There’s no better way to understand and connect with others than to experience what they’re going through yourself. For Tyra Neal, what once overwhelmed her to the point she almost walked away was just a blessing in disguise that would prepare her for what was coming her way. Today, when she looks back, all she can express is gratitude for how things worked out.
“I’m just so thankful to have gotten my feet in the door and so thankful for the second chance I was given because this hospital is the best place I’ve ever worked at,” she says.
Tyra works closely with patients and their families as a clinical escort assistant at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC). She also holds another part-time job and takes care of her 17-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son. Her day-to-day consists of giving food to patients and spending time with them, to having tough conversations with family members who have just lost a loved one. And although it’s not always easy to have those conversations, Tyra always knew this path was meant for her.
“I’ve been a certified nursing assistant for 20 years,” she says. “I’ve always cared for my grandmother, who’s 96, and she means a lot to me. A lot of my passion to care for others comes from my time spent with her and from my aunt, whom I also cared for after she was diagnosed with cancer. I worked at Heritage Harbour for eight years where I started in the kitchen as a prep cook and later became a tech after becoming a certified geriatric nursing assistant. I would take trays to patients’ rooms. If they needed help, I wouldn’t bother the nurse, I would just do it myself.”
Tyra saw the opening available with AAMC and quickly applied for it. For her, this was an opportunity to push herself beyond her comfort zone and allow her to grow while still doing what she loved.
“I was so nervous,” she recalls. “The hospital is so big and I wasn’t sure that I was going to understand everything.” Tyra was supposed to train for two weeks but started second-guessing herself after the first one. “There were so many different people training me, it was overwhelming,” she says. “That weekend I went home and emailed Jenny, my supervisor, to share my concern.”
But things wouldn’t end there for Tyra. Jenny was very understanding and encouraged Tyra to come back, telling her they would be happy to work at her pace and accommodate her needs. “I called my mom and she told me opportunities like these don’t appear all the time,” Tyra says. “She reminded me of how hard I worked to get here and told me to not quit now, to follow my heart.”
And she did. Tyra came back for her second week of training and never looked back. “Everybody was so kind, so nice,” Tyra says. “Jenny made sure I got the perfect trainer to make me feel comfortable during my second week. Today, I’m the one who trains new hires and I love what I do. I love trying to explain things in a way that’s not confusing, and I try to make people feel comfortable because I know what it feels like. I don’t look for anything in return. As long as I can help somebody else, I know that I’m going to be OK.”
Currently, Tyra is training three new employees and her priority is to make them feel like they can do this. “I always tell them that if in two weeks they don’t feel like they’re comfortable or can’t take this on, to please come talk to me so I can train them another week until they do,” she says.
Tyra’s remarkable and approachable personality is not only evident to her colleagues. Her patients, too, quickly develop a connection with her. “There’s a lady that comes in here every week to bring me a flower,” Tyra says. “Her mother passed away here and she always tells me that I took good care of her family during a really difficult time. It’s the little things like these that make me love what I do. I get easily attached to my patients. Or when a patient passes, it touches me so much because I’ve talked to them and built a connection with them. I love when people remember me because I know I don’t ever forget a face.”
PRO TIP: “When you get to AAMC, be thankful for getting here. There are many opportunities available, like going to school, if you wanted to. It doesn’t matter if you start in the kitchen or in a lab, if you get your foot in the door then you will find opportunities to grow. This hospital is a good place to work with people who care and are here to help you. I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to push through my doubts and for being here today.”
*Tyra Neal received an AAMC Champion award for the month of August.