Health Care Hero: ‘I was destined to be a nurse’

The Dayton Daily News is profiling the people who work hard every day to save lives and take care of us. Nominate a Health Care Hero by emailing

Name: Kristina Highlen

Hometown: Springfield

Job Title: Registered Nurse


Where do you Work: Mercy Health-Springfield Regional Medical Center critical care unit

Describe what your day is like/what you do: My day varies from day to day. Although one of the consistent things is my awesome team of coworkers and support staff. I try to make each day enjoyable for my patients and their families. No one likes to be in the hospital, so I try to make it the best experience as possible on a daily basis. A smile goes a long way and kindness matters, especially when you're taking care of the ill. I don't judge my patients or their families — I try to put myself in their shoes, no matter what the situation is. I have to be able to think and act quickly using good judgment and compassion. There are harder days than others, and that's why it's important to have the team that we have to be able to lean on one another and work together.

What inspired you to get into health care? My biggest inspiration to become a member of health care is my mom. I have watched her be such an amazing caregiver herself, and I have always admired her for that. She has been caring for people as long as I can remember. She is also an educator and provided opportunities for me to learn at an early age. I remember getting my first CPR card at the age of 12. My mom tells me a story about how when I was little, I saw an ill elderly person in the hallway at the hospital and I said to them, "I'm sorry your sick." I honestly think I was destined to be a nurse. I can't think of anything more rewarding.

Health Care Hero: ‘I became a nurse to make a difference’

What's a memorable experience you've had in health care? I have so many memorable moments that I will forever cherish. One specific thing that comes to mind, though, was a patient who was needing to drink bowel prep in a short amount of time. Anyone who has ever had to ingest prep can probably relate with this patient who was not thrilled to be doing it. It took a lot of encouragement and a little imagination. I mixed their favorite juice with the prep for them. I would poor a glass for the patient and a glass of plain juice for myself. We played music and pretended to do shots. The patient said, "I haven't had this much fun or laughed this hard in a long time and I am supposed to be sick." The patient's family even joined in on the fun. Needless to say, the prep was consumed and after they had had many failed tests previously due to improper prep, they finally were able to have a successful exam. I have a lot of intimate, precious moments that I've shared with patients and their families, but I wanted to share a funny memory.

What do you want readers to know about your job right now? I work regular ICU, and I have also worked as a charge nurse in the COVID unit on numerous occasions. I would like people to know that we understand that it is a very difficult time right now. It's so scary to be in the hospital alone and sick or to have a loved one who is in the hospital and not be able to be there in person. I want you to know that our staff cares and advocates for those who can't. We strive to keep people alive and give them the best care possible. We go out of our way to make sure that family and patients are able to communicate in some way. We realize that the little things matter. It's one of the most stressful times in health care but that doesn't impair our work ethic. We are doing everything possible to keep ourselves safe and maintain expectations of care.

Health Care Hero: ‘I really love my job’