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Lessons Learned in Life, Careers: Know Your Stuff — and Be Humble

Posted: Dec. 5, 2017

Edward Jamaal Hawkins, CRNA, MSN, BSN

Edward Jamaal Hawkins is an early riser. He has to be for his job as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His day begins at 6 a.m. when he is assigned a room and gets consent for the anesthetic.

“That’s when I get a feel for what kind of day it’s going to be,” he said. “I talk to the nurses in the operating room and then go see my patients in pre-op and explain that I’ll be taking care of them. After meeting with the anesthesiologist, we’re in the OR by 7 a.m.”

Once there, Jamaal moves his patient to the operating table before administering the anesthetic and intubating for the procedure. Afterwards, he gives a paralytic to immobilize the patient and then additional medication for preemptive pain and vomiting prevention. After the procedure when the patient begins to wake up, he removes the breathing tube and moves them to recovery.

“It’s pretty routinely accepted for a nurse to perform these procedures, but every hospital does things somewhat differently,” he said. “I have lots of autonomy in my job and enjoy making my own decisions. My co-workers are very helpful, and that makes it easier. At work, they keep me laughing and keep a smile on my face.”

Jamaal’s interest in the profession began in the sixth grade when he came across a booklet about anesthesiology. By the time he was in high school in Longview, Texas, he already knew he didn’t want a career that would keep him behind a desk. His mother suggested he look into a career in nursing, and it didn’t hurt that his best friend was going to nursing school.

It was also in high school where he got to meet former UT Austin football coach Mack Brown and felt the Longhorn lure take effect. Once on campus, Jamaal was able to continue his interest in music and played trumpet in the marching band. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2010 from UT Austin, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he spent two years in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University. Afterwards, he attended the University of Pittsburg in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he obtained a Master of Science in Nursing in Nurse Anesthesia.

In his job at UT Southwestern, Jamaal’s main concern is taking care of patients who are at their most vulnerable. “I do my best to take excellent care of them: I’m there watching when they go to sleep and when they come back. Sometimes they’ll write me thank you cards afterwards, and I find that very gratifying.”

Unfortunately there are those times when things don’t go well, especially in the OR. “I never want that to happen but I’m always prepared,” he said. “Anesthesiology is a rewarding field, but it requires a lot from you. You have to be prepared to study hard, work hard, and always know your stuff — and be humble.”

Jamaal credits the UT Austin School of Nursing for much of his success. “The School of Nursing was instrumental not only in introducing me to the profession, but also in setting me on a successful career path where I get to help patients and work with compassionate and gifted health care providers,” he said. “I still keep in touch with some of the people I met in Austin and cannot thank them enough for their influence on my life.”

Life continues to grow sweeter for Jamaal. He recently became engaged to Elizabeth Alvarez, who graduated with a BSN from UT Austin School of Nursing in 2013.

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