What Keeps Nurses Going Strong In Spite Of Everything? (Part II)
Nurses continue to rank as the most trustworthy profession. As the healthcare landscape changes, it’s creating new opportunities and challenges for those in the field. In our second installment of Medline’s blog series celebrating National Nurses Week, we hear from Cathy in Wisconsin. As a dedicated nurse of nearly 40 years, she’s worked in the military and in the homes of patients and brings intriguing perspective about her greatest successes and the need to be more patient-centered versus paper-focused.
MARTIE: I’m a nurse of nearly 30 years. Tell me about your current nursing role, your history, and how you came to where you are.
CATHY: I think I got you beat…I’ve been a nurse for 38 years! I graduated in 1976 and worked for a year at a Children’s Hospital. Then, I joined the service and was a Navy nurse for five years. When I got out, I worked critical care in a hospital for a number of years then transitioned into home care.
MARTIE: Wow – what a transition. I bet your experience in the Navy helped you tremendously.
CATHY: It was very beneficial. Most of my years in the Navy were actually in critical care. I worked at a local hospital on a general floor, then decided to give home care a try. The Family Care program piloted in my state and I transitioned up to the program about a decade ago. My background came in very handy and I got a wonderful opportunity to work alongside social workers. Initially, I was able to do some skilled nursing, blood draws, and short-term visits but as it evolved, we cannot do anything invasive anymore.
MARTIE: Do you do social and developmental evaluations?
CATHY: Yes, we’ll do comprehensive evaluations. I work with two different groups of people – one case load is disabled, the other, elderly. I am teamed up with a different social worker for each caseload. With close to 90 cases at times, it can be very difficult to manage. There are a lot of critical, medical things going on. Oh my, there’s a crisis on one case load then, another crisis on the other one. It’s like, which one do I deal with first? My social workers are wonderful but the process is much more challenging. We’re doing much more paperwork now than hands-on assessments and visits. We used to be able to be more proactive to see our members and put fires out before they started.
MARTIE: You’ve seen some incredible things when you’re so intimately involved in people’s lives and their homes. Tell me, what’s a great day for you that just fills your heart, fills your cup?
CATHY: I had one just recently. I have this one woman who is incredibly gracious and her health is very fragile. I was able to do what I needed to do then I closed my computer down and was able to sit and visit with her for an hour… just shooting the breeze.
MARTIE: You were able to have that human connection.
CATHY: That’s the thing that keeps you going. Because in this job, you do have days that are rough. Another time, I walked into a nursing home where a young lady volunteers. When she saw me, she jumped up and threw her arms around me. Those are the moments that keep you coming back.
MARTIE: Those are the callings we have as nurses. It’s that human connection that we understand so deeply, I think, more than any other profession. I’ve watched nurses… with just a touch of a hand, they understand that pain and the suffering and vulnerability to present this calm to them. A connection. Truly it’s the art of nursing. It’s what you described and I truly want to say “thank you.”
So now, you’re the queen of healthcare. As the queen, you have the ability to be in charge and change programs and services you want to. What would you do differently?
CATHY: I would put less emphasis on the need for documentation of outcomes and goals. I know we have to do paperwork because its state mandated, but we spend so much time now filling out paperwork. We’re losing sight of the person we’re supposed to be helping. I would somehow figure how to document everything in a few minutes… and spend hours with members – not the other way around. In the time nursing has evolved from when I started in 1976, the emphasis has changed from patient-centered to paper-centered. Financial-centered. And I’d get rid of that somehow.
MARTIE: I think you’d hear a resounding applause across the nation on that issue. We’ve lost our focal point in many ways. Now I want you to look to the future. You’ve seen a lot in your career. What do you think the profession of nursing will look in five years…maybe 10?
CATHY: That’s a hard one. As technology becomes more incorporated and accepted into our daily lives, I don’t see nursing going back to the personal contact like it was when I first started… only because I don’t think it will be allowed. I think it’ll be much more like… you’re in, you’re out, let’s move on. For those of us here in the community that receives those acute care discharges, the struggle will be to find the services to meet their needs at home. In and out of the hospital as quickly as possible. When I first started nursing, holy cow. When you went in for a bypass surgery, you were in the hospital for two weeks. You did pre-op and rehab before you went home. Now, it’s in and out. A few days after your chest has been cracked you are out the door! Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be more patient or member centered.
MARTIE: I know what you mean. When I was a peds nurse, tonsillectomies were a five-day stay.
Cathy: When I was in the Navy, I worked in the peds unit for a year. You had the time to sit and hold a child and play with the child. I don’t know if that’s even in the care plan anymore because you’re stretched thin and you have so much to do. It just makes it very difficult to have that connection.
MARTIE: Let me ask you this. Florence Nightingale left us some notes on nursing and it was incredible wisdom. As I talk with you, I hear a nurse leader with incredible wisdom. What would you say to a new nurse that is starting his or her career?
CATHY: I just met a brand new nurse last weekend and she was wonderful. Beautiful smile, very warm, very personal. In just working with her for two days, I said to her, “Thank you. You are going to be my replacement and I’m proud to have YOU be one of those people to replace me.” She has the personality, the personal touch. Whether she can use it? But the compassion and warmth was there. I would tell folks thinking of going into nursing, don’t lose that compassion. Don’t lose that reason for coming into the field. Don’t let the paperwork and the demands take that compassion away from you because when that’s gone, what do you have?
MARTIE: I agree, so agree. It’s incredible wisdom. Thank you so much for your time and sharing with us your insight and stories. It has blessed my day and you have blessed my life. And thank you for your contributions. You make a difference.
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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