As a child growing up in the Midwest, Rikka Halili watched her mother come home completely drained after working long shifts as a registered nurse at a clinical care facility. The work was as exhausting as it was exciting, and Halili’s mother was relieved when her daughter’s early career interest pointed elsewhere.
Instead, Halili wanted to be a lawyer. She earned an undergraduate degree in political science in Chicago in 2004 and started working at a law firm in anticipation of her future career. But a volunteer position at a Chicago nursing home four years after her first degree served as the catalyst that projected her life toward the healthcare industry despite a lifetime of avoidance.
“When I decided I wanted to go into nursing, (my mother) didn’t know until I turned in all the applications and everything was set,” Halili said. “Then I told her that I stepped down from my job and I was going back to school.”
As she progressed through the nursing program at Loyola University, Halili knew she’d have to decide what area of medicine she wanted to work in. For this, she pulled from an event in her life that was very personal.
“I was interested in (dialysis) because my uncle passed away in dialysis,” Halili said. “It is part of the maternal side of my family; it is part of our medical history. Not only was I curious about it, but I wanted to learn more to help protect myself as well as my family — maybe somehow I could help prevent it.”
In 2016, Halili traded the Windy City for the near-constant cloud cover of the Pacific Northwest, sight unseen. “We moved here because of my husband’s job. I agreed for him to come here for the interview. He came here on a Friday, and he accepted the position right away,” Halili said. “It took some adjustment — my family is in the Midwest and it is so cloudy here — but I have to say that we are starting to make a little home for ourselves here.”
Continue reading to see what Halili does on a typical day as a nurse manager.
6 a.m. I pack my daughter’s lunch. I’m trying to introduce her to healthy eating, so she gets fruit every time. My patients’ diets are very restricted, but my daughter doesn’t have to be as careful.
7:15 a.m. I chat with my daughter as I brush her hair before I take her to preschool, and we talk about my upcoming visit to her classroom later in the day.
8 a.m. At Northwest Kidney Centers’ clinic on 112th Street Northeast in Bellevue. I go over the day’s patient schedules with receptionist Beth Kempton.
8:30 a.m. I’m working with registered nurse Maria Alfonso and dialysis tech Brock Yancey on ways to improve charting procedures.
11 a.m. I have the privilege of talking to my daughter’s class about kidney health, which I happen to be passionate about. I tell them eating well and being active are great ways to start.
1:30 p.m. I chat with our IT staff as we meet to discuss some recent computer-related issues.
2 p.m. Shift change: At the beginning of every shift, I huddle with staff. We brainstorm as a team, so no one is left on their own.
2:45 p.m. Time for a lesson on disaster preparedness with our safety officer. It’s important that we make plans at home, too. Dialysis patients can’t take time away from their treatments, so our staff needs to be available.
4 p.m. I meet with Dr. Annemarie Dooley, the medical director for our clinic, to review patient care plans.
4:30 p.m. I often go from chair to chair and ask patients how they’re doing. I talk with Roland, a patient, about today’s dialysis treatment. He’s being assisted by dialysis nurse Mikyoung Lee.
5 p.m. On the way home from work, I pick up my daughter, and we stop at Starbucks for a snack before heading home.
8 p.m. After dinner, my daughter and I cuddle up for some reading before she goes to sleep. Tomorrow is another busy day for both of us.