Kremer’s journey from doctor to nurse
Photo by Dan Addison
By Brevy Cannon
Bo, age 3, was walking near the edge of his family’s swimming pool when he lost his balance and fell in. Soon the Pegasus emergency transport helicopter was carrying Bo* to the U.Va. Medical Center to be treated for drowning. Thankfully, he pulled through. And the next morning, nurse-in-training Chris Kremer shared the news of Bo’s full recovery with his parents, who wept with joy.
“Those are the rewarding moments,” explained Kremer, who will graduate on Sunday with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, attained through the School of Nursing’s Second Degree Program.
They’re also the moments that added up to the reason why Kremer, who for much of his life planned to be a doctor, decided that “medicine wasn’t going to meet my needs or offer the fulfillment that nursing was going to.”
Kremer’s fulfillment comes from building relationships with patients and families that he works with, something that doctors have less time for than nurses do.
Though Bo’s story ended happily, that’s not always the case for parents with children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. But Kremer is glad to be a nurse at those times, too, so he can help a family in crisis.
Dealing with the death of a patient is discussed in many nursing school classes, but it is really learned only by going through it, said Kremer. It’s hard on the family, especially if the death was sudden. “The day before, the child was out playing,” he said. The nurses and staff “cried together about the loss.”
Kremer has been interested in a medical career since middle school. He was inspired by a friend’s father who visited their class. The neurosurgeon talked about performing surgeries that allowed patients to regain a decent quality of life after having suffered a stroke, aneurism or trauma. The dramatic turnaround stories and “neat slides from surgery” made Kremer want to become a doctor.
During his first two years as an undergrad at U.Va., starting in 1985, Kremer did three hospital externships and volunteered in the surgical intensive care unit at the Medical Center. In his time at the hospital, he observed that doctors are very “illness focused” and have little time to spend with patients. They are often scheduled to see a patient every 15 minutes, and they typically see in-patients for just a few minutes each day, during rounds. In contrast, nurses provide the primary, round-the-clock patient care.
After graduating from U.Va. in 1989 as a psychology major with a focus on biological psychology, Chris went into medical research hoping to “split time between patient care and doing bench-to-bedside research.” He spent the next 15 years in various research positions, including one as part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded research team studying cancer cells. He also researched the immune system and poultry population health, and was a co-author of several published research papers.
In 2004 Kremer was offered enrollment at both medical school and nursing school. Ultimately, he decided to be a nurse because it would allow him to provide more holistic patient care by building patient relationships and considering “psycho-social issues” as well as the mechanics of treating the ailment.
In the course of raising three children, he learned how fun it is to take care of kids. “It’s really fulfilling. Children have a future ahead of them. As a [pediatric] nurse, you can be involved in helping them realize that future.” Starting immediately after graduation, Kremer will be doing just that as a new member of U.Va.’s PICU team in the Medical Center — the job he was aiming for from the day he decided to attend U.Va.’s nursing school.
* Patient’s name changed to protect privacy.
School of Nursing
May degree candidates
• Ph.D.s 10
• post-master’s certificates 10
• master of science 35
• bachelor of science 136