Derek Miller is the new Nurse Education Specialist for Burn Outreach & Prevention at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center — a position that has remained unfilled since 2019. While the role is new for him, working at the Burn Center is not.
Miller began working as a nursing assistant at the Burn Center in 2004 to gain practical experience while he attended nursing school at UNC-Chapel Hill. After graduating from nursing school in 2006, Miller said he simply changed his name tag to reflect his new position as a clinical nurse and continued working at the Burn Center.
While at the Burn Center, Miller acted as a preceptor, charge nurse and a de facto unit educator. He also obtained instructor certifications in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS).
During his time at the Burn Center, Miller worked closely with former Burn Outreach & Prevention Educator Dr. Ernest Grant, who is now the president of the American Nurses Association (ANA). Miller said they travelled all over the state teaching Advanced Burn Life Support classes and other burn education courses for nursing and EMS students.
“I was a bit like his understudy,” Miller said.
In working with Dr. Grant, Miller said he became interested in the Burn Outreach & Prevention Educator job. In fact, Miller said it became the job he hoped to one day have.
It just took a decade for it to happen.
In May 2015, Miller left the Burn Center to pursue a nursing professional development role at UNC Hospitals. For over five years, Miller coordinated a program called Odyssey, which was the clinical core of onboarding education for new critical care nurses.
While he enjoyed the role, he was recruited back to his roots at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center for the vacant Burn Outreach & Prevention Educator position.
Though Miller is returning to a workplace that is familiar to him, he said both he and the Burn Center have changed.
“The landscape is different, so it’s really about creating new things to adapt to what the needs are across the state for burn education and outreach,” Miller said. “Part of that’s rekindling what has been done before and part of that, I hope, will be creating new things to meet current realities.”
Miller’s job as Burn Outreach & Prevention Educator will involve several domains.
A large part of his work will focus on burn prevention efforts. He said he will partner with various organizations like Safe Kids coalitions and fire departments to provide burn education and outreach.
Miller said he will also be working to cultivate relationships with emergency departments, fire services and EMS services across the state so that when burn injury does occur, staff have the expertise needed to treat a patient.
During his first two weeks on the job, Miller has already booked several trainings meant to educate nursing students and EMS staff on current burn care practices, such as with Robeson Community College, Guilford Technical Community College and Harnett County EMS.
Miller also plans to get involved in the larger burn community from an advocacy and policy-making perspective, with the American Burn Association (ABA) and the Phoenix Society.
Over the course of his work, Miller’s goal is to reduce preventable burn injuries and ensure optimal burn care through outreach and education.
“We just want to minimize injuries,” Miller said. “But then, for those who do suffer injuries, we want to make sure that they have excellent care before they come to the Burn Center, while they’re here and post-discharge.”
Story written by Rachel Crumpler, UNC Tar Heel Trauma Program’s communications intern.