After having her first child in the mid-1990s, Gina Shaughnessy, RN, BSN, ACLS, PALS, a staff nurse who works part-time in preop and PACU for the Crozer-Keystone Surgery Center at Brinton Lake in Glen Mills, Pa., said she felt out of shape and knew she needed to slim down and firm up. With encouragement from her husband, she headed to her local rink, The Skating Club of Wilmington (Del.), to re-acquaint herself with a sport she had stopped participating in at age 12. She had been off the ice for about 25 years.
In 1995, the first U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships were held at The Skating Club of Wilmington. Not long after, Shaughnessy, a 1980 graduate of the University of Delaware College of Nursing in Newark, Del., was inspired by watching adults compete at that level and began her own journey up the U.S. Figure Skating Association testing ladder. She started practicing about three times a week and won four golds at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships. She achieved this while raising two children and working full time in PACUs, ICUs and CCUs. She has been a staff nurse at Graduate Hospital and Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and worked in staff development at Misericordia Hospital in Philadelphia.
Shaughnessy skated her way to gold for the fourth time in April at the 2012 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships Masters Novice Ladies competition in Bensenville, Ill. Her first competition was in 1997 at Lake Placid, N.Y., also a Masters Novice Ladies competition. She won gold that year as well.
“I was scared,” Shaughnessy said of that first experience. “I was actually really scared. It was real exciting because it was at Lake Placid. So much history skating on Olympic ice. All these pictures of famous Olympians. It was very exciting and it was new and it was fun.”
Shaughnessy is not competing this year, but said she will compete in 2014 if all goes well. She said it gets harder with each year, but she continues to keep at it. Health is a priority for Shaughnessy. She said she understands her limitations and uses common sense about her athletic abilities.
For Shaughnessy, ice skating is her key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Shaughnessy said she found riding a bike and working out at the gym boring and lonely. Ice skating, however, required her intellectual input and was social.
“Most of it is to keep in shape,” Shaughnessy said. “Its way better than going to the gym. … I often feel better after I have skated, although I may be tired.”
Shaughnessy has become a role model for her patients because she walks the talk. Demonstrating by example, she encourages them to seek a lifelong commitment to wellness.
“I deal with a lot of orthopedics patients,” Shaughnessy said, “especially younger people with sports injuries. I tell them I am an ice skater and had an ACL reconstruction and its the best thing I ever did. I feel like Im better since I had that done. If you have an injury, if youre an athlete, you think its done, its over. But when I had mine, I was older. If I can come back after that injury, certainly someone who is 18, 19, 20 can come back. Thats one way Im always sharing my experience.”
Jean S. MacFadyen, RN, PhD, is assistant clinical professor of nursing and track director of innovation and intra/entrepreneurship in advanced practice nursing at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions in Philadelphia. Regional editor Joe Grace contributed to this story.