What Keeps Nurses Going Strong In Spite Of Everything?
The emotional and professional demands on nurses are greater than most of us can imagine. Patient population on the rise. Staffing shortages. Ethical issues. Compassion fatigue. Bullying. Despite these factors, nurses find a way to stay passionate, energized, and dedicated. Medline is marking National Nurses Week with stories from the field and sharing unique perspective from nurses representing the continuum of care across the country. Their experiences may vary but I think you’ll agree, one thing is consistent – the heart of a nurse beats with compassion.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sue from Pennsylvania. She’s a nurse of nearly 30 years who’s focused the last 10 years of her career on nurse education. For Sue, she knew she wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a little girl and followed in her mother’s footsteps. Now, this veteran sheds light on the profession, her passion, and how she would change healthcare.
(This is part one in a three-part series)
MARTIE: It’s always interesting to hear about a nurse’s pathway. How did it all begin?
SUE: I went to Penn State for my bachelor’s degree and worked for Hershey Medical Center doing post-op for transplant and cardiac patients. I really liked starting at a teaching hospital and after I graduated, I wanted to go for my master’s degree. I’ve always had a love for education. I left the hospital and eventually relocated back to my hometown where I grew up. There, I wanted to broaden my horizons even more and went to intensive care for seven years. The nurse educator position opened up and in all, I’ve been here now for more than 20 years. I also had the opportunity to teach nursing freshman one night a week as adjunct faculty loved it!
MARTIE: Just like you, I put myself through school as well. I hear in your tone and stories, this incredibly humble person… and this intellectual expertise and this brilliance. You have continuously pushed yourself to learn and grow. For you, what does a great day look like?
SUE: We really work hard to staff our grid so our nurses have a good ratio. I always want to make sure they have what they need to take the very best care of their patients. With my role now, I don’t take direct care of patients but I certainly help new staff and provide any educational support. Knowing that the nurses have what they need to do their job really well and that patients are well cared for are really important to me. Everything today is also based on outcomes. Clinical outcomes for our patients. Our reimbursement. Even our practice – everything needs to be evidence-based best practice and I love that. I love that we watch people make sure they wash their hands. I love that we try to get Foley catheters out quickly. It’s what’s best for the patient…it really is. Ultimately, this is the community I grew up in and I know a lot of these patients. At the end of the day, knowing we’ve done the best for them makes it a good day.
MARTIE: I love that. You have filled my cup because I agree with you, that’s a good day for me as well. I know you mentioned that you’re not as close to the bedside but you’re at a very large bedside. Your hands are the hands that are supporting the patients and you have incredible responsibility. You’re doing a fantastic job and I can hear it in your story.
SUE: Thank you.
MARTIE: Let me ask you this. Hospitals are tough places these days. Given where you live, I’d bet you chocolate that I think I know your answer… but let’s see if I do. What’s not such a great day? And what challenges do you think about?
SUE: We have something that I absolutely love called our 10 o’clock rounds where all the nurses take 15 minutes. All the doctors come, hospitalists, case managers, nutrition, I’m there, the director is there, and we go by patient-by-patient to anticipate discharge planning. We’re always doing what’s right for patients but there’s this tension around being fiscally responsible. The economic climate. Insurance companies. We definitely want to be fiscally responsible…absolutely…but there are a lot of factors we need to consider. We have to work within our constraints but the financial aspect is also a constraint. I’ve wanted a certain IV product forever but can’t get it because it’s too expensive. But those are some of the challenges we face.
MARTIE: It’s the tension of external pressures, what we know we want to do for our patients and assuring we achieve the level of care that we want to give…all within the constraints that exist. It’s tough…it’s really tough. So, this is where you get that creative moment. This is what I love about nurses because if you give a nurse a problem, they’ll figure it out, they’ll do a workaround, and they’ll redesign it, all within the same moment! But if I were to say to you, Sue, you’re in charge of a hospital now. What would you do to deliver and improve clinical care, redesign care? How would you do it?
SUE: There was a hospital in Philadelphia that went to all RN staff. When I first started nursing, it was a primary nursing care model where I had complete care for my entire patient. I bathed them, did my own vital signs with my stethoscope, and I would really like to do that. I haven’t gotten my doctorate but I’d really like to trial that on a unit because I feel that the nurse really needs to know that patient and be an advocate. Economically, I know it might not be realistic but I feel that’s something I’d really like to see. I think nurses are very educated and they get into this field because they want to provide the best possible outcomes. That’s what I’d want to do with a hospital. This is the only profession where you come in, introduce yourself, and you are closely assessing patients within minutes. You really need empathy, compassion and respect and I want to say “thank you” to the nurses who continue to make their patients their first priorities.
MARTIE: You speak from the heart of a nurse and I hear that. Many times, nurses don’t have the chance to know the stories of their patients. In my career, the stories are what have blessed me. When you learn their life stories, it’s enriching and helps you understand those that you care for. That’s where nurses do such a fantastic job – having that ability to support that and identify. I want to say thank you for your hard work and I’m honored to walk alongside you as a fellow nurse.
Author's Bio: With nearly 30 years of clinical experience and extensive nurse leadership, Martie Moore provides direction and counsel for clinical programs, new products, and patient care initiatives to hospitals across the country. Prior to joining Medline, Moore served as Chief Nursing Officer at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore. Under her leadership, Providence St. Vincent earned a third and fourth designation for Magnet. (Only 57 hospitals in the world have achieved this level of designation.) Moore also helped launch the Medline Pink Glove Dance campaign at Providence St. Vincent, the facility where the now-famous video competition began.
Moore received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from St. Martin's College and her Masters in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. She has published and presented nationally on changing cultures to assure patient safety and holds a national certification for healthcare quality. In addition, Moore serves as a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, American Organization of Nurse Executives and National Association for Healthcare Quality. She also served on the faculty at George Fox University in the Healthcare Administration Program.
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