Teamwork leads to the best patient care
Meet Micah Puffer, the new ED Manager at MCH
By MARY-JUSTINE LANYON
When Micah Puffer, R.N., was the manager of the med-surg department at the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head, N.C., he was joined on the staff by general surgeon Van Martin, M.D. The two worked well together and soon became friends, with their wives and children enjoying one another’s company.
In November 2018, Dr. Martin left the Outer Banks to join the staff at Mountains Community Hospital, moving his family across the country.
When the position of manager of the emergency department at MCH recently opened up, Dr. Martin contacted Puffer.
“He reached out to me a couple of months ago,” Puffer said. “He said to let him know if I had any interest. In essence, he recruited me.”
Puffer had a phone conversation with Terry Peña, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. “We had a conversation about what the hospital was looking for,” Puffer said. “She thought we should meet face to face.”
And so, Puffer came out to Lake Arrowhead with the eldest of his three daughters, Tessa, who will soon turn 13. “It was a neat experience for the two of us to get away together,” Puffer said. Over the course of a long weekend, he met with Peña and other staff members. Before the end of the weekend, they had offered him the position.
Puffer and his family – wife Emily and daughters Tessa, Callie, 11, and Macie, 2-1/2, accompanied by their cat Nox – drove cross-country. He started work at MCH on June 21. He describes the ED team as fantastic.
“They don’t need me. I’m here to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, to demonstrate the sorts of things already being shown by the staff. They offer excellent patient care. I will help organize – I’m a decent organizer. No one succeeds if we don’t all succeed. It’s a team sport – the more we work as a team, the better the outcome and the patient care,” Puffer said.
Puffer comes from Ohio, where he attended nursing school at Bowling Green State University, which he said was an excellent program. Following graduation, he and Emily were married and he started work at the community hospital where he was born.
“It was a smaller hospital so I did pediatrics, cared for adult patients, cardiac and general surgery patients. It was good training. You never knew what you were going to get.”
After several years, he moved to central Virginia, where he fell in love with the emergency room.
Wanting to expand his horizons – “I’ll die the day I stop learning,” he said. “I love learning new things.” – Puffer chose to become a travel nurse. With Emily home-schooling Tessa and Callie, they traveled across the country – from Bangor, Maine, to Tarzana, Calif., with a stint in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Each experience was different,” Puffer said. “Ortho, neuro, trauma units, pediatrics, adult critical care.” These experiences added to his skills. “Every new experience teaches me something. I don’t mind stretching,” he said.
Puffer worked as a travel nurse from 2012 until he was offered the position in the Outer Banks in 2015.
After Dr. Martin left for California, the two remained in close contact. “I had been thinking about making a move,” Puffer said. “We made some great friends in the Outer Banks but there wasn’t much room for growth careerwise.”
His wife, Puffer said, was pleased at the prospect of moving to the West Coast as she has family in Portland. And, when he and Tessa were here for the long weekend, “she came alive. Her eyes were bright. She was excited to get out and see things.
“That helped guide my decision,” Puffer said. “Moving somewhere for a career is great but, if it’s not good for the family, it’s not a good option. I could tell immediately this would be a fantastic place for my girls.”
He added that having built-in friends – Dr. Martin and his family – didn’t hurt in making the decision.
While Puffer will be the manager of the ED, he also plans to be a hands-on nurse, giving patient care. “I’m here to be a nurse,” he said. “The neat thing about working for a smaller facility is you have an opportunity to be hands-on. That was one of the things I enjoyed in the Outer Banks – I worked at least one or two shifts a week on the floor with my peers. I anticipate doing that here.”
In fact, he noted that the next week he was already scheduled to cover a couple of shifts.
“I love being a nurse and don’t want to get away from it,” he added. The office work is important but Puffer said he loves working with people.
Did he always want to be a nurse? Puffer didn’t have to think long about the question. “I would find orphaned baby bunnies and try to nurse them back to health,” he said. He had briefly considered going into an aeronautics pilot program – something else that interested him – “but it didn’t feed the caregiver side of me,” he said.
The Puffer family was fortunate to find a place to rent in Lake Arrowhead. They contacted the owners of an Airbnb and asked if the couple would consider a long-term rental. Since the couple was facing some health issues, the idea of not having constant turnover was a good one. “We unlocked the door, walked in and we were home,” Puffer said. They will eventually look for a home to purchase.
“As a travel nurse, I’ve been to a lot of places,” he said. “But I haven’t been anywhere that feels like this.”