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Heather Miller-Koch: From HSS Nurse to Competitive Heptathlete

Heather Miller at USOC training camp

When I was just 15-years-old, I worked in the surgery department of my local hospital. It was during that time when I became interested in pursuing a career in nursing. The nurses I worked with there had a tremendous influence on my decision to work in an area where most patients are stressed, nervous, and scared. Following college, I was proud to be hired at HSS in 2010 as part of the nurse residency program working in the OR. I built very strong relationships with my new co-workers who were going through the same training and experiences as me. HSS has the best orthopedic surgeons in the country, and being in athletics my whole life it was great to work for a hospital where the jobs are so sought after.

While working at HSS, I was also training full-time striving to become an elite track and field athlete. As I progressed in my sport, the training became more intense and the opportunities for international and big time competitions opened up. It started to become too demanding and I had to make the decision to focus more on training. So, this past year, I transitioned from a full-time nurse/athlete to a full-time athlete to gear up for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

A typical day is much different for me now. Instead of running for patients in pre-op at HSS, I now run around a 400m track. I train as a heptathlete, which is a track and field event comprised of seven events…100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, and 800m. My training days are long. I usually train two of the technical events followed by a sprint workout, 800m endurance workout, or weight training. These days, I spend a lot of time taking care of my body.

Training for the heptathlon can be very stressful, as is working in the OR. Standing at the back of the high jump run knowing you only have one attempt left at a height you should have cleared on the first attempt is stressful. As an OR nurse, you need to deal with that type of stress and anxiety too and deal with it fast! You have to be calm in these situations just like you do before you toe the line in the last event of the heptathlon.

Training at this level has been an amazing experience so far. I am fortunate to be able to live out both my dream to be an OR nurse and a heptathlete. So, after I am done training to compete as part of Team USA for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I plan to return to the exciting world of nursing!


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