Tell us about yourself

My name is Debra Miller. I was born in New York and lived on a small island near Manhattan. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy demolished the area including my childhood home. I moved to Augusta, GA, with my parents and brother after my father was laid off after the completion of the Twin Towers construction in the early 70’s and started working at the local plant. My mother was the “All-American” domestic engineer raising two children and taking care of the household. My brother, John David, is a research chemist in Spartanburg, SC. He lives there with his wife Shelley, a nurse anesthetist, and his son, Benjamin. I lived in Augusta until 2008, when I remarried and moved to Lawrenceville, GA, with my husband, Eric, and son, Michael. We are now living in Braselton, GA.

I completed the nursing program at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. My career started on the medical-surgical floor for a year, then transferred to the operating room (OR) and has been there ever since. I have learned over the years, “Never say Never.” I have been an operating room nurse for 27 years and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I am currently certified in three areas, CNOR for the OR, CURN for Urology, and, of course, CMLSO for laser. I also teach BLS (CPR) and have for the last 18 years to my peers. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, reading, singing, music and, of course, my four-legged children, Muffin, Daisy and Emma.

When did you start working with lasers and how did you become the LSO?

I started with lasers in 2004 when Vangie Dennis taught the CMLSO class. The hospital I worked at the time wanted to start a laser program and since I worked in the Urology arena with the Holmium Laser frequently, I was chosen to be the Laser Safety Officer. At first it was difficult, but the knowledge from my mentors and LIA, AORN practice guidelines, OSHA, Joint Commission standards, and support from management turned intra-operative practices around. It was more difficult getting the physicians on board, trying to follow policies that were never enforced until now. Having administration support and taking your LSO practice to a patient safety issue, and use of risk management made a difference by lessening the physician’s resistance.

I currently have the privilege to practice my “calling” at Northeast Georgia Medical Center at Braselton as the LSO for the facility. I realize the great measures Northeast Georgia Medical center takes to ensure patient safety and associate education. It is truly a pleasure to work with an administration and supervisors that take laser safety practice seriously and the intra-departmental collaboration making it all happen. I county myself blessed to be a part of an excellent team of people and to LIA and BLS for their continuing work.

How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

Being certified gave the facility validation for the program and me the courage to continue my studies and maintain a good standing. I am more of apatient safety advocate than before. I feel as though I can make a difference. Patients are more at ease when I tell them I’m the “laser” nurse and will be taking care of them.

We want to thank Debra for working with us on very short notice to provide a Featured CMLSO profile for this issue of the BLS News & Review. For those who attended ILSC this past March, you may remember that Deb assisted BLS and LIA on-site, as well as presented “Titles and Tantrums, How is Your Aim”.