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#UMMCGrad2021: Critical care at heart for SON graduate

Published on Monday, May 17, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Caring for others and an interest in the body’s cardiovascular system are pointing School of Nursing graduate Makenzie Byrd toward a career in critical care nursing.

After graduation, she will be working in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“Beginning in nursing school, I desired to work in critical care,” Byrd said. “I’ve always been fascinated with the cardiovascular system. What better way to combine those two areas than to work in the CICU. I thoroughly appreciate the autonomy, independence and knowledge required to be a critical care nurse, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”

Along her path toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Byrd job-shadowed CICU nurses, and her synthesis clinical was there, too.

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse educator Deanna Chambers discusses patient monitoring with future CICU nurse Makenzie Byrd.
Deanna Chambers, a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse educator, discusses patient monitoring with Byrd, a future CICU nurse.

“I immediately knew that this is where I was supposed to be.”

The Sebastopol native studied first at East Central Community College in Decatur and then at Mississippi College to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biological Medical Sciences.

“I started nursing school two weeks later,” she said.

During her time in the School of Nursing, Byrd has risen as a leader, serving as president of the Nursing Student Body and marshal for the School of Nursing Class of 2021. An ambassador for the School of Nursing, Byrd is also a house group leader and mentor for the junior class and a member of the Associated Student Body at UMMC, the Mississippi Student Nurses Association, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Sigma Honor Society. She has served on the Clinical Leadership Environment Committee and is a student tutor.

A career in health care has been a goal for Byrd since she was a child, having watched both parents at work in the medical field.

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse manager Don Horn talks with future CICU nurse Makenzie Byrd.
Don Horn, a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse manager, speaks with Byrd.

“Health care is all that I have ever known and ever wanted to be a part of,” Byrd said. “Whether we are sitting on the couch at home or traveling together, it is quite common for my mom and I to discuss disease processes, radiology equipment, professional health care etiquette or even equipment found in an intensive care unit.”

Once it was time for Byrd to move from Sebastopol Attendance Center, where she graduated in 2015, to college, “I evaluated all options and found my way to nursing,” she said. “It was simple for me. I love people, and I truly love taking care of others. I knew that I would be able to make the biggest impact by serving others as a nurse.”

During her junior year, Byrd, like so many others, was affected by the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nursing school is difficult to begin with, but it is even more difficult when courses are moved online due to a pandemic,” she said. “This is the characteristic that I love most about nurses. We are resilient. Our faculty and instructors went above and beyond to assist us in accommodating an online/virtual format.”

Dr. Julie Sanford, dean of the School of Nursing, said Byrd and her classmates have overcome obstacles during their education.

Julie Sanford
Sanford

“Students in this graduating class have experienced tremendous challenges as well as opportunities for service to make a difference for a public struggling through the pandemic,” she said. 

The pandemic has underscored the need for nurses, Byrd said. “Prior to the pandemic, we were in need of nurses, so we need them today more than ever.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 175,000 openings for RNs each year through 2029.

“I am forever thankful for a school that has thoroughly prepared us to enter the workforce and help meet the need for nurses,” Byrd said.

Sanford said she’s pleased to see Byrd starting her career at the Medical Center and predicts she’ll excel.

“Makenzie has demonstrated professionalism and leadership at a level normally seen in experienced nurse leaders,” she said. “We are proud of her accomplishments and those of the entire 2021 class.”

CICU manager Don Horn said he looks forward to Byrd joining the unit.

“We’re excited about her coming to work at UMMC,” he said. “We have a good class of new nursing graduates.”