ICU nurse applies track star career passion to Veteran care

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May 23, 2022
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From jumping over three-foot-tall hurdles on the track field to jumping over hurdles on the West Palm Beach VA hospital floor, Patrina Allen, Intensive Care Unit nurse manager, redefines endurance.

For eight years, she has remained by the side of Veterans during their most critical moments. Her passion to serve is one that stems from a special place: her bloodline. Growing up, Allen’s mother was a nurse and her sister served in the Army. She knew her service to her country belonged with VA.

“When we have a positive mindset, we can turn things around and jump over the hurdles life places in front of us.”

Once an athlete of the most challenging Olympic track and field division, little did she know years later how a lap of ten 400-meter hurdles would support her to compete in today’s trial of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Training physically but also mentally

Prior to her white coat days, Allen’s attire was performance running gear and track shoes. As an Olympic contestant in 2000 and 2004, her stamina was more than in just her legs to glide over every hurdle in her path. It was also stored mentally to drive her home to the finish line.

“I was trained physically but also mentally for track and field,” she said. “I was trained in mental toughness and how to mentally get over different obstacles without losing focus. That mindset stays with me in my career.”

Her laser-focus training by her coaches contributes to her now clinical heroic leadership. Amid uncertainty, the loss of lives, and the unknown of what is next, her team looks to Nurse Manager Allen for positive affirmation.

Her belief in medical care goes beyond the traditional medicines and includes emotional support. Her positive mindset is a gift she spreads from hospital room to hospital room as a friendly push to remind Veterans of the strength they hold to overpower the reason for their inpatient stay.

“The harder the challenge, the more I focus.”

What she refers to as her ‘tunnel vision’ from her previous athletic years is what she embraces in her VA service now. But as her coaches once did, she is now teaching to that to her team and Veterans.

“The harder the challenge, the more I focus on what I need to do,” she said. “When I would compete, my legs would be heavy and my mind depleted. But my mental strength brought me to another realm of a vision so narrow that never failed to push me over the finish line. That same vision is what propels me to push for my team and Veterans fighting for their lives. I look at the glass half-full. When we have a positive mindset, we can turn things around and jump over the hurdles life places in front of us.”

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