Westmont Magazine Grit and Gratitude in a Level 1 Trauma Center

by Sharon Savely Odegaard ’72

Lisa Peterson ’12 thrives in her work as a clinical nurse at UC Davis Hospital, where her passion and training led her to the operating room in the Children’s Surgery Center. Patients arrive at this Level I trauma center with complex surgical needs. “Children come in with injuries from a car accident, or a child falls and hits her head,” Lisa says. “They don’t come by choice, and I want to help them in any way I can.”

Lisa Peterson Carries a Patient

Her compassion for children pervades everything she does. “Some kids suffer with the misfortune of cancer, or they’re born with an abnormality,” Lisa says. “They aren’t in control of what their body does.” She stays by a child’s side throughout their treatment. “I’m standing right with the patient,” she says.

Lisa chose to work with children as a nurse in a Santa Barbara surgery center. She noticed that healthcare workers tend to be anxious with young patients. But Lisa felt comfortable with little ones. “Children require a different type of care,” she says. “For example, take doses of medication. If you get it wrong with adults, they carry more reserve; they have more time to adjust. But kids have smaller airways. They need extremely careful dosing.”

Success in the operating room requires teamwork. Three teams — surgical, nursing and anesthesia — need to cooperate throughout surgery. Lisa says playing basketball with the Warriors taught her how to work with others. “A lot of what I learned on the court permeates everything I do,” she says. She credits her coach, Kirsten Moore, with instilling strong values: striving for excellence and a spirit of going above and beyond. These qualities continue to shape Lisa’s life. “I think about them even now,” she says.

Last year, Lisa served on a nursing team for a surgery separating conjoined twins. She thinks her skill in teamwork led to this amazing opportunity. The complex procedure required surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists to operate cohesively for 24 hours. With the babies’ heads joined, the task proved to be extremely intricate. The medical staff divided into Team Orange for Abigail and Team Purple for Micaela and even wore orange or purple hats. Team leads, dubbed Guardians of the Galaxy, wore black hats. All the members knew their jobs.

Lisa drew on what she learned at Westmont to help her through this grueling surgery. “I remembered being in Nationals,” she says. “You had to keep pushing through because the stakes were so high. If I didn’t give my all during surgery, the babies might not pull through.” A year later, thanks to the UC Davis team, both girls have grown into healthy toddlers.

Each year Coach Moore chose a theme for her basketball players. Lisa recalls that one theme was “Grit and Gratitude.” She translates it as doing her personal best and reframing challenges while pursuing excellence with an attitude of thankfulness for the opportunities.

Westmont also inspired Lisa to keep learning. She recently presented her study on the best use of bed pads with pediatric students. “The learning never stops,” she says. “I want to make medical care better for all of us.” This goal guides her as she works in an operating room for children.