only awake in front of you for 10 or 15 minutes and it is awe-inspiring.”
Jevon encourages those considering nursing to do the work and put in the time. “You get through school and you pass your boards and all of that is a testament to you wanting to be in the field.
“There are times when I’m fearful or anxious, but I remind myself of the role I play and what I represent to patients who look like me. Sometimes, we have to kind of swallow that fear because it’s ok if you don’t know everything all the time. I’m learning every day.”
Working in the OR at Roswell Park, he continues, has been fast-paced and exhilarating and satisfying and exciting -- all things he knew he could find in a nursing career, but never thought it would come from being in the OR.
“I’m really happy to come into work. I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of coming to work where there’s research going on, there are bigger things going on and so much to see,” he says. “It’s a great place to get really good experience.”