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Mei Lani Renger, R.N.

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Mei Lani Renger, R.N., A.A., C.C.R.N., C.N. III 6ICU Neurosurgery / Trauma Adult ICU at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical CenterMei Lani Renger, R.N., A.A., C.C.R.N., C.N. III 6ICU Neurosurgery / Trauma Adult ICU at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Mei Lani, a model of compassion for patients and an inspiration to colleagues at UCLA, was honored as our "hospital hero."

With humbleness in her eyes and passionate conviction in her words, Mei Lani challenges herself with helping others in every aspect of her life.

What are your job responsibilities?
I am a senior nurse in the Neurosurgery / Trauma Adult ICU. We take care of patients who have head trauma or injuries from gunshot wounds, aneurysms and other neurological disorders resulting from trauma. I am the patient advocate and resource for the families. I also mentor student nurses and new graduates to teach them the ins and outs of the ICU.

You were nominated for the Hospital Hero Award - tell me about the award.
I've been blessed with so many supportive colleagues, administrators, patients and families who have made it so rewarding to work here. I always try to rally my peers to get involved in community events like the Heart Walk and encourage fellow staff members to nominate different individuals for recognition awards within UCLA. In May 2006, I was nominated by my peers and received the "UCLA Best Nurse of the Hospital" award and also received the "UCLA Humanism Award" for compassionate care in 2009.

I was also nominated by the hospital's administrators and awarded the "Hospital Hero Award" from the National Health Foundation, which recognizes direct caregivers who have demonstrated outstanding care to their patients. The nomination was a complete surprise and receiving the award is a true honor. I'm always trying to find ways to help our patients and their families get through hard times. It's my job, and being recognized for it by my peers, means the world to me.

What inspires you to be so passionate about your job?
I've known I wanted to be a nurse since I was in the sixth grade and saw candy stripers working in the hospital on a TV show. After college, I took a nursing aide class to see if I would like nursing and I fell in love with being in the field. After two months working in the ICU, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I took two months off to take care for her. I think it is because of my mom's death that I nurse in a very different way now - with more compassion, caring, empathy and understanding. Words can't adequately express what drives me, I just do what I'm supposed to do, and I just love my job.

How do you handle the heartache?
On our unit, we work with patients and their families on their worst day, when they are having a hard day, or dying. Or, we work with them on their best day, when a patient wakes up from a deep coma or is ready to go home. It is very sad and hard, but we see miracles in our unit every day. I get a lot of support from my coworkers and my wonderful husband and I have a very strong faith in God.

What is the most memorable experience you've had while working at UCLA?
When a family asks me to be their loved one's nurse, it is the highest compliment I can receive. One of the best days and hardest days of my life was when a family decided to withdraw care for one of our patients, and asked me to be their nurse during his last day of life. I came in on my day off to watch over the patient and to provide my support to the family. I am humbled by the support I receive from my unit director and am lucky to be able to work for a great team of fellow nurses and doctors who care so much. It is always an honor to be there for our patients and families. It's moments like this that remind me why I love my job.

What do you during your personal time?
I enjoy going to personal development seminars to expand who I am as a person. I love spending quality time with my husband and kids and participating in community service. I helped raise $12,000 for my son's school to help build a safer playground. I'm in the process of writing a book, titled Dear Mom: Things My Mom Taught Me, and want my daughter and son to illustrate it for me. I want to honor my mom for everything that she taught me; she was my best friend and I still write to her in heaven.