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Shawn Larabie: taking care of people

September 8, 2010
By DIANE?CHASE, Special to the Enterprise

Shawn Larabie spent most of his life in Tupper Lake and never considered a career in nursing until a chance meeting with a U.S. Army recruiter would shape the rest of his life.

"My father was in the Air Force Reserve. He would bounce back and forth; my mother stayed in Tupper Lake. This enabled us to stay in one place," says Shawn. "I grew up in Tupper Lake and went to school there."

Shawn's introduction to the military was unexpected. He admits that while in high school he did not have any idea of what career he wanted to pursue. At the invitation of his brother the Army recruiter came by his house when he was just 17. Shawn was sitting at the table and ended up signing up instead of his brother. His brother was the one interested in gaining more information and it turned out the younger brother joined.

Article Photos

Shawn Larabie helps find ways that patients can receive the best ER care at Adirondack Medical Center.
(Photo — Diane Chase)

"One chance meeting really changed my life," admits Shawn.

Since he was still considered a minor, his parents needed to give permission. He went to basic training and was fully trained before he turned 18. He has been affiliated with the military for 19 years. Starting in September 2007 Shawn did a year of active duty in Fort Campbell, Ky. but was not sent overseas.

Shawn joined as a medic and that is how he became interested in nursing. He enjoyed working in the fast-paced medical environment and felt that it was something he was good at. After completing his military service, he enrolled at North Country Community College's (NCCC) nursing program realizing he wanted to become an emergency room nurse. He also became a licensed EMT-CC and ran with the Tupper Lake rescue squad for five years.

"The first year at North Country you become an LPN and I went straight through and became an RN," says Shawn. "As a medic in the Army you have a lot more autonomy when it comes to patient care and I felt the LPN scope of practice was going to be too narrow for me because I was already trained to do many other things that a LPN is not allowed to do."

In the military an active-duty medic is trained to do many emergency procedures such as suture wounds and surgical airway procedures if they have to.

After graduating from college Shawn worked briefly for the Mercy Care Nursing Facility in Tupper Lake, which is now AMC Mercy. Then he came to Saranac Lake working on the third floor medical department at the Adirondack Medical Center (AMC). He decided that area of nursing wasn't for him. He worked at Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services Office, did some travel nursing and even worked at Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone.

"I realized that this wasn't the level of nursing that I was interested in. I went to CVPH in Plattsburgh to the critical care unit and found that was where I felt most needed," says Shawn. "My military and EMT background played some part in that decision. Jobs in the ER here (AMC) were limited and it took some time for me to get here. Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh are the only two emergency rooms in the general area."

"I am a nurse and currently the Patient Care Director for Critical Care at the Adirondack Medical Center (AMC). Basically, I am the nurse manager for the emergency rooms for Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and the Intensive Care Unit."

"There are roughly 35 people working under me at both facilities. Occasionally I still work in the ER," he says.

Though at a desk job now, Shawn still works in the emergency room if there is a staffing shortage.

"I'll jump in if the staff needs help," says Shawn. "So I can take a load off of the nurses out there. There are parts of the ER that I do miss; the patient interaction is one aspect. I still interact with patients, just differently now. I check with patients to see how we can improve our level of care. Instead of personally delivering the care I feel that I have more of a global effect on the overall care of patients rather than the few I was in contact with before."

"I'm still in the Army Reserve," says Shawn. "I have been in many different places, working in different hospitals and different areas. There is not a lot that beats this area (The Adirondacks) for raising children. Kids here don't realize how good they have it, compared to other places."

According to Shawn, Reservists can be called up three out of every five years. He does not anticipate a call-up but he is proud of his service. He calmly states that one just never knows what is going to happen and generally those Reservists are notified well in advance if they are being called up.

"There are laws in place that protect the jobs and positions of Reservists. Employers have to hold your position for you if you have to go on active duty. AMC has been phenomenal with their support. There are three of us in the ER that are active Reservists who are in the same Reserve unit. The hospital has the capability to fill our positions temporarily while we are on active duty. The people that fill our position while we are fulfilling our duty know that the job is temporary."

"Recently I was the nursing supervisor at the hospital at the post at Fort Campbell. I am not involved in the new veteran's hospitals coming to Saranac Lake but we at AMC are certainly interested and the hospital is very interested in being involved and providing services to the veterans that come to the area."

Shawn and his wife Sherry are in the process of building a new house in Tupper Lake. At one point, he said they briefly discussed moving to a different area and quickly realized that this is where they wanted to remain. Family is still in the area as well as a strong sense of community and that is where they wanted to continue to raise their two teenage boys; Zachary, 16, and Dakota, 13. Larabie attributes the close-knit community to Tupper Lake's logging heritage where people would come and stay and have to rely on each other. He feels that helpful town spirit is still prevalent today.

"I am working on my master's degree through the University of Phoenix so I don't have a lot of extra time," he says. "My schedule is quite hectic as I am also doing a private duty homecare job at night. It doesn't leave me time to do other things right now. I am getting a dual degree with a Masters in Nursing and an MBA in Healthcare Management. The masters will expand the field for me. I started with my associate's at North Country and that teaches the basics of nursing, how to take care of patients. I then went on to get my Bachelor's through the University of Phoenix in 2007. It starts teaching the leadership and management of nursing. It opened up the big picture of how a nursing department works and how does it all fit together in the working environment of a hospital."

Shawn believes that the online educational opportunities opened up all sorts of opportunities. It took him 20 months to finish his bachelor's degree while maintaining a full-time position. His online program requires that he currently be working in his field in order to be part of the program, achieving practice experience at the same time.

"Any student in this area that is interested in healthcare there is a really good program called New Visions that explores the various careers in the hospital," says Shawn. "If not, explore with guidance counselors the many options that are available. In this economy, it is pretty much assured that there will be jobs in the medical field in the future."

Shawn points out other ways for high school students to find out if a medical career is the right choice. He suggests volunteering in nursing homes to see healthcare careers at work. Shawn also feels that if someone is truly interested in the healthcare field there are ways to make it happen either by job shadowing, interning or even scheduling a meeting so a student can ask questions.

Shawn recently returned from an 18-day military tour providing medical support for Army engineers who are building schools in Haiti.



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