Spotlight: Lindsay Lawless, RN, CPN, CEN, Pediatric Radiology Nurse

Lindsay Lawless, RN

September 25, 2020

Lindsay Lawless, RN, CPN, CEN, was born and raised in Anderson, a very small town in Indiana. Lindsay always knew she wanted a career in healthcare, and wanted to work in a hospital on the frontlines. At 17 she was counting down the days to her 18th birthday so she could finally apply to be a hospital telephone operator at Saint John’s Hospital.  Lindsay worked the night shift for the next four years while taking classes toward her BSN. During this time Lindsay became very close with her hospital colleagues, many of whom were nurses. They soon became valuable mentors and inspired her to become a nurse. 

Not only did Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana educate late night comedian David Letterman (an alumnus!), it’s also where Lindsay received her nursing degree. Throughout the nursing program Lindsay served as a nurse’s assistant working with adult patients. Upon completion of nursing school Lindsay continued to work with both critical and non-critical adult patients, graduating in 2008. “Nursing school was four of the best years of my life and where I met four of my closest friends,” says Lindsay.

After achieving her goal of working at a level one trauma unit at St. Vincent Hospital, Lindsay began to experience wanderlust. On a whim one summer, Lindsay and her best friend booked a cruise to Mexico where they met a group of friends who were from San Francisco. “We returned from our cruise and I gave two-weeks notice, signed a travel contract at a non-profit hospital in Los Angeles, Cedars-Sinai, and took off! I've been here, in California ever since!” 

In 2012, Lindsay joined the University of California, Davis, a nationally recognized academic medical center. In the five years Lindsay spent at the UC Davis emergency room she observed great work happening in patient care, but also experienced many challenges in pediatric patient care. “For the first time in my career I experienced a lot of moral distress in the emergency room. I witnessed how broken our healthcare system really is. Not having beds for patients, a lack of resources for our homeless population, not being able to provide access to mental health care, and all-around staff burnout.”  The emergency room experience left Lindsay wanting to do more for pediatric patients and motivated her to seek specialized pediatric training at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, where she worked in the pediatric intensive care unit for two years.

In 2019, Lindsay joined the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at UC San Francisco working under Charlene Fong, RN, Radiology Nurse manager. Lindsay supports patients, anesthesiologists and technologists for every modality – CT, Nuclear Medicine, MRI, XR, and Ultrasound. She places a lot of intravenous lines for both adult and pediatric patients in order to give medications to optimize certain images, and monitors patients recovering from anesthesia.

Lindsay soon discovered that her role as a registered nurse in Radiology requires her to also serve as the eyes and ears for radiologists. “We are the gate-keepers of patient safety, confirming patient diagnosis, orders, medications, and any other concerns the patients may have,” says Lindsay.

Lindsay enjoys supporting patients across their lifespan. Lindsay cares for neonates, children in hospice, the elderly, and patients receiving palliative care. “Every encounter is unique. We have an opportunity to make a difference in someone's experience in just the short time they are in our holding room,” says Lindsay. Great lengths are taken to support patients fearful of an exam. Among the coping tools that Lindsay and her colleagues share with patients are essential oils, eye masks, movies, audio books, podcasts, and music, in an effort to create a calm experience.

A good portion of Lindsay’s day is spent anesthetizing children who aren't able to lie still for the duration of an MRI. A successful pediatric scan requires massive coordination with the child and their parent or guardian, radiologist, nurse, technologist, as well as teams in Anesthesia and Cardiology. Realizing that this process was overwhelming for the patient, Lindsay began to research ways to redesign our pediatric scanning process. She advocated for using untapped resources such as UCSF’s Scan Without Anesthesia Program offered by Child Life, a department dedicated to developing coping plans for children of all ages. Working with nursing leadership to implement these scanning protocols for pediatric patients, Lindsay observes that “So far we have had much success with coordinating scans at bedtime.”

Central to Lindsay’s nursing career is an ethic of service. Recently Lindsay provided care for underserved patients while on a short per diem assignment at San Quentin Prison performing COVID-19 symptom checks, remarking that it was “one of the best humanitarian experiences ever.” In 2020 the DAISY Foundation recognized Lindsay with a DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

Reflecting on her short time thus far in UCSF Radiology, Lindsay feels fortunate to work with nurse leaders Charlene Fong and Jordan Kaitz: “They both have hearts as big as the COVID-19 tents in the emergency room parking lot! It truly makes working here even more fulfilling.”

By L. Delgado

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