“Focus on the patient and family” has been Dorothy Foglia’s mantra since starting as a staff nurse in 1978. It’s the tenet she holds onto still, as the senior director of acute care services at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, while overseeing 550 employees and 225 inpatient beds and studying ways to streamline service and promote efficiency. “We don’t run machines,” she says. “We actually deal with patients.” To that end, Foglia recently led a team to create a professional practice model that, among other objectives, gives nurses on the front lines a greater voice in the care of their patients.
Of Foglia’s many accomplishments—reducing nursing turnover to less than 10 percent and developing a hospital transport team, to name a couple—the difference she made while working at the patient’s bedside gives her the most satisfaction. “It’s making sure you did everything you could to control a child’s pain that day or something as small as reading a book to a distressed sibling,” she says. “The most important thing is the human touch, and that’s never gone away from nursing.”
June Marshall’s not-so-little task: making the nursing world a better place. As the director of advancing professional nursing practice at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, she ensures the hospital’s nurses have ongoing educational opportunities and encourages them to take on research projects. In the near future, she hopes to create respite rooms for the nurses, “a place where they can introspect—meditate, or pray, or read—whatever it is they need to do if they’ve lost a patient or had a difficult experience in their unit.”
Marshall worked as a direct care nurse early in her 38-year career and knows how stressful it can be. “I think as nurses we talk to patients about taking care of themselves,” Marshall says, “but we don’t always do the best job of that ourselves.” Stress was the focus of her studies as she worked on a doctorate in nursing practice, which she completed last May.
Her advice for nurses looking toward leadership roles is to gain clinical experience, and then “go after the milestones—certifications, school, taking leadership development classes.” She also suggests, “Find someone whose career you want to emulate and form a relationship. Learn everything you can from them.”
When new parents find out their baby has a life-threatening heart defect, it is Kathy Drescher’s job as a nurse practitioner at Medical City Dallas Children’s Hospital to explain the situation to the shocked family, prepare the patient, coordinate the surgical team, assist the surgeon, update the family throughout the procedure, and follow the infant’s care after surgery. She does this 375 to 400 times a year. “It takes a lot to put a mom’s mind at ease when handing her precious bundle over to be cut open, heart stopped, and sewn back together,” says Amy Durham, whose son survived a heart surgery. “Nurse Kathy is a pro at just that.”
In Drescher’s other role as Congenital Heart program manager, she has helped build the unit into a full-service facility since opening it in 2003. And her off hours? Drescher is completing a doctorate in nursing and stays active in the Amazing Little Hearts support group. “It’s such a high level of responsibility and trust, and the challenge is not to lose sight of that,” Drescher says of her work. “It’s easy to get task-focused, but more importantly you’re dealing with a life—a human life.”
A little less than six years ago, rose Bagh was living in Kuwait. Originally from India, she worked in the intensive care unit in the Armed Forces Hospital and befriended American nurses on the top floor. “I saw their skill, confidence, and knowledge, and was very impressed,” Bagh says. Since then, she has taken full advantage of the land of opportunity. She became a naturalized citizen, earned a critical care certification among many others, completed coursework for a master’s, and saves lives in the ICU and emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Plano.
The most difficult part of Bagh’s job is maintaining control of her emotions. She must express deep sympathy for the family of a dying patient and, minutes later, walk into a room of a patient in recovery with a huge smile. Recently, when an agitated young man was determined to leave the hospital, she calmly gave him the facts: a clot was causing seizures and the next time he fell, he might not be so lucky as to have help nearby. He stayed for surgery and later thanked her and took pictures with her.
“It has to be a passion,” Bagh says. “It’s a joy for me to see an extremely ill patient walk out on their own two feet.”
The frightening, uncertain time be-tween discovering a lump and getting biopsy results can take weeks and feel like an eternity. That’s when Ronda Rogers usually meets her patients. Rogers, a certified breast patient navigator and director of the Nurse Navigator program funded by the Texas Health Physician Group, guides them through that initial step and offers emotional support. “I’ve spent many hours on the phone at night with patients before they have a biopsy, and they’ve pretty much written their headstone,” Rogers says. “That hand holding, that reassurance, and education alleviates a lot of their fears.”
For some, the biopsy is the extent of a cancer scare. For others, it’s the beginning of a journey. For those patients, Rogers helps choose specialists and schedule tests or treatments. She is also available outside the clinical setting. If a patient is losing her hair, for example, she goes with her to pick out a wig and arranges a private head-shaving appointment with a cosmetologist. Every year she walks in the Komen Race for the Cure. And seeing former patients by her side, she says, is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
The snowstorm that hit Texas last February derailed flight plans and Super Bowl parties, yet the heart surgery room at the Dallas VA Medical Center ran on schedule. Wanda Payne, cardiothoracic surgery coordinator, made sure of that. She packed a bag and stayed two nights at the hospital in case a member of the surgical team couldn’t make it or a patient required an emergency operation.
Payne does not take chances. If a piece of equipment is missing, she promptly borrows a replacement from another hospital. Before surgery, she ensures plenty of blood products are on-site, not just at a nearby bank. “The best example of her value probably comes not in her efforts to solve a difficult situation in the operating room,” chairman of the cardiothoracic department Michael Jessen says, “but rather in her drive and focus to create an environment where these events are very rare occurrences.”
Payne has worked in the OR for more than 30 years, first as a certified surgical technologist, then as a nurse. She recalls seeing a display of surgical instruments at her high school career fair and being fascinated that one person could know how to use them all. “It seemed like such a challenge to me,” Payne says. “I just had to do it.”
As Nurse Coordinator at Allen ISD, Vicky Bayer is the first contact whenever a problem—such as a room full of students vomiting—arises. In 2010, when she was still interim coordinator, she got that exact call. Bayer was told the students with those symptoms just kept coming. She rushed over to the school and helped construct a plan. The students who didn’t exhibit symptoms were quarantined in their classroom, while the sick students were placed in another room or sent home. Infection control procedures (such as using hand sanitizer before opening a door or rearranging the desks from groups to rows) were put in place. The illness started on Thursday. By Friday, absences were up to 66 percent. But because of the precautions taken by the school, the virus didn’t spread beyond the weekend. By Monday, absences were down to 14 percent—almost normal. The nursing team got an informal commendation from the health department. The virus ended up being a Norwalk-like virus, much like the one that made headlines when it spread through a cruise ship. For Bayer, stopping the virus from spreading was just another day at the office.
Get Dusty Hamblin, ER Clinical Coordinator, on the phone for a few minutes and you’ll hear “ma’am” about 10 times. It’s not a surprise. He spent more than two decades in the military, before retiring as a major from the Oklahoma City National Guard. But he also got another thing from his time spent in the service: the motto that you never leave a person behind. “You’re all part of a team,” he says of his nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Plano. “You have to get close and know each other. To me, it’s a team, and it’s a family.”
His team members have noticed this trait in Hamblin. “I have often found him working in the trenches to help ER nurses catch up with their work, share the load, help in transfers, run around to fetch something or someone, or give a hand when some of us ladies are not strong enough,” Rose Bagh, fellow ER nurse, says. There was the time the new blood culture collection system wasn’t up to the nurses’ standards and Hamblin stepped in to fix it. Or the time Hamblin took the extra step and helped a woman search for her recently deceased husband’s sandals. And then there are those times when Hamblin defends the nurses to the occasional doctor. “The one thing I feel strong about is my staff,” he says. “Do I feel like I’m a big brother sometimes? I want to feel that way.”
Tonya Peña, Clinical Coordinator at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, recently had a 17-year-old patient who was spending most of his senior year in the hospital. Not only was he missing friends and school, he was also missing his senior prom. So Peña and her fellow nurses brought the prom to him.
They decorated a common area and played music, and brought in food and friends. Then they asked the patient to get into a tux. They took his chest tube, IV pump, and poles, and rolled him out to his prom (complete with a date, of course). “Just to see his face light up and just to see the happiness for him and be able to hang out with his friends and do that normal thing, that was exciting,” Peña says.
Peña remembers what it was like to have a child in the hospital and have nurses who went above and beyond. Twenty-four years ago, her first child was born with a congenital heart defect. At the age of 2, her daughter had her first open heart surgery. Peña, who at the time was assistant to the president at a corporation, watched the nurses as they cared for her. “It was just amazing, the impact they had on our family,” Peña says. “I fell in love with it.”
What can you do with a Master’s in History? The obvious answer is not a career in nursing, but that’s the roundabout path that made former eighth-grade teacher Nancy Stretch successful at treating diabetes. “I think my training and my natural affinity to teach is well suited for diabetic care because people need to really understand the disease,” says Stretch, a nurse practitioner at the Family Medical Center at
She entered the medical field after a difficult pregnancy led to frequent hospital visits. She saw the difference in good and bad nurses and wanted to become one of the good ones. Twenty-three years and two healthy daughters later, Stretch is a valued member of a family practice, most notably for her treatment of elderly and diabetic patients “at a time when providers are avoiding Medicare patients and those with the most complicated medical problems,” says her colleague Dr. Chris Clark. Stretch has the skills and persistence to not just medicate her patients, but to help them make major lifestyle changes between diet and exercise.
“It takes time,” Stretch says, “but they have to live with it every day.”
When Mary Williams was 7 years old, she was hit by a car during a family vacation in Napa Valley. She spent a month in the hospital and another two months learning how to walk again. During that time, it was the nurses who made her feel at home. They gave her a pink stuffed dog she named Puella. Williams took the dog home and kept it by her side until she was in the fifth grade. Then she made a lamp base and glued Puella to it. By then, Williams knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.
The 50-year-old assistant director of the Medical Surgical Unit at North Hills Hospital is a trendsetter. Before it was popular, she had families stay at patients’ bedsides. “Bringing them together and helping family members has always been important to me,” she says. “No one knows the patient better than the family.”
Williams found her calling at an early age. And if she ever forgot it, Puella (whom she still has today) was always there to remind her.