My Specialty

Emergency Nursing, Jesse Lynwood, MLK Community Healthcare

Adaptability is key for a nurse leader caring for a hard-hit community

Jesse Lynwood wearing scrubs and listening with stethoscope to a patient's heart

Jesse Lynwood III, RN, MSN, PHN
Asst. Nurse Manager, Emergency Dept. & Clinical Observation Area
MLK Community Healthcare, Los Angeles

Please share the arc of your nursing career. What drew you to emergency nursing?

I was a reserve firefighter and EMT, and the ED had a very similar pace to what I experienced in those roles. I was drawn to emergency nurses’ advanced ability to help quickly stabilize patients in stressful situations.

How did your experience as an EMT and firefighter prepare you to become an ER nurse?

I believe I brought a calmness to my practice. I used to tell ED nurses that EMTs and paramedics have it really hard, stabilizing people in the field and during transport. By the time the ED receives patients, they’re often semi-stable. Having had EMT experience helps me to visualize what happened in transit, which provides me with insights that can be helpful in terms of what needs to happen next.

How did you eventually land at MLKCH?

When I was working as an EMT, I knew a few nurses and RTs who had transferred to MLK. They spoke about how this hospital was going to change the community for the better, and I wanted to be a part of that. During nursing school, I got a foot in the door as a sitter in the ED several months after MLKCH opened, and I continued from there once I graduated.

What kind of average patient volume does your ED handle?

Pre-pandemic, we used to see about 340 patients a day. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen between 270 and 320 patients a day. During the COVID-19 surges, we were pushed out of ratio and forced to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Almost every day, we were receiving new guidelines, so we’ve had to be ready to pivot at any time.

How has the opioid crisis changed emergency medicine?

Our patient population has a lot of mental health and substance use problems. We board about 20 patients a day and treat just as many. We’ve been seeing enormous amounts of crack cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, meth and other illicit drugs. There’s also PCP here — we get those cases every week. The patient age range can be from older teens all the way up to 60 or 70 years old.

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For some older drug users who used to use crack, it’s now cheaper to get other fentanyl-laced drugs; I believe this contributes to psychiatric episodes like psychosis. However, there’s always been a high level of mental health crises in our emergency department. We have a small population here that was already struggling long before the pandemic.

At MLKCH, we have an anonymous program where we distribute Narcan for free to the general public. Teaching people how to use it can really save a lot of lives. The fact that people who need it can actually be taught to use it and then have it available to them is a true service to everyone.

You’ve earned both an MSN and certification as a public health nurse (PHN). How have those achievements served your nursing career?

My MSN has helped my advancement into my role as assistant nurse manager. It’s allowed me to see the bigger picture of our operations and helped me to grow into a better leader. My public health nurse certification prepared me to be a better patient advocate, as I’m more able to understand, assess and address the needs of our patient population, especially through patient education on issues that can improve our community’s health and safety.

What’s changed in this specialty during the course of your career?

We’ve had to be increasingly creative in the ways we triage patients and create treatment areas in order to see patients quickly with limited resources. The pandemic has allowed our hospital to take advantage of opportunities, like becoming one of the few hospitals in the state to offer a monoclonal antibody clinic. This definitely saves lives.

What makes an effective emergency nurse? What do you wish you’d known before you first set foot in the ED?

I believe that you have to be flexible and ready to adapt to any situation, no matter what. Fortunately, with my background, I knew exactly what I was getting into, but no one could have predicted what we would encounter during the pandemic. The more flexible and open-minded you are, the more successful you’ll be as a great team member who cares for patients and saves lives.

Nursing Education

How did you become assistant nurse manager? Did you always aspire to a role in nursing leadership?

My goal was always to move into nursing leadership, which is why I pursued my MSN in healthcare administration. I’ve consistently pursued opportunities to evolve as a professional, including as a resource nurse and charge nurse, and I’ve participated in various committees. This type of exposure has helped me to develop and become a more critical thinker, clinician and leader.

What makes a successful leader?

You have to be a very good listener. Tending to the needs of your staff and helping them to feel seen and heard is an absolute necessity. We have to support our staff and give them the resources they need to succeed. With the pandemic and the increased number of travelers being deployed around the country, you also have to work harder to retain staff.

We need to take care of them in order to keep them with us. If they feel valued, supported and appreciated, they’re more likely to feel a sense of loyalty, family and community, which means they’ll stick around and remain a dedicated part of the team.

How do you keep learning and growing as a clinician?

In-person conferences have just now started to happen again, so I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime, I find journals, case studies, research and webinars very helpful for continuous learning. I also get in touch with my mentors regularly. I call and ask what they’re seeing and thinking about, and how their practice is changing.

How did you find your mentors?

I didn’t meet all of them directly on the job — they’re people I’ve met along the way, admired and asked if we could check in periodically. When I started as a sitter in the ED during nursing school, I asked the people I thought were strong leaders if I could meet with them every quarter to receive direction and feedback. I gained two excellent mentors in that manner.

What advice would you give to those who want to enter the field — especially nursing students and new grads?

You have to be proactive and pursue opportunities that will help you grow. Also, try to seek out good mentors. Do your research on the healthcare organizations you’d like to apply to and make sure that they value nurses and their development. That’s exactly why I wanted to work at MLKCH.

Any longer-term professional goals you’d like to share?

I definitely want to become a director of nursing!

KEITH CARLSON, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has hosted the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at

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