Meet Our Heroes: Interview with Julie Kanyuch RN BSN CCRN

This week we can’t wait to introduce you to another of our special Acuity #healthcareheroes! Please meet Julie Kanyuch, critical care nurse and nursing supervisor at our Belmont Ohio Valley campus. Read on to see why Julie is proud to be one of three generations of nurses, and why she jumped out of a plane this year!


Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m Julie Kanyuch from the Belmont campus. I’ve been with Acuity for eight years and prior to that I worked in a cardiac cath lab for ten years. Before that, I worked in the ICU and as a trauma case manager. Presently I am a proud bedside nurse and nursing supervisor.


How long have you been a nurse?

I’ve been a nurse for forty years. My mother was also an RN and I wanted to be a nurse as well. I graduated from a diploma program at the Ohio Valley General Hospital School of Nursing, the same program as my mother. I continued my education at Ohio University to pursue my BSN and became certified in critical care (CCRN). I have maintained this certification for 35 years. A test I never want to take again!


Was your mother a CCRN as well?

My mother was an obstetrical nurse and then started one of the first home health agencies in the valley. My daughter is also an RN at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh as the assistant director of the cardiothoracic floor.

I’m proud of that, both my mother and daughter being nurses. I told my daughter not to be a nurse. I told her she was too nice and it might make her sad. As daughters do, she did it anyways! She loves it and said, “See mom, you were wrong and I was right!” She is a beautiful nurse. We share stories, and laugh and cry. Being a nurse is not easy, but there are times that make it worthwhile. I’ve made lifelong friendships. We help each other get through it. We figure out how to make it better and do it.


What are the moments that make it all worthwhile?

People are dealing with so much, especially now with COVID-19. They are unable to see their families and are afraid. They are sick and lonely. All they have are their health care workers for support. We have started doing FaceTime for them and it is a huge help. For me, when someone says “Thank you, I couldn’t do what you do.” It makes me happy and proud.

Nurses have a different sense of humor. We definitely look at things differently! Humor puts people at ease and lightens the experience. Bedside manner makes all the difference. Humor is how my family has dealt with difficult situations. I think it is a means to calm people. It is a way to carry on.


Was that how it was at home growing up?

Yes! My father was witty and funny and my two older brothers are the same. They still make me laugh. I have a son and a daughter and they have carried on with the same wit and humor.

Nurses are the first line of defense for the patient. We are the 24/7 set of eyes for the doctor. If we see a problem, we react. Our doctors trust and listen to us. We care for a multitude of diagnosis, whether it be cardiac, respiratory, overwhelming infections, or wound care. We have been successful in getting our patients back to a state of health where they can have a good life again. Teamwork with our respiratory therapists, personal care techs, pharmacists, dietary, OT, PT, and physicians. Our staff is trained in BLS and ACLS (life support certifications). We take great pride in what we do!

It is extremely important to educate the patient, family and care givers. We teach even when we don’t realize we are doing it!


What does a typical shift look like?

Very busy from the start. Nurse-to-nurse report first, then planning and prioritizing for the day. That is key. Flexibility is necessary because invariably things don’t go as planned.


Is home your sanctuary once the shift is over?

Yes it is. I have a dog and two cats, all rescues. Chloe is a boxer mix, Timmy and Maddie are cats that somehow found their way to me! My husband used to say we had a beacon on top of our house for hungry and stray animals. My husband of 40 years passed away last November of pancreatic cancer and I miss him terribly. My children, family, friends and fur babies are my medicine.

I decided to jump out of a plane last month. I went skydiving! I was the one who would say don’t do this or that! My husband did it last October and didn’t tell me until he was there. He called and said, “You aren’t going to believe where I am.” I thought he was at Lowes! He said I didn’t tell you because you would have said no. He was right!


That’s amazing! Were you scared?

I was fine until I was kneeling in the open doorway of the plane with one foot out. I thought this might not have been a good idea! Then the fella who was my tandem jumper gave me a push and down I went. 13,500 feet or 4 miles. He had explained the procedure and I felt comfortable with him. I told him he was the nicest guy who ever pushed me out of a plane. It lasted about 5 minutes and was the coolest thing I ever did. My friend Tonya went with me and made it even better! She is such a good friend and so funny!!


Do you miss the crazy days of raising a family and working as a full time nurse?

I do. My husband and I would each take a child and go in separate directions. Always busy but we did it and did it well! When the grandchildren come here and the house is in chaos, the kids apologize. I just say you have no idea how much I love and miss this. I saved my children’s toys and now give them to the grands. They love that it was Mommy’s or Daddy’s. My home is definitely my sanctuary. It is the home that I grew up in and raised my children in. We bought this 100-year-old home and completely redid it. My husband had a gift and knew how to do everything.


I volunteered to care for the COVID-19 patients so my co-workers with children or sick family members did not have to. We are provided with all of the personal protective equipment (PPE) and have been educated on proper procedures to don and doff. Sometimes I come out of the room and definitely need a shower! We laugh a lot about this. We know what we are dealing with, so we can take all of the precautions. In the community, you don’t know who has it or where it is. I do wear a mask when I go out in public. Our material management staff have done a phenomenal job in providing us with PPE. All we have to do is pick up the phone and say hey we need this or that and it appears. They protect us.

These people are so sick, and didn’t ask to be here. I think the staff is supportive of us. We call our designated area the bubble. We peek our heads out and say hey I need this or that and they get it. It is not easy being in the bubble for twelve hours but its ok. We are seeing people get better. When we get to tell them their test came back negative they say oh thank God! And we say oh thank God! It’s difficult for the patient and also the staff taking care of them. Constantly washing our hands and garbing up. But we know how to prevent it, and we have all the tools.

We haven’t had the terrible situation like the big cities, but I knew I had to protect myself so as to protect my family and friends. The pandemic made me realize that so much of what we valued before really wasn’t all that important. I missed people. I’m one of those annoying people, a HUGGER! I was lucky to get to go to work and get out of the house. I have so many friends and family who couldn’t go out. Patients who have been here before the pandemic are scared. We continue to reassure them and give comfort as best we can.


That’s wonderful. What would you say to your coworkers and patients reading this?

I want to thank the people that I worked with over the years, who were mentors to me. To the younger people that say hey, I want to be a nurse! I would say it’s not easy but it’s worth it. It is hard and sometimes heartbreaking, but it’s the best career you can ever have. I’m not perfect but I continue to try. I’m proud my daughter didn’t listen to me and became an awesome nurse! When folks say, “Thank you, I couldn’t do what you do,” I laugh and say, “You’re welcome”. But I do appreciate the kind words. Not everybody could do it, but nurses do. I’m proud to say I am a nurse.

It’s true. It takes somebody special to be a nurse, just like it takes somebody special to work at Acuity! Thank you Julie, and thank you to all of our #healthcareheroes!