Senior Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients Throughout the United States and Canada
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a scientist because I just knew that I was going to fund a cure for cancer. But then my grandma, Catherine Crowther, influenced me to become a nurse.
My family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was an only child, and I spent every summer with my grandmother in Brooklyn, New York. She would take me to work with her.
My grandmother was a nurse advocate. She advocated for the rights of people with disabilities and their access to healthcare in the state of New York. While every nurse is a patient advocate, nursing advocacy is a profession in which the nurse is dedicated to working on behalf of patients to maintain quality of care and protect patients’ rights. My grandmother drove meaningful legislative change through her activism.
Consider an MRI machine in a hospital. Can someone with a disability access that machine? My grandmother made sure that type of question was always asked and worked to make sure an accessible machine would be made available. As another example, women with disabilities have gone undiagnosed with breast cancer because they couldn’t access a mammography machine. My grandmother worked to be sure they could.
When I was 18 and planning to go to college, I found myself wavering from my goal of becoming a research scientist and considering nursing as a career. I talked about it with my grandmother. She said, “You don’t have to put the research aside. There are nursing researchers.”
I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.
I decided I would like nursing better. I liked the idea of engaging with people, advocating for them, and seeing them get better. I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.
In my role today with Vocera, I engage frequently with hospital leaders, managers, providers, and nurses about how to make their communication more efficient and more effective. When we’re designing and building communication systems, I always make it a point to talk to them about what the patient experiences and how to make the patient’s engagement and the coordination of care even better with Vocera. I make sure we’re keeping the patient at the center.
An example that stands out for me happened while I was working with a hospital in Brooklyn.
I learned that a lot of the hospital’s patients were not coming back for their follow-up physician visit after discharge. An appointment would be scheduled for them, but they wouldn’t show up.
The hospital ran a patient survey and learned that patients felt that the appointments were being scheduled without including them in the conversation. No one was engaging with them to ask something as simple as, “What day and time work for you?” or, “Do you have transportation?”
We helped the hospital to change the patient follow up visit scheduling workflow. In the new workflow, a nurse wearing the Vocera Badge contacts central scheduling directly from a patient’s bedside. The nurse just presses a button on the Badge and says, “Call Central Scheduling.” The nurse can then include the patient in scheduling the appointment, and in coordinating transportation if needed.
The hospital’s analyst told me that patient attendance at physician follow-up visits increased by 40% after implementing this workflow.
Usually when we think of Vocera we think about throughput or emergent workflows like Code Blue or Code STEMI. We forget about the simple things that are meaningful for patients, like making sure they have a visit scheduled that works for them so they can come back and see their doctor.
This is an example of how watching my grandmother advocate for people with disabilities to make sure they had access to health care impacted me. I keep her lessons at the forefront of my mind as I advocate for patients in the way I think about communication.
My wife, Abby, is a nurse who has been on the frontlines of COVID-19 working on the COVID unit since the start of April of 2020. Compounding the horrors of the pandemic, earlier this year she was assaulted by a patient that the police investigating later said had dementia. Regardless of that sad fact, it doesn’t change that he was able to deliver, with enough force, a blow to her head that resulted in a concussion. She spent the next few hours in the ER experiencing the detrimental effects of a concussion.
Inconceivably this is not the first time she’s been attacked and left bruised or bleeding (or both). It’s not the first time she’s endured abuse that isn’t physical. Our nurses are some of (in my opinion the most) valuable assets we have in the healthcare industry and certainly I’m willing to acknowledge that I’m biased enough to believe my wife is my most valuable asset. As a husband it is saddening to hear how hard she was taking COVID-19 and the perceived failure to save every life she worked on. She was not alone and between the guilt and sadness there came a numbness that all of the nurses on her unit reported.
Our nurses are some of healthcare's most valuable assets (and in my humble opinion, the most valuable asset) we have in the healthcare industry
This last year has been so hard on the entire nursing profession. They have suffered significantly and silently bearing the burdens of a pandemic, exhaustion, and battling the internalized personal feelings of failure. Despite facing PPE shortages and facing the very real threat of dying or bringing the disease home (to the point some nurses on her unit stayed away from their loved ones), they still felt guilty that they were somehow not doing enough. My wife felt guilty for the amazing work she did and there's nothing more a husband can really do but to try and provide support and encouragement. This was the same for every single nurse (and their families/loved ones) on that unit. Not only did they have to deal with the personal fears of COVID-19, but they shouldered this tragedy on a personal level - a tragedy they had no real power to control or change anymore than the rest of us do. Imagine doing everything you can do, even putting your life on the line to take care of someone else and still feeling guilty when despite doing everything modern medicine could do, that person still died. This is why my wife is my hero and I wanted take these few moments to shout to the world just how proud of her I really am. My wife, Abby Wilson, is my hero and I hope she (and all of the other nurses out there) will be yours too.
When you go to Happy Hour, you don’t expect to collapse, unconscious, minutes after sitting down. However, that’s exactly what happened to me on February 28, 2020. I am a healthy 59 year old woman with no history of medical issues. I’ve never been sick a day in my life, never been in the hospital except to have my son some 27 years ago.
I woke up with a bunch of people around me. There was a male nurse, who said “before you say anything, I want you to read what it says on the whiteboard.” I read “I had a cardiac incident.” I looked at him, confused, then at my husband, then realized my son was also there. Right about then, a man in a white coat walked up and said “Do you know who I am?” I replied “I don’t have a clue, but you look just like Treat Williams.” Quiet chuckles broke out from my husband and son, with my son saying very quietly “Mom’s back.”
Forever Grateful to All of my Healthcare Heroes…
I was apparently down for the count at the restaurant. My life was saved by a retired firefighter who was at the next table. When I collapsed, my husband started calling my name. The firefighter immediately realized what was happening and started CPR. Someone else called 911. The restaurant had no idea where their AED was. I was unconscious and my heart was not working. I left in an ambulance, unconscious, and my husband stayed behind to follow in our car. He said he thought he was driving to the hospital to find my dead body. He was beside himself, calling everyone on the way there.
For the first 18 or so hours, I apparently was in and out of it, repeatedly cycling through the same questions, over and over. Was I in an accident? Was I in the hospital? Did I have a heart attack? What happened? I apparently asked so many times that they did a CT scan to be sure I hadn’t had a stroke. I had not. I was catheterized, no blockages. I had an EKG, it showed arrythmia and that something wasn’t working right. My nurse at that point, the same one who pointed to the white board, was a wonderful guy named Travis. Although I don’t remember much from those first 24 hours, I will never forget Travis and his gentle, calm way. I’ve never felt so cared for. On the 5th day, I was transported to Kaiser Santa Clara where my new ICD was inserted. I have my own personal defibrillator now.
I spent 4 days in the hospital. It was the ramp up time for Covid, so I was moved a lot, and remember seeing so so many beds lined up in hallways. It was frightening, but I was already scared out of my mind. It was explained to me that I had suffered an idiopathic sudden cardiac arrest. I spent the next 3 days being cared for by nurses named Travis, Kelly, Han (who protected me fiercely from anyone who tried to come in my room at night), and a nurse’s aid (I think) named Jeremy who came by religiously to walk me up and down the hall. While it was the scariest few days of my life, the nurses at Kaiser San Jose made them so much better. I can never thank them enough for the amazing care they gave me.
That doctor in the white coat is now my regular cardiologist, Dr. Thomas Alloggiamento. It took 2 months for me to really be able to say his name! He is my hero for life. He not only saved my life, but has continued to be a rock, holding me steady when I get scared or worried, always explaining things until I get it. My Nurse Practitioner, Thuy Vo, is also my hero for life. She took care of my ICD and explained all the things I could and could not do, replaced my bandage, and helped me understand my next steps.
This tells about a lot of heroes, but it took a lot of them to get this lady back on her feet and back to her normal life. I am forever grateful to all of them. If it weren’t for the pandemic, you can bet I would have been back there visiting and showing them that I’m grateful to all of them for saving my life.
I’ve never really known many nurses, other than the mean one who made me get out of bed after my C-section. This was an entirely different experience. So much kindness, grace, and caring. Honestly, if you are a nurse, I thank you, you probably have one of the toughest jobs in the world.