Methodist Nurses | Special People, Special Care

If asked to explain the career choice, a nurse may share a pivotal personal experience.

Mary Clark, BSN, RN, was in grade school when her uncle was hospitalized for a routine hip replacement, suffered a blood clot and died. She was in high school when her father was hospitalized with a brain tumor. He was terrified at the thought of falling asleep, like his brother, and never waking up.

“A nurse stayed all night to talk and help him through this scary time,” Mary said. “She made a real difference, and I wanted to make that kind of difference too.”

Three Hospitals: 1,400 Methodist Nurses

A desire to help others is at the heart of the decision to choose nursing. 

“Nurses are people who want to take care of people,” explained Sue Korth, PhD, BSN, RN, vice president and chief operating officer for Methodist Women’s Hospital. 

At Methodist Health System’s three hospital campuses, more than 1,400 nurses care for patients and families throughout every phase of life.

Of course, each nurse is a unique individual with his or her own story and expertise. Some are primarily involved in bedside nursing, others in research, leadership or staff development. Even so, certain commonalities go with being a Methodist nurse.

“What sets us apart? Patient focus. For us, it’s all about the patient,” said Teri Tipton, MSN, RN-BC, NEA-BC, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital. “Compassion and caring are baked into our culture.”

Starting with a Smile

As a labor and delivery nurse at Methodist Women’s Hospital, Mary Clark has helped welcome more than 350 babies into the world. She will never forget the first birth she witnessed as a Nebraska Methodist College nursing student, her first glimpse of the baby’s chubby cheeks, her own tears of joy at a new life and the amazing bond between parents and child. 

“This is the family’s day, and it’s a happy day,” Mary explained. “I want to do everything I can to be optimistic, reassuring and helpful.” 

Known for her gentle and upbeat demeanor, Mary has received many thank-you notes from the new mothers under her care. 

Amanda Oliver, who wrote to praise all the staff she encountered during her stay at Methodist Women’s Hospital, reserved extra kudos for Mary. 

“I feel extremely blessed to have had Mary with me on the day my daughter, Madeline, was born,” Amanda said. “From the moment Mary entered my room, we connected. She really listened to what I wanted and needed. With patience, humor and a kind spirit, Mary kept my husband and me laughing and made us feel special, encouraged and at ease.” 

When asked what is essential to caring for patients and families, Mary replied, “It may sound corny, but it starts with a smile.”

“Right away, I want my patient to know I’m here for her, and she can rely on me no matter what,” Mary explained. “When she feels pain or if any of the complications we are always prepared for happen — that’s when she needs me most.”

Describing the satisfaction that comes from helping others, Mary said, “What I do never gets old. Every day, I get to make a difference.”

Making Every Moment Count

Mary said she is working toward a graduate degree, the MSN - Nurse Executive at Nebraska Methodist College, to stay at the forefront of new developments and “because I am always looking for ways to make the day better for our patients — and for our nurses and other team members too.”

Deep commitments to lifelong learning, teamwork and continuous improvement are common among Methodist’s nurses. Experts agree that while today’s hospital patients tend to be sicker, with more complicated cases and care than in previous generations, the average length of stay is shorter than ever before. Nurses have much less time and more to do for their patients before a safe discharge.

To make every moment count, nurses need caring and empathy balanced with outstanding critical thinking and people skills, professional education, technical savvy and teamwork.

“Throughout Methodist Health System, we continue to hire for, nurture and support these essential qualities,” explained Peggy Helget, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.

Fulfillment in Helping Others

Kyle Kreger, BSN, RN, another Nebraska Methodist College graduate, is a staff member and frequent charge nurse on the Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital Intensive Care Unit. 

“I love the variety of patients we care for,” Kyle said, “and the close team feeling here.”

Kyle dropped plans to become an architectural engineer when he realized a desk job could never be as fulfilling as a career in nursing. Making professional education a priority, Kyle has completed the trauma nurse core course program, cross-trained to work in the cardiac catheterization lab and is finishing his specialty certification in critical care nursing, or CCRN.

He admits a preference for the toughest cases and biggest challenges that allow him to help patients and families at difficult times in their lives. His patients may have suffered heart attacks or life-threatening injuries or come from surgery, making Kyle’s typical day anything but typical.

Kyle cares for patients with calm and confidence. With the help of a colleague, he gently repositions a patient who is on a ventilator. He chats warmly, as if his sedated patient could hear, while expertly providing the specific bed angle, oral care and other measures needed to prevent such complications as ventilator-associated pneumonia. A consult with a physician and pharmacist allows him to manage compatibility of the multiple medications the patient is given intravenously.

Kyle often forgoes a formal lunch break to stay with his patients and answer family members’ questions. He explains test results and the plan of care designed to wean their loved one off a ventilator in simple terms. He watches, listens and rephrases until he is sure they understand.

Explaining, educating and connecting come naturally to Kyle, as does a bit of joking to ease tensions and lighten the mood. Kyle commiserates over a recent football loss with a cardiac patient, and the two enjoy a relaxed conversation that doubles as an assessment tool.

This day, like most, is a busy day, and Kyle postpones as much charting as possible to the end.

“Interaction with the patient always comes first,” Kyle explained. “It’s all about the patient.”

A Bigger Contribution

Barb Johnson, RN, also detoured briefly before discovering her passion for nursing.

“I became an English major and editor because I love language and literature,” Barb explained. “A greater love of people put me on a new path. I wanted to make a bigger contribution.”

Careers in teaching and nursing beckoned, and nursing won out. Today, Barb enjoys the best of both fields as a nurse and preceptor on Methodist Hospital’s oncology unit. She will complete her MSN - Nurse Educator degree at Nebraska Methodist College in 2015 and is thrilled to be constantly teaching and learning.

“It’s about being truly present and knowing that squeezing a hand can mean more than a thousand words of consolation.”

Barb Johnson, RN

“Our patients teach us so much,” Barb said, “especially about the power of the human spirit to shine through a difficult diagnosis.” 

Barb credits a unique nurse residency program called AgeWISE with making a profound difference in the kind of nurse she has become. AgeWISE expands nurses’ knowledge and skills in geriatrics and palliative care, or geropalliative care, to make the hospital experience better and safer for aging patients and their families. Methodist Hospital was chosen as one of six U.S. hospitals to pilot this program, and Barb was among Methodist’s first AgeWISE graduates.

“Caring for older adults is a true privilege, and AgeWISE has helped me individualize their care and use every available resource to manage symptoms, relieve anxieties and ease their journeys,” said Barb. “It’s about being truly present and knowing that squeezing a hand can mean more than a thousand words of consolation.”

Michael Friend was so moved by the end-of-life care his father received at Methodist Hospital that he nominated two units for Meaning of Care Awards through Methodist Hospital Foundation, singling out Barb for going above and beyond.

“I can’t say enough about how kind and gentle Barb was with my dad, and how she listened to, doted on and soothed all of us. This woman truly cares about her charges,” Michael said.

“It wasn’t any one thing Barb said or did — it was everything she said, everything she did,” Michael explained, his voice breaking with emotion. “She has the heart of an angel.”

Story by Julie Cerney