Joe W. Smith

Joe Smith, Expert Health

Registered nurse Joe W. Smith, 29, calls the Minnesota City/Goodview area home.

Smith and his fiance have two children, Gavin and Gwen, ages 2 and 5, and three dogs (Siberian husky purebreeds Ashton and Ollie and miniature pinscher Cooper). He cares for patients at Winona Health in pre- and post-anesthesia.

"I get patients ready for surgery and take care of them right after their surgery until they are able to return home or be admitted to a hospital bed," Smith says. 

What did it take to get this job

Current registered-nurse licensure in Minnesota, CPR, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, few years of experience on either a medical floor or ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was preferable. Things they do not list, but take you far as an RN, is the ability to think for yourself. Not just be a person that says, "Well, this is what is ordered, I'm going to give it without even thinking about it." Myself and other RNs refer to it as critical thinking. Lastly, having common sense goes a long way in interviews and socializing with your co-workers.


Why your specialty matter

We fill in the parts that the surgeon doesn't. We answer questions patients are too scared to ask their surgeons…our job is to be that support system in between.

What patient-related issues concern you

So many patients are under the impression surgery is PAIN-LESS. ... Our goal as a pre/post-surgical nurse is to limit pain, and yes, if possible, to prevent it. However, I'd say at least 80-90 percent of patients experience some type of discomfort. The second patient-related issue is that after any time a patient goes under a "general" anesthesia after 2 to 3 p.m., (he/she) should have the option to be admitted to the hospital.

How do you tell who's who when all you can see is the masks and eyes of surgical team members

I spend hardly any time back in the surgery suites. However, in our facility, it is not as difficult as you may think. You all become such a tight-knit group and used to seeing each other. Just like with a family, you can easily identify each other by eyes, body figure, and body gestures. You also can identify people by their voices. It is just like with Halloween approaching, unless you have an amazing costume or a professional doing your make-up, your friends and family are still able to recognize you for you.

What "typical" patient needs do you serve

The typical needs for surgery our hospital provides are things such as, but not limited to: Gallbladder removals, total knees and hips, arthroscopies of the knees, appendix removals, colonoscopies, endoscopies, bowel resections, cataracts, pacemakers, hysterectomies, laparoscopic procedures, (reflux procedures) and many more.


Describe challenges you face:

Some patients you see are the sweetest people you will ever meet. Some are angry from the minute they walk into your department to the time they leave. Some are emotional, some are scared, some are stubborn and some are just cruel. Other challenges are discharging your patients in a timely manner, but providing excellence in care.  Explaining findings, procedures, and information to patients in a real language and not (using) medical terminology. Managing patients' pain, nausea, or vomiting. IV starts, because my attitude is if I miss one I feel just awful. It hurts, no matter what anyone says. Keeping the surgeons and patients happy both at the same time.

What's the first song on your list today?

Either Nickelback, "Burn It to the Ground," or Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, "Feel like a Rockstar."

Vikings or Packers?

Vikings. Season ticket holder for approximately six years.  Someday, I will make it onto the field! It is a dream of mine.

What, for you, defines excellent surgery?

Surgery is completed in a timely and thorough manner. Not just one or the other. The surgeon talks to the patient and family pre- and post-surgery. Pain management is done to keep the patient in a tolerable state of pain or pain-free when applicable. Sterile techniques are followed and maintained. A smooth transition through the phases of surgery without delay or long waiting times. Just going that extra step to let a patient know you truly care about them.


Tell us funny anesthetized patient stories:

A patient came out of anesthesia, thought they were home in bed with their significant other and started whispering things to the CRNA and myself that are meant to be kept at home in a couple's privacy. (Another) patient admitted to smoking a few pot cigarettes before coming in for their procedure.

What spot in Winona or the region should patients visit, when able

Signatures Restaurant for dining, Sugar Loaf for a small hike, and the region along the river in general if you are a motorcyclist like me.

Tell us about a turning point in your life:

My appendix burst and almost killed me. Never take life for granted. Live every day like it is your last, because you truly never know when it might be your time to go. Also, that experience makes me relate to my patients. I have been on the other side of the knife. I know what is like to be scared of the unknown. I know what it is like to have post-surgical pain and have nurses or doctors not believe you because this surgery usually doesn't come with that amount of pain. I know what it is like to have a fear of needles and get labs drawn ever so frequently or new IVs placed because the other one is old or infiltrated.

Finish this sentence: When the surgeon says...

--- "I want to start surgery at" (a certain time), you better have done your part to ensure the patient is ready for surgery.


3 things about yourself most people don't know:

1. I have a fear of needles and procedures done to me.

2. I used to work for a construction company before I became a nurse.

3. I love to cook and would enjoy the chance to eat and cook with Paula Deen, especially since she makes real American food.

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