Sikangezile Pauline Zulu is a charge nurse with Grady Health System. She also co-founded the Alex Jr. Cancer Foundation.
Photo: Special
Photo: Special

Why I Love My Job

Sikangezile Pauline Zulu, RN, BSN, MSN, CCRN

Job: Charge nurse, mentor, preceptor at Grady Health System

What I do: “I work in a charge nurse capacity and also at the bedside.”

How I got into this: “I worked in longterm care as an LPN. When I became an RN, I needed to challenge myself and become the best that I could be. The ICU seemed like a best fit for me because I have always been a good listener and I love to inspire other people. The ICU is a place where you meet all people from all walks of life at their most vulnerable moments. These families are hurting and traumatized — even angry at times.

“I realized this was an area where I hoped my talent as a motivational writer and speaker would be used to heal broken hearts.”

Best part of the job: “Feeling that you have contributed to the welfare of the client and their family. When a patient leaves the ICU, you have that satisfaction that you also had a small part to play in their recovery.

“Not all the cases end up with positive outcomes; sometimes families have to say farewell to their loved ones who pass away in the ICU. It is humbling to get a call or text message from a family member — who’s loved one just died in your care — inviting you to come and be one of the speakers during the funeral service, to be part of the funeral program. Call me crazy, but this is the moment in my job that I am so humbled, because in their grief, the family took time to call me.”

Most challenging part: “Praying with the families for recovery or healing and then the patient dies. This part takes a toll on me but more so for the families. This is the time I have to rise above my own understanding and seek wisdom from God to give me the right words to say to these families.

“It is so challenging to tell families that the miracle we were hoping for may not be the one God intended for them. Sometimes, families are receptive; sometimes their grief is so high that they may not be willing to hear what you have to say. This is the time when I keep my mouth shut and just hug them tight and let them direct their course of grief.”

What people don’t know about my job: “As ICU nurses, we are not made of steel; we break down sometimes and cry with our customers and families. Some of us close the door to the world and sing songs with patients who know they are dying and want to sing that favorite song.”  

What keeps me going: “My writing and the foundation I co-founded [Alex Jr. Cancer Foundation]. I have written two books, [one a book of] poetry and an inspiration book…

“Currently, I am finishing my third book, which is entitled 'This Side of Heaven.’ This book chronicles my journey with my cousin when she was terminally ill with cancer, and also will conclude with the story of one of my patients, who allowed me to journey with her on this side of heaven. The foundation helps me to give back to the communities by raising awareness of childhood cancer.”

Preparation needed: “Complete required education, pass state board [RN], highly recommended to… [earn] critical care certification [CCRN].”

Salary: The median salary for a charge nurse in metro Atlanta is $71,877, according to salary.com.

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