Q&A with 3 Healthcare Professionals

For National Nurses Week 2016, we spoke with three of the thousands of outstanding leaders who earned their degrees at WGU and are making a difference through their work in the healthcare industry today. We chatted with them about the challenges and joys of their jobs, the state of the industry, and healthcare policy, among other things. Check out their responses below.

Happy National Nurses Week!

Karen Greenberg, MSN–Education — Director of Education at Southern Hills Hospital, Las Vegas, Nevada
Q: What are your favorites memories from your nursing days?
A:
“I worked ICU for 29 years, a lot of that in the cardiovascular surgery area. It was the people that you work with that you remember. The difference between patients is incredible—some are short visits, and others are long-term critical care. Working with the families of these patients is rewarding. But also, great teamwork. Really smart nurses and doctors who relied upon us to be their eyes and ears. They knew that we knew our stuff.”

Q:  What changes in healthcare that you see excite you?
A:
“Nurses being able to practice more independently, such as nurse practitioners. Here in Nevada, it’s particularly interesting because over the last few years these professionals can work on their own. It’s incredibly important when you have a large population who are underserved.”

Q: Do you ever get to put back on the nurse hat?
A:
“Oh yes, just two weeks ago I was working ICU because we were at 136% capacity. I wasn’t taking a patient load, but I was handling medications, checking blood sugars, working pain management. It’s just natural to step in when needed.”

Q: If you could sit down with policy- and decision-makers, what would you tell them is vital to continued reform in healthcare?
A:
[Laughter] “There are so many things to make healthcare better. I think providing options and services to keep people from getting sick, rather than just treating patients once they are sick is key: wellness programs, improving vaccination rates, and nutrition for children. These programs are so very important for long-term health—they help create a foundation for lifetime health.”

Q: Where do you turn for industry news and continuing education opportunities?
A:
“I’m a long-time member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and I access free CEUs on their site. I’m also a member of the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD), which is a group of nurse educators. I gravitate to these publications and organizations because I don’t have a lot of time to read. But another one that’s been around forever and always has great information is the American Journal of Nursing.”

Jill Howard, MBA Healthcare Management — Chief Operating Officer at TriStar Skyline Medical Center–Madison Campus, Nashville, Tennessee
Q: What are your favorite memories from your nursing days?
A: [Laughter and a moment of reflection] “You know, honestly, probably my most fun memories are from working in the ER. You have to have a certain mentality—a different sense of humor. You really have to in that job—so we pranked each other and teased one another in order handle the scary and hard times.” Pointing to a very specific time, early in her career, Jill said, “In the largest ER in Colorado, 90% of nurses were travelers. You’re dealing with patients when they are not at their best. Nurses bear the brunt of that—and it’s challenging. We had to come together in interesting ways. We tried to lighten the environment for the patient, and also for each other.”

Q: What changes in healthcare do you see that excite you?
A: “The advances in technology that we’re seeing. It’s happening so quickly. We’re piloting new programs. One of the best examples is the Telemedicine program we discussed.”

Q: Do you ever get to put back on the nurse hat?
A: Not really, at this point. I still have a nursing license—I keep it current. If there is a concern, I’m often the one stepping in to assist. I’m out rounding but not in an active nurse’s role.”

Q: If you could sit down with policy- and decision-makers, what would you tell them?
A: “I’m really engaged with what’s going on locally that will affect my hospital, and patient care within. For me, at least, from a day-to-day perspective, I’d discuss the nursing shortage. Our shortage is critical. We never want to be faced with turning patients away—and there’s got to be a solution for that. As the large population ages, the need will continue to grow. Rural areas are affected even more. We need to be in prevention mode—not damage-control mode.”

Q: Where do you turn for industry news and continuing education opportunities?
A: “The Tennessee Hospital Association keeps me up to date with local and state legislation. I read a lot in the psychiatric field. I spend more of my time reading about psychiatric legislation that will affect my hospital. Also, the Tennessee Nursing Association provides great information.”

Ashley Galvin, BSN, current MSN–Management and Leadership student 
Q: Following completion of your BSN, what has your work life been like?
A: “After earning my BSN, I moved into an RN care coordinator role. The hospital that I started working for after graduating was a very small, rural facility. They built a brand-new hospital, preparing for growth, so everyone transferred. We were one of the first rural health hospitals to become an Accountable Care Organization. As a rural area with more poverty, we really need strong care coordination for Medicare patients.”

Q: Describe the trajectory of your career. What’s next?
A: Ashley’s now moving into a management capacity and building out a team to support the demand for care coordination. She is moving up to care coordinator manager, where she will work with sickest patients, create care plans, acts as a nurse health coach. She does a lot of at-home work in prevention and her team is able to develop very deep relationships with their patients.

Q: Would you say your work bears some resemblance to the job of a mentor?
A: “Absolutely, because [mentors] listen a lot, always set goals, and prioritize. I do the same thing with my patients.” Care coordinators are with their patients for longer periods, she says, so the relationship is formed and patients open up. “Then the objective is to figure out their goals, prioritize them, and form an action plan for health.”

Q: What is your ultimate career goal?
A: “Probably CNO”—hopefully close to home. Ashley has two small children and lives in the town she grew up in. “We’re pretty deeply rooted here and the community, and the healthcare system is invested in me.” She values that and, while the big city has allure, rural healthcare feels like her calling. “Rural healthcare has unique challenges, so I have to wear a lot of hats. But that means I get to do more here than I would in a big-city hospital.”

Q: Do you ever have to put the nurse’s hat back on?
A: “I dress in business attire and handle outpatient care, so there’s not many of those instances, but because we are so small, if there is something where they need hands-on, I don’t mind jumping in to help.”

Q: What are your fondest memories working as a nursing?
A: “While I was an acute care nurse, our CNO signed our team up for a pilot committee through the Washington Healthcare Association. It was a program to design better care for sepsis. When we were selected to be a part of the pilot, I took the lead and went to Seattle for training. I saw a lot of [sepsis] in our rural area. By the time they get to us [at the hospital], they’re really sepsis. When I returned from training, we implemented the process across the hospital, and it’s been a great success. But this was a huge personal achievement too—I even got an award and a trip to Miami!”

Q: What changes in healthcare really excite you?
A: “The huge push toward preventative health in outpatient settings. In rural health, we survive on ER visits, but I’m excited about the prevention side. We’re trying to change the culture—taking care of people when they are healthy, to keep them healthy… getting into high schools, doing clinic days, and wellness visits, giving people incentives to be healthy. There’s a fun side to it—like our all-staff fitness program, which had the perk of a Fitbit®, creating a challenge and game environment. I love the attention that is focused on wellness.”

Q: If you could sit down with policy- and decision-makers, what would you tell them?
A: “Obviously, insurance is huge, but … being biased in my own role, one of the key things I’d share is how much of a difference care coordination makes. I mean, Google is huge and has so many answers, but navigating healthcare procedures is hard—even for a professional like me. [Care coordination] will reduce costs and keep people healthier.”

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