As a nurse at both the Christiana Hospital Emergency Department and Middletown Emergency Department, Bonita Penn, BSN, RN, is the first point of care for many people who are critically ill or injured.
“A multitude of memories come to mind when I reflect on my years at Christiana Care,” said Penn, an employee since 2008. “The ones that stand out the most are taking care of critical patients and experiencing the level of trust and appreciation their families have for the nursing staff.
Christiana Care is superior in supporting nurses, specifically in the area of higher education.
“It is even more heart-warming to later follow up on a patient’s condition and learn that they were discharged from the hospital and are on the road to recovery,” she added.
Penn holds bachelor’s degrees in nursing and psychology and is now taking advantage of Christiana Care tuition reimbursement and scheduling-adjustment benefits to pursue a master’s degree.
“Christiana Care is superior in supporting nurses, specifically in the area of higher education,” she said. Penn believes it is important for nurses to pursue advanced degrees and certification because “it enables us to provide the most up-to-date and evidence-based care to the patients we serve.”
A steadfast advocate for changing lives through education, Penn serves on the board of directors as a scholarship
liaison for the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation Inc. — service she describes as “gratifying and meaningful.” She was a Fresh Start scholar herself while working toward her bachelor’s degrees.
“The financial support and mentorship that Fresh Start provides keeps women in college, encourages them to graduate and sets them on a journey of greater success,” she said.
Penn is one of 2,480 professional nurses proud to call Christiana Care home. During National Nurses Week, May 6 through 12 — and indeed, every day — “Christiana Care is honored to call each and every one of these nurses our own,” said Diane P. Talarek, MA, RN, NE-BC, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer.
Penn and several of her professional nurse colleagues from throughout Christiana Care shared their thoughts on what it means to be not just a nurse, but a Christiana Care nurse:
An angel in the night
Christiana Care’s most recent DAISY Award winner, Keisha Bourne, BSN, RN, is pursuing a master’s degree while spending nights caring for Christiana Care’s tiniest patients and their mothers on postpartum unit 3B. First-time
mom Allison Steuber, who nominated Bourne for the award that thanks nurses for skillful and compassionate care,
wrote, “My husband and I refer to Keisha as our angel. I’m not sure that I could have survived that night without her,” referencing an experience that would challenge any parent — when their newborn screamed all afternoon and into the night.
Steuber appreciates the care with an insider’s perspective. She is a nurse and chair of Christiana Care’s Professional Nurse Council.
“That she took the time to calm my husband and me,” wrote Steuber, “is something we will never forget. I met a woman at a class a few weeks after I delivered, and we were sharing our birth stories. When I started to talk about this angel who took care of us one night, she looked at me and said, ‘Was her name Keisha?’ She, too, had been fortunate enough to be cared for by this nurse. We will never forget the care she provided to our family.”
Bourne acknowledges that winning the DAISY Award is one of the innumerable moments that underscore why she became a nurse.
“The fact that my simple actions impacted a family in such a memorable way is extremely special, and possibly defining,” she said. “My goal each night is to provide each patient and family with exceptional, culturally sensitive care and compassion. I aim to build trusting rapport with them so that they will be confident that, even at their most vulnerable moments, there is someone who has their absolute best interest at heart and hand.”
The difference between nursing and professional nursing
Patricia Briggs, MSN, RNIV, CCRN, HTCP/1, is another award-winning Christiana Care nurse, who will be recognized during Nurses Week with the 2015 Dot Fowler Award for service reflecting The Christiana Care Way.
This Cardiovascular Critical Care Complex nurse says she feels fulfilled leaving her shift each morning knowing that her presence during the night made a difference to a patient or family member, even when the patient is too
ill to remember her name.
When a family member says to me, ‘I can go home now, you are here,’ I feel very blessed and thankful. What a great gift to receive!
“I live for the moments that I can make a patient smile, calm a patient’s anxiety or ease pain,” said Briggs. “When a family member says to me, ‘I can go home now, you are here,’ I feel very blessed and thankful. What a great gift to receive!”
Briggs was looking for a new challenge in nursing when she started working on her master’s degree a few years ago.
“That is when I realized the difference between nursing and professional nursing,” she said. “The nursing clinical ladder supports and encourages one’s development as a professional nurse. It develops nurse leaders. It encourages engagement. It makes the profession of nursing exciting. We need enthusiastic and engaged nurse leaders to take our organization to the next level. The clinical ladder encourages that.”
Opportunities are readily available to Christiana Care nurses, said Briggs. “You just have to take advantage of them.”
Working at a Magnet designated health system is also important to Briggs. “Being part of a Magnet organization is why we have so many opportunities within our organization to grow professionally and be treated as professional nurses. Our voices are heard. Our input is encouraged. It is up to each one of us to get involved and make a difference.”
Inspired by little moments
When her family moved to Delaware from Philadelphia five years ago, Melanie Bugg, BSN, RN, knew she wanted to work for Christiana Care.
“Christiana Care’s reputation reaches all the way to Philly,” said Bugg, who spent six years working on a medical-surgical tele-observation floor in one of that city’s hospitals. During three of those years, she commuted from Delaware while finishing her bachelor’s degree at Immaculata University.
Finally, she landed the job she’d hoped for. For the last two years, she has put her professional nursing skills to use caring for patients in their homes with Christiana Care’s Visiting Nurse Association.
“I’m inspired by those little moments when I can see I’ve made a difference for someone,” she said. “As a home care nurse, I love seeing my patients develop a confidence to manage their illnesses at home.”
The transition from hospital to home nursing was a fulfilling one for Bugg, who explained that VNA nurses have the great experience of spending time with a patient one-on-one in their environment where they feel the most comfortable and the most open to learning.
“Home nursing care has an enormous impact on our community,” she said. “I can’t imagine what health care would be without home care.”
Caring for patients and their families
George Potts, RNIII-BC, chairs his unit-based Quality and Safety Council, manages orthopaedic traction and new-hire precepting and is a charge nurse and member of the hospital-wide falls prevention program. He’s also participating in Christiana Care’s Drexel University pre-pay program for the Adult Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program, in addition to his full-time work as a surgical trauma nurse.
He is a busy man, no doubt, but never too busy to remember that his patients hadn’t planned to be in the hospital in the first place.
“They have no notice or forewarning; we just meet by chance,” Potts said. “Understanding this relationship allows me to be a better, well-rounded nurse and take their circumstances into consideration. They may no longer have a ride home. Their clothes have been cut off. Their bills are not being paid.”
He also recognizes that traumatic injuries affect each patient’s family members, too, and is grateful to work for an organization that offers “soft services” to help make their stay easier, such as vouchers for meals or accommodations to allow loved ones from out of town to stay close to the hospital in their family’s time of need.
“It is an awesome opportunity to share the education that I have been afforded to help my patients and their families become better patient advocates,” he said. “It is also very gratifying to see the impact of our work when patients come back and share their stories of how thankful they are for the care we provided and tell us how they have become more actively involved in their own health.”
Seeds of success
Victoria Varga, an RNII on Wilmington’s 4N stroke unit, says that what she loves best about her job are hugs with patients and families when they are being discharged from her unit, and when she gets to see how well they are doing. One patient’s mother, she recalled, touched her deeply when she told Varga, “You were my family.”
This award-winning nurse, who was named a top nurse in 2014 and 2015 by Delaware Today, is currently completing her RN to MSN. A federal SEED Scholarship (Student Excellence Equals Degree) allowed her to take her first two years’ courses at no cost to her at Delaware Technical & Community College before transferring to the University of Delaware. In fact, she was part of the inaugural graduating class to benefit from SEED funding, which marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Varga was recently invited to participate in two roundtable discussions — one with U.S. Secretary for Education Arne Duncan, the other with Delaware Governor Jack Markell and former Governor Ruth Ann Minner — to talk about the importance of funding to ensure educational opportunities for all who need support.
While federal funding was the springboard to Varga’s pursuit of higher education, she credits Christiana Care’s generous educational benefits with making it possible to advance in her profession.
“Christiana Care is truly a great place to work,” she said. “We get the opportunity to serve our community and have a plethora of resources available to us.”
Making an impact
Christopher Otto, BSN, RNIII, CHFN, PCCN, cares for patients on the Heart Failure Stepdown unit at Christiana Hospital and is the vice chair of the Professional Nurse Council (PNC). He agrees that the resources available to Christiana Care nurses are abundant.
“Christiana Care really supports nurses and shared decision-making by giving us the opportunity to be involved and make changes that affect our practice,” Otto said. “Nursing and organization leaders open themselves to the bedside nurses’ input and views. They really take the time to listen to us. Whenever I am challenged while trying to make changes, I am given opportunities to think creatively and improve my work so that I can create even better change.
“In my role on PNC I can make improvements that affect all nurses. I can take their voices, opinions and feedback to the system level and make improvements felt across the organization that make a difference in numerous nurses’ careers.”
Otto finds it equally rewarding to make a difference in his patients’ lives.
“Every time a patient or their family member tells me how much I have made an impact on their life, I am reaffirmed that nursing is what I am meant to do.”