Sometimes inspiration for what to do with one’s life comes from unfortunate circumstances. For Anna Larson, the introduction to health care as a calling came when she was a little girl.
At 6 years old, she was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a condition that causes abnormally fast heart beats.
“I was at church for the Christmas service and I wasn’t feeling good,” said Larson, now 23 years old. “As a 6-year-old I didn’t know what was happening. My heart was going really fast, almost 180 beats per minute.”
Larson’s parents took her to the emergency room in Jamestown, North Dakota, where her heart beat reached up to 280 beats per minute. She was given a beta blocker and other medications to slow her heart rate, but her condition sent her back to the ER multiple times throughout her childhood.
“In high school, I started thinking it was getting to be too much. I didn’t want to be going to the ER when I’m out doing stuff or hanging out with my friends,” Larson said. “It happened a lot when we’d go swimming and I was holding my breath and having my heart race.”
Larson ultimately saw Christopher Pierce, M.D., at Sanford Broadway Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota, to look into options of getting surgery done before she went to college. When she was 18, she had a cardiac ablation, which stopped the abnormal heartbeats.
By that time, Larson was already exploring health care as a profession. In high school, she worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Eventide Nursing Home in Jamestown with intentions of becoming a nurse.
“I was around it (nursing) so much and I was drawn to it at a young age. I liked the interaction I got with the nurses,” Larson said. “They were there helping me and talking to me and making me be calm during the whole situation.”
She remembers many of the nurses being interested in her potential career path, including one in particular who wrote her a postcard after the cardiac ablation surgery encouraging her to go into nursing. Larson kept the letter and used it as inspiration.
When contacted recently, the preoperative nurse who penned it, Beth Haugen, who still works at Sanford Health in Fargo, was excited knowing her words meant so much to a patient.
“When I write thank you notes, I always try and make it personal so it means more to them than just a rubber stamp type of thing,” Haugen said. “It sounds like she kept that tucked away for these last few years. That’s pretty neat.”
After graduating from nursing school at the University of Jamestown in 2017, Larson spent a year working on her family’s farm before becoming a nurse at Sanford Health in Jamestown last February.
She said working in a clinic setting gives her the opportunity to build relationships with her patients and set them at ease, the same way her nurses did when she was a scared child.
“I get to see patients over and over again and establish that connection — that I’ll be their nurse and get to be there for them,” Larson said. “I like that aspect of the health care field because you get to be with your patient and make an impact on them.”