November 10, 2020
Kevin Baker, RN, oversees the clinical and safety operations as a Clinical Nurse Coordinator with North Suburban Medical Center, but his road to becoming a local healthcare hero began as a firefighter, and a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve.
At 26, Baker fulfilled a childhood dream of becoming a firefighter while also serving in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, where he served the country and community on a parttime basis.
“I had always wanted to be a firefighter. It was always a dream of mine, so when I had the opportunity to become a firefighter in Hawaii, I jumped at the chance. I could finally reach my childhood dream,” said Baker.
Baker spent several years protecting the community on a daily basis by serving as a firefighter. Then, in early 2001, the nation was stunned by the devastating events of 9/11.
“It was a normal day, I went for a run before heading to the fire station and when I got home it was all over the news. My wife and I watched and cried together. I knew right away that there was more that I could do, so I decided to become a full-time member of the Guard.”
Baker left his firefighter job behind and joined the U.S. Coast Guard where he volunteered to join a newly formed anti-terrorism unit established by the U.S. Coast Guard right after 9/11 - the Maritime Safety and Security Team.
The elite unit specialized in landside force protection, waterside tactical boat operations, vertical insertion onto suspect vessels or landside threats, scuba search operations to identify underwater threats, and more. The team was always ready to respond and could mobilize just 48 hours after a threat was identified.
As part of this unit, Baker would use his firefighting experience and the field medicine and trauma training he received to serve as the Unit Medic on the team, while deployed.
Several years later, Baker suffered a back injury while on a mission, which cut his time in the U.S. Coast Guard short, and he was honorably discharged. Unable to return to being a firefighter, Baker decided that nursing would be the next logical career choice.
“With all of my previous medical experience and my desire to serve others, nursing seemed like the next thing to pursue,” said Baker.
The pursuit of a nursing career would bring Kevin to Colorado for school and eventually a job as an RN at North Suburban Medical Center where he participated in the Emergency Department Graduate Externship (EDGE) program that HealthONE offers to new nursing graduates. The program prepares nurses for careers in Emergency and Trauma nursing. Baker was in the first class and began working at the HealthONE hospital.
Today, Baker has been at North Suburban for more than five years, and continues to work in the Emergency Department where he has cared for thousands of patients in need, but he says that the experience of being a firefighter and serving in the Coast Guard has shaped the way he sees his role in the ER and how he cares for patients.
“I instantly liked North Suburban because there was a strong value on teamwork,” said Baker. “In firefighting and in the military, the one thing we learn and value is teamwork,” said Baker. “So, seeing that same dedication to teamwork at North Suburban – where everyone is valued, no what their role is, is why I stay.”
North Suburban Medical Center is now a designated Level II Trauma Center and according to Baker, although the injuries the Emergency Department cares for has increased in volume and in acuity, the team remains strong and dedicated to the community.
2020 has been particularly challenging for healthcare workers across the nation, and when asked what it means to be a nurse during a pandemic, Baker says, “It’s hard now, but we’re strong and although we aren’t able to connect with each other outside of work or even on lunch breaks, we remain connected through the care we provide every day and we’ll get through this. I’m proud to be a nurse now more than ever.”