Day in the life of a Level 1 trauma nurse

March 8, 2023
Vincent Sonderby, RN

We had the opportunity to sit down with Vinny Sonderby, the 2022 Trauma Nurse of the Year to talk about what it’s like to work in the emergency department (ED) at St. Anthony Hospital. Sonderby has been at St. Anthony for six years and explained a day in the life working alongside the incredible people at Centura Health.  

“Hands down, my coworkers and my team are why I come back day after day. The ability to work with other ED nurses, trauma and surgery teams, and other specialties and auxiliary departments is amazing. St. Anthony attracts good people, and I would not have survived these last years here without the support and love from my coworkers.”  

Sonderby is passionate about what he does and when asked to tell us what “a day in the life” is like, he explained that “as any ED nurse knows, every day is unpredictable and can change in a heartbeat.” It always comes down to prioritization in the ever-changing flow of patients.  

A perfectly choregraphed dance of people

His day starts with a group huddle to prepare. “Walking out of the breakroom feels like a sports team walking out of the locker room ready to take on the day,” he says. “We take over patients from the night shift, picking up wherever they are in their stage of care, and then we live on our toes for the next 12+ hours.”  

The team is in tune to listening overhead pages for traumas and emergents and taking other ambulances and patients who walk into the waiting room. “It’s a day of constant juggling and keeping your head on a swivel, he says. “I might have just walked out of a room to grab a patient a blanket and 10 seconds later I am primary on a trauma arrest from the field. I love the organized chaos of the ED!”  

 Life in the ED is anything but typical and takes a special type of person to work there. But Sonderby keeps coming back because of a bigger purpose. “My calling in this world is to be a healer and to be for and with these patients though some of the worst days in their lives,” he says.  

“There is Jesuit term, cura personalis, that means ‘care for the whole person.’ I try and live that out each day,” he says. “Of course, the immediate emergent physical needs are the first priority, but I also try to make sure their emotional and spiritual needs are met to the best of my abilities. This can be a simple hand on their shoulder as we explain what is happening and you can really see a lot of the anxiety leave them. Those deep moments of compassion make the hard situations easier.” 

Sonderby truly demonstrates what it’s like to be a Centura caregiver. “I feel like teamwork and the people I have the honor with working with makes all the difference,” he says. “Having a team of people you can communicate with during emergent situations with just eye contact is something that is hard to explain, but it feels so good when you get to work in a perfectly choregraphed dance of people to give the best possible for the patients.  These last few years have made this profession tough, but I wake up and cannot see myself doing anything else.”