The month of May has been designated Nurses Month to recognize Nurses for the work they do. It is a good time to reflect on your career. As a nurse since 1973, I have had an incredible career. As a nurse leader, I have been privileged to educate and share insights on trends, issues, and challenges that impact us all at one time or another.
I started as a Licensed Practical Nurse as a ‘floor nurse’ working on a 64-unit men’s ward, where I was responsible for administering medications, doing wound care, hanging IVs, and giving blood. I then moved into the Emergency Department and cared for adults and children who visited the emergency department with minor problems to life-changing conditions.
I went back to school in 1976 and became a Registered Nurse. I moved into critical care and learned how to care for people with life-changing conditions. Again, I learned a lot, had great mentors, and took advantage of opportunities that helped me grow professionally and personally. I worked at a large teaching hospital in Philadelphia and saw a wide range of conditions that challenged top doctors. We did a lot of experimentation in those days, and I wanted to know if it was worth it. Many people I thought would never leave the hospital, but to my surprise, many did. The experience made me a believer in the saying never give up. At the same time, we lost a lot of people, which taught me about End of Life Care and how to prepare patients and families.
In 1984, I moved into another Risk Management where I learned about medical errors, safety, and quality improvement. This area allowed me to see the ‘big picture’ of how the healthcare system worked and what could happen when the system was overloaded and stressed. I learned the importance of admitting a mistake to find the root cause of the uncovered problems. We are all human, and mistakes will happen – it is when we don’t promptly address them they become errors, and bad things can happen. Today we call this a Just Culture.
In 1988 I moved into a new area of nursing called Case Management as a catastrophic case manager. Case managers are in place to advocate for the patient and help the family heal after an illness or an injury. Case management completed the circle of nursing. I saw firsthand how people, patients, and their families survived and moved on after devastating illnesses or injuries with my help finding them the needed resources. I was responsible for care coordination, care transitions, and empowering the patient to regain the control they lost after a catastrophic event. Seeing the transformation and resilience of the people I was called on to care for was amazing.
In 1994 I moved into the area of continuing education. This was my first experience as an entrepreneur. I learned how to use my nursing experience to develop educational programs to educate nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and others about new trends, drugs, and other advances that could treat life-changing conditions. My business partner and I started with a concept and built it into a successful business. The ‘start-up’ was exciting, but the day-to-day work was challenging for me, and I left the company in 2006.
In 2006 I moved into another area of healthcare, accreditation. I worked with URAC to review managed care organizations to ensure they provided members safe, quality care. The position allowed me to travel around the country and meet top people on the payer side of healthcare. I worked with a group of women and men and learned a new area of healthcare that was important to the patient and providers of healthcare.
In 2010 I moved into a new area; healthcare publication. This was an exciting area, but I needed to be more knowledgeable as I was not trained in journalism. I learned I was sought after for my vision and connections to the case management community. In the short time I worked there, the company I worked with was bought and sold several times. Each move introduced me to a broader area of the industry. I learned about conference planning, award programs, and publishing. I was viewed as a thought leader and asked for my advice on goals and how to grow our division. It was an exciting time, and I learned a lot and helped highlight and bring recognition of the value that case management played in the extensive healthcare system.
In 2014 I had the experience of my life when I was diagnosed with a Brain Tumor and became a patient myself. This was a job I did not apply for, but it changed my life forever. The experience taught me the importance of having an advocate and using your voice as a patient. The experience showed me another side of healthcare: the patient’s view of a complex and fragmented system that was expensive and dangerous.
Today, I am working as a nurse advocate to combine everything I learned to help people, patients, their families, and all healthcare team members to work together to have a safe system that works for the patient and the stakeholders.
I did all this as a nurse. Nursing is a remarkable career for those who want to learn, grow, help people, and make a difference. I am grateful to my mentors and those whose paths I have crossed over the past 50 years.
Thank you for reading this post. If you are a nurse – Happy Nurses Month! Thank you for all you do. If you are an aspiring nurse – know that it is hard work, but it can be the best career you can choose. It will take you places you never could imagine going to. Enjoy the ride!