By Harmon P. Mercer, RN, MS, CCRN
My name is Harmon P. Mercer, RN, MS, CCRN, and I am the Night Education Specialist at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. I started my path toward nursing after graduating Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens by boarding a plane to join the United States Navy. I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps. My brother was a Navy corpsman who worked in a Naval Regional Medical Center, Marine Corps, and St. Alban’s Veterans Hospital in New York City. Caring for the infirm seemed honorable and was something I could take pride in.
After completing boot camp, I trained as a hospital corpsman and was assigned to the naval Regional Medical Command in Portsmouth, Virginia, where I worked in the pediatric unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and ultimately the Adult Intensive Care Unit. After several years, I was given orders to serve as a field corpsman with the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. These early experiences helped drive my desire to become a registered nurse.
After my military service, I became a nurse’s aide and then a licensed practical nurse while I completed community college to become an associate’s degree-prepared nurse. During my training, a nursing education student named Athena Conforti took an interest in me. She worked at The Mount Sinai Hospital and asked me where I wanted to work. Athena set up my first interview with the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
I began working at Mount Sinai on July 25th, 1988, where I advanced to the title of senior clinical nurse until the job description was eliminated. I decided t0 join the United States Army Reserve in 1991 and was given the rank of 1st Lieutenant with the 344th General Hospital, which quickly became the 344th Combat Support Hospital with the onset of the multiple military actions occurring throughout the world.
My journey into nursing education began in 2003. I completed a bachelor’s degree and then pursued an advanced degree in Nursing Education while serving as a staff nurse educator at Mount Sinai. I was married to an extremely talented critical care nurse who deferred a teaching opportunity to support nursing education to me, because she preferred hands-on patient care. In 2007, an evening/night education specialist position opened at Mount Sinai, and I have been there ever since.
The advice I offer is to follow your dream. I have persevered through life-changing personal events and losses. My progression towards achieving my doctoral degree may have slowed at times, but I continued to progress nonetheless. I have cared for my brother in the same MICU that I worked in, and provided hospice care to my wife in her waning days as she valiantly battled breast cancer, yet I continued to do my best to attain a doctorate in Nursing Research from Adelphi University.
I believe that nursing is instinctual; nursing is from the heart; and nurses are born to accomplish great feats under any type of pressure. I am proud to be a nurse.
Harmon P. Mercer, RN, MS, CCRN is a night education specialist at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is passionate about adult education and has enjoyed a long career in both the military and private sectors. Harmon began working at Mount Sinai in 1998 in the NICU unit after serving in the military as a captain in the Army Nurses Corp. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Adelphi University.