Diving Nurse's Passion Stretches From Hospital to Sea

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dive nurse speirs
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Registered Nurse Tia Speirs, right, diving in Kona, Hawaii, with her daughter, Katie, has been a dive master for 21 years.

Meet Tia Speirs, RN, a nurse whose passion for caring for others extends beyond the hospital walls into the deep blue.

Registered Nurse Tia Speirs holds a few extra certifications: she’s a basic life support instructor, a pediatric advanced life support instructor and she teaches infant CPR to parents in Renown’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. But those are only certifications for her nursing degree. She also holds multiple specialty certifications in her other passion — scuba diving — as an emergency first responder and instructor/trainer for scuba.

“If I could be in the water every day, even in the bottom of the pool blowing bubbles, I would,” Speirs says.

For the past 21 years, Speirs has been a scuba diver and is now a dive master – an assistant instructor who has overall responsibility for a group of divers. Speirs began diving when she lived in Florida and it’s been her passion ever since.

“You have to be good at what you do to help the students and you must be competent in your abilities, just like in nursing,” Speirs says. “I hold over 20 diving specialties, including mixed gasses, deep diver, navigation, rescue, night, and being a search and recovery diver. I also have a specialty in high-altitude diving; that is how I can help with classes in Lake Tahoe.”

Diving is a Family Affair

Speirs’ daughter was 3 years old when Speirs first became certified. Living in Florida at the time, Speirs says she has pictures of her daughter, Katie, in her scuba gear, and that she was always eager to get in the water and dive.

“It used to be you had to be 13 years old to dive,” Speirs says. “So when Katie was 13, she started taking classes. Katie is 24 now and has her search and recovery and her five specialties and is a master diver. She is in her third year of medical school at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, but when we go on trips, she’s still my dive buddy.”

Speirs’ husband has also gotten into diving, inspired to earn his advanced diver certification after watching his wife and daughter have fun in the water.

Diving has taken Speirs all over the world, including Kona, Hawaii, where she loves diving with the manta rays at night. In Mexico, traveling down Baja, she was able to dive with whale sharks, “an experience of a lifetime,” she says. She has also been to Belize, Cabo San Lucas and Bonaire, which is in the Dutch Caribbean near Venezuela. She has been diving with dolphins, eels, turtles and many tropical fish.

She says her scariest moments, however, are when she is watching the other divers. She keeps an eye on everybody, even when she’s diving on vacation and not on official dive-master duty.

“I should probably stop doing that, but it’s my nature to make sure everybody is OK,” Speirs says. “When I am teaching that is my job – I am always on alert and my job is to watch the dive students. And when a dive student shoots to the surface because they can’t clear their mask, I have to go up with them to make sure they are OK. In that respect, being a dive master is similar to being a pediatric RN. I watch the kids, I watch the dive students. It’s my job.”

dive nurse speirsNursing and Plans for the Future

Speirs has been an RN for 26 years and is currently working in the float pool (rotating between different units in the hospital as needed) for pediatrics, the pediatric emergency room, the NICU and PICU.

Speirs is now planning her future retirement to an island — not just for the sun and relaxation — but because she wants to keep diving and teaching.

“I’m retiring in four years, so my husband and I have been going to different islands every year to see where we want to live,” Speirs says. “I’m going to be a dive master on an island, that’s my goal.”

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