Nurse's Story: Chuck - Committed to Consumer Education and Advocacy
My nursing career began when I was in high school. I was in a health occupations class and was mentored by a nurse anesthetist in a veteran’s hospital. I worked with him three days each week, for two hours in the morning, throughout my junior and senior years of high school. It was a great experience and all the medical personnel encouraged me to continue my education in medicine. I was not a stellar student in school and am dyslexic, so I had never envisioned going to medical school.
I enjoyed playing football and was recruited at Southern Oregon State College. I went there to play football, but after a year decided to apply to nursing school at Good Samaritan in Portland. I started there in my sophomore year. But I don’t think I was quite ready for college. I dropped out, bartended and did some other odd jobs for awhile. When I was 22, I applied again to nursing school and wasn’t accepted. I reapplied and finally was accepted and this time finished my three-year diploma program.
Nursing jobs were scarce when I graduated in 1983. After working in a nursing home for awhile, I took a job in rehabilitation. I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do, but once I got into it, I fell in love with it. In 1989 I joined the Army Nursing Corps and was deployed in 1991 to Germany for Desert Storm.
That’s where I met another one of my mentors. She was the chief nurse when I was with the 396th Army Reserve Nurse Corps. She had served in Bosnia and was one of the first nurses ever to be a healthcare commander of a combat military unit.“I want the entire healthcare system to take responsibility for better consumerism.” At the time, those positions went to doctors only. She was a person of extreme integrity. She had a good sense of humor, but was also consistent and fair. She gave me insight into my own sense of integrity and modeled exemplary leadership behavior. She inspired me to follow her lead and become a person focused on a mission. She led by example, and I felt I could emulate how she worked. Because of what I learned from her, I will always “walk my talk.”
My master’s degree focused on organizational change and my goal is to obtain a position where I can influence consumer advocacy. Sadly, consumers are ignorant about the healthcare system and that puts them at risk. Many patients simply say, “Doctor, just tell me what to do.” This is not a good strategy for managing health. Patients need to know their options and what they can expect from their various choices. My role is to help educate consumers. I want the patients to know how to pick good providers and good hospitals. The entire healthcare system should take responsibility for better consumerism. This would require changes in the system.
I’ve recently applied for a director position with a nursing executive’s organization. I’m also on a task force that’s exploring reorganization of the health system quality assurance program. I want to do my part to improve healthcare quality, including patient safety and positive patient outcomes. I would like to see improvement in the way the regulations are set up. Right now, nurses are held to a minimum standard or a minimum competency. I would like to see the standard raised so instead of nurses being minimally qualified, they are expected to maintain practice excellence.
My current mission is helping nurses work toward a common goal, with that common goal being focused on the patients. It seems nurses work harder at fighting each other than they do at working together. If I succeed in obtaining a position where I can influence this area, one of my initiatives will be to create a “greater good” philosophy. I want to help nurses develop a more noble view of their profession. Nurses really make a difference when they help patients achieve their goals, and that’s why people go into the profession. With everything else happening in healthcare, nurses lose sight of why they chose their careers. I want to help them come together to say, “We have a common goal. We are all patient advocates. We are all promoting a holistic approach to healthcare.”
Power Strategies: Advocacy, Integrity, Leadership
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