February 16, 2024/Nursing/Quality

Caring for Your Community (Podcast)

Veteran nurse shares his experience as a caregiver and community volunteer

A 22-year nurse veteran, Tracy (TC) Cairns, BSN, RN, spent most of his career working in a hospital emergency department before transitioning to ambulatory care five years ago. That’s where he found his calling.


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“Anybody at any time could become the patient. We’ve experienced it on that end,” says Cairns, assistant nurse manager at Cleveland Clinic’s Lorain Family Health and Surgery Center. “I love being able to be there and be that person that can change somebody’s day.”

Cairns is not only committed to caring for patients in the community, but volunteering there, too. He currently serves as a board member at Ross Medical Education Center, which trains medical assistants, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, Cairns discusses working in – and giving back to – the community. He talks about:

  • Transitioning from emergency medicine to ambulatory care
  • What it's like to be a clinical nurse in a community health center
  • The importance of getting involved in the community where you live and work
  • How to find the right volunteer opportunity

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essentials episodes at my.clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/nurse-essentials or wherever you get your podcasts.


Podcast excerpt

Podcast host Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, NEA-BC: We have some nurses who are mid-career and getting involved in the community is outside the working hours typically, right? So how do you make that work, and what advice would you give to somebody who says, "Well, I work so hard. I'm so tired."?

Cairns: Yeah, that's reality.Some of us have more physically demanding jobs than others but that doesn't mean that the jobs that aren't necessarily physically demanding are any less demanding overall. I would say be very careful about what you volunteer for. Know that you have the ability and the time. Understand what the requirements are, and make sure you can do it. Don't overextend yourself. Everybody gets in trouble when you overextend yourself.

Pehotsky: It's that fear of I'm going to let somebody down in either case, right? But, yeah, it's being really thoughtful about giving in a way that you're honoring yourself as well as the work commitment and this additional commitment.

Cairns: Right, but nurses – healthcare givers in general – have a hard time saying no. If you're asked to do something, the answer that wants to come out is always yes.


Pehotsky: So, any advice you'd give somebody who's curious about stepping into the board space, the community space generally? What should they be looking for? How do they find a good fit?

Cairns: Go as a spectator first. Don't just volunteer. Ask if you can just come and watch. Ask if you can come and see it, and then pick the brains of the people that are already there.

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