Katherine: Captain of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders and Registered Nurse

Science Cheerleader Hilary here to introduce you to 4th year veteran and captain of the Denver Broncos cheerleaders Katherine! Katherine moves between being a floor nurse and a charge nurse, and has been a Broncos fan since birth. Read below to learn how Katherine takes charge on and off the field.

Photo courtesy of Denver Broncos Cheerleaders

What turned you on to STEM and when?
Math and science run in my blood: my dad was an engineer and my mom was an accountant! Math and science were always my favorite subjects growing up. I was in advanced math classes since 4th grade, taking calculus and other college science courses in high school, and I loved participating in science fair projects/research labs beginning as early as elementary school. I always wanted to do something that makes a difference in the world, but I wasn’t sure what path I would take. I thought about being a math professor, an engineer, and a doctor, but I have truly found my calling in the nursing profession and I love that I am able to make a difference in the lives I touch every day. I love walking into my job knowing that I have the opportunity to care for people directly and to help get people back into doing the things they love to do. I enjoy being in a profession that continually challenges me, one that is utmost rewarding, one where learning never stops, and one I truly cannot imagine my life without.

Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
 
I was always a Broncos fan growing up–my family was lived in Denver when the Broncos won back to back Super Bowls! We continued to move all over the world, but we never stopped cheering for the Broncos. I didn’t actually start cheerleading until I went to college, I had a gymnastics/dance/diving background throughout high school, but I loved every second of my college cheer team which included being out in the community, working with our Junior ‘Perform with the Pack’ Cheerleaders, cheering on the University of Nevada Wolf Pack at sporting events, and I truly enjoyed the friendships I made with my new family. I had always admired the legacy, class, and work ethic of the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders during our time in Denver and when researching professional cheerleading teams in college. After cheering all four years in college and falling in love with many aspects of the sport, I wasn’t ready to hang up my pompoms! So, I came out to audition my senior year of college to begin my journey with the Broncos. It has been the best decision I could have ever made.

Photo courtesy of Katherine

Please describe what you do in your health science career on a daily basis.
I work as both a floor nurse and as our charge nurse depending on my shift. Each role has different responsibilities, and I love the variety each role brings. We start every shift with a huddle at our nurses’ station where the day shift and the night shift go over important events/news/topics of the day and week. If I am the charge nurse for the shift, I am the one going over these important topics with our staff and I am ultimately responsible for and oversee the entire unit. If I am a floor nurse, I then receive reports on patients to whom I am assigned for my shift, which includes a little background story, important events, a general head-to-toe assessment, code status, serious medical procedures/surgeries each patient has endured, and the plans for each patient during their stay in the hospital. I collaborate directly with anesthesiologists, specialty doctors, surgeons, respiratory therapy, case management, etc., throughout the night in order to provide the best care for my patients. I provide scheduled medications, titrate various drips, assess epidurals, various pain blocks, surgical sites, provide wound care and other medical/surgical interventions, and assess my patients throughout my shift. I admit trauma, transfer, and emergency department patients onto our unit and we see a wide range of medical conditions. We are the eyes and ears for the doctors on call during the night. The goal of my work is to help people get healthy while closely monitoring my patients for any acute changes or worrisome symptoms.  

What does it mean for you to be practicing in STEM?
I see my role in society as advocating for health promotion, educating patients and their families on prevention of illness and injury, providing hands-on care, having my patients participate in rehabilitation to help get them back into doing the things they love to do, while providing support to my patients and their families through tough times.Patients’ lives are in my hands. The doctors I work with trust and care a lot about our opinions and assessments of our patients. We have responsibilities at work to keep patients safe and to treat our patients with the best possible care. I have doctors arrive within minutes of a call or page about a patient I am worried about, and we help get them the various medical/surgical interventions necessary to keep them as healthy as possible.

I work in a very rewarding and difficult profession, I enjoy being there for people during the good and bad times. I look forward to pursuing an advanced degree in the near future to continue caring for people, which I enjoy most. I am also hoping to be part of a few mission trips where we travel to various parts of the world to provide medical care and resources to those in need. I volunteer at Project C. U. R. E., donating and packing medical supplies to ship across seas, and I look forward to traveling with them in the near future to help provide hope and care to the under-resourced world. 

How do the qualities that make/made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
I am personable and approachable, allowing my patients to feel like they can talk to me about many different things, which is important in such an unfamiliar and vulnerable setting. My positive and energetic personality really shines in a setting where people are going through a lot of tough times, it helps remind them that things will get better, allows them to heal faster and keep their heads up along the way. I also enjoy jumping into any type of situation whether it’s in the hospital setting or at practice, gameday, or at promos/events within the Broncos Organization. We have to be ready to roll with the punches and go with the flow in many different environments. I am also happy to help my fellow coworkers/teammates out when things may be tough, we have excellent collaboration and have each other’s backs on the unit I work within and on the Denver Broncos Cheerleading team, which truly makes going to work that much more enjoyable whether I am in my scrubs or my chaps.

There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a health science professional. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?
I LOVE when questions come up regarding our profession as a cheerleader. We absolutely love working for the Broncos Organization and are honored to spend our time on and off the field and in the community reaching out to the best fans in the NFL, but many people are not aware that being a cheerleader is part-time for us and that we all have full time professions. Our team is so well-rounded and successful in our lives outside of cheerleading. We have so many unique jobs from aerospace engineering, directors of marketing, behavioral and speech therapists, dance studio owners/directors, construction controllers, and full-time students studying for their doctorates or other advanced degrees. The women on this team are very inspiring, motivating, and continue to remind me that we as women are powerful. We remind each other and other young women there is no limit in life which allows us all to strive and reach our fullest potential. I am amazed with how incredibly talented, diligent, and task-oriented we all are in order to do everything we need to do to succeed in our professional careers as well as our careers as Denver Broncos Cheerleaders. 

Best cheerleading experience?
I love participating in the flash mob on Halloween at Children’s Hospital Colorado. This is such a rewarding event and means a great deal to the children and their families to help get their minds off things going on in the hospital setting and into exciting and imaginative places. Children and their families are invited to dress up in their best costumes and come see and participate in the festivities, while those who are not able to leave their rooms are able to watch the excitement unfold on their TV screen. We are then able to make room visits where we sign autographs, talk with children and their families who are unable to attend the festivities, send them our best wishes, and take photos with families that they can look back on and cherish. I know what people are going through in the medical/hospital setting and I feel I am able to relate to them on a unique level. I love helping make that event come to life each year, and being able to see children’s faces brighten truly is magical and warms my heart.

Best health-related experience?
I really enjoyed participating in various research labs throughout my undergrad degree in biology and chemistry, but I also loved spending time in the hospital setting because it made me realize I was meant to take care of people and to be there for patients and their families. I never knew how inspiring and heartening it could feel to bring someone back to life. During my senior capstone in nursing school, we had someone bring a family member into the Emergency Room, not breathing and without a pulse. Talk about a way to get your adrenaline pumping! After over 10 minutes of CPR, administering medications, and delivering AED shocks, we found a pulse and the patient started breathing again. Tears filled my eyes with joy and it was truly such a rewarding moment for us all who had worked so hard to bring this person back to life. Many of us later went to visit the patient and family to check in and see how they were doing and the amount of gratitude and appreciation both the patient and the family had for us all was unbelievably fulfilling and humbling.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell myself the sky is the limit. Never doubt your full potential and soak in all of the beautiful moments life brings along the way. 

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I took Calculus III as an elective in college, I was a math tutor, Organic Chemistry was one of my favorite college classes, and I was asked to be a Teaching Assistant in Genetics where I held my own classes of students each week. I would answer any questions they had on lectures or homework, I put together test reviews, and they would take small practice tests I created to help prepare them for an upcoming test.