When I spoke with Erica Lamkin Wiesen on the phone, she was on her way to see her costume for the Web series in which she’s an actress. The series, which she described as involving “super heroines,” is one of several acting roles that Erica has had, including the starring role in the upcoming independent feature film “Different Eye.” In addition to her work as a managing nurse, Erica has a B.A. in drama and devotes herself to cultivating her theatrical talent, splitting her time between D.I.S.C. and acting gigs. I recently had the opportunity to ask her about her career—or should that be careers, plural?—how she became interested in nursing, and some of her thoughts on health care today. Here’s what the ebullient and affable Mrs. Wiesen had to say:
Q: How long have you been in your current role?
A: I was recently promoted to the role of charge nurse, which has been very challenging and very exciting for me. I’ve been an RN, though, for about five years.
Q: Could you tell me more about what being a charge nurse means?
A: It means coordinating what the other nurses are doing and allocating resources between patients to the best of your ability. In essence, it’s about making sure things run smoothly, which means listening to everyone’s perspective and trying to account for everyone’s needs.
Q: Sounds stressful. How do you manage?
A: Lots of deep breaths.
Q: How did you become interested in nursing?
A: Well, my mom teaches anatomy and physiology and my dad is a biomedical engineer, so choosing a health profession was a natural fit for me. Beyond that, I saw it as a way to support my acting. If I have a reliable career in nursing, I can pursue my theatrical projects on the side. Sometimes this leads to a hectic schedule, and I’m not able to be at the surgery center every day, but I like that it gives me the freedom to stay involved with drama.
Q: What does a good day look like for you?
A: It’s hard to say what the ideal number of patients you’d see on a good day would be. I suppose it’s somewhere between two and five, depending on the severity of the issues. The key is to have enough patients to keep yourself busy, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed.
Q: I want to switch gears and ask you some slightly more political questions. What do you see as some the greatest challenges facing the health professions today? What are the problems?
A: I think that insurance companies are sometimes more of a hindrance than a help. Everything becomes about the money instead of being about patient care, which I don’t think is the best approach. In particular, I think about the importance of being able to get preventative care, and with that, insurance sometimes gets in the way.
Q: What do you think of the Affordable Care Act? How has it affected what you do?
A: Well, I do think there are some problems with people not always being able to go back to the doctors they used to see. But you have to think about the big picture, what’s best for everyone. I think that it’s a step in the right direction, which is to say a step toward everyone having coverage.
Q: Back to you. What kind of music did you listen to in your senior year of high school?
A: You know that Weird Al album where he covers “American Pie,” only all the lyrics are about Star Wars? The one that goes “my, my, this here Anakin guy, maybe Vader someday later, now he’s just a small fry?” I could sing you every word of that album.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
A: In general, I try to eat a really healthy diet. But sometimes they have these snacks on the floor. There’s a variety of cookies and crackers and such. Most of them I can resist. But not the Double Stuffed Oreos. With those I just can’t help myself.
With contribution by Benjamin Winterhalter of Hippo Reads