EDMONDS — Just call him Nurse Spielberg.
Swedish/Edmonds hospital nurse Stefan Torres has gained national recognition for his flicks on health topics.
Known as “Nurse Stefan” in social media and medical circles, Torres, 33, won the 2018 Nurses Week Video Challenge by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health philanthropy in Princeton, New Jersey. The first-place video by Torres was selected from entries on the theme “It Takes a Nurse.”
His videos also put him in the limelight in the recent University of Washington School of Nursing’s centennial recognizing 100 nurses affiliated with UW who improve the lives of others. Only about three men made the list.
Torres, a 2014 UW Bothell nursing graduate, began his career at Swedish, where he returned this year after working as a travel nurse in Hawaii and volunteering in Peru. He currently is in the postanesthesia care unit.
He’d made videos with drones and on feats such as skydiving when he decided to focus on nursing issues. His first “Nurse Stefan” brand video was earlier this year. He has since made 20 more on topics such as diabetes, heatstroke, car seat safety, suicide prevention, alcohol withdrawal and the scoop on croup.
He fearlessly and festively embraces female issues. The “Nurse Stefan” breastfeeding video got more than 230,000 views. He uses Facebook as his platform.
His videos are educational and entertaining, with punchy graphics, music and props. He strapped on anatomically correct fake bosoms for the serious yet funny demo on breast self-exams.
“I am just trying to be real with people,” he said. “I’m testing the waters with a lot of things. At first I was apprehensive. What if they don’t like them? I am very loose with my language. That’s how things go, the way I talk. When you work in the ER you’re used to getting spit on and swung at and cussed at.”
Caridad Alvarez-Figueroa, director of surgical and interventional services at the Edmonds campus, said the videos are popular.
“He has a natural way of conveying information in ways that everybody can understand. He makes everything fun to learn,” Alvarez-Figueroa said.
Nursing jobs can be stressful and physically demanding, she said. The winning “It Takes a Nurse” video resonated with other nurses. “It kind of made the rest of us go, ‘That is some of the reasons I went into nursing.’ Sometimes when you’re doing it for 10, 15 or 20 years, you forget why you went into it. It took me back.”
Torres got into nursing through a series of random events.
After graduating from Edmonds-Woodway High School in 2003, he was on his first day as a stock clerk at a home goods store when his sister called and told him about an entry-level job in health information and medical records.
The call came just as he was contemplating the drudgery of a life spent stacking pillows.
He spent the next several years at a “paper-pushing type of job in an office,” he said. That was fine with him.
“I was an introverted, shy kind of guy,” he said.
While working in the records office at a Seattle arthritis clinic, a part-time nurse named Irene Burrows kept persisting that he shadow her at the main Swedish Cherry Hill hospital where she primarily worked. “She said, ‘You gotta come and see what we’re doing. I know you’d do fantastic.’ ”
Finally, he agreed because … Oh, why not?
“Within the first 30 minutes someone came in who was essentially dead. And the doctors, nurses and techs were like a well-oiled machine. They brought him back to life and that was something I had never seen before,” Torres said.
“It was so intense. It was incredible to me — this is something I can be a part of? I wanted to be a part of it. They were straight up saving lives.”
He said Burrows must have seen something in him that he hadn’t realized. He credits her with giving him the push he needed to pursue nursing.
He hopes his videos will inspire others.
“My whole thing is to try to keep nurses motivated, make people chuckle while they are watching them,” he said.
And for patients? “Get some basic things that can keep them out of the hospital.”