Nursing is a tough profession, both physically and emotionally. So it’s no surprise that nurse retention is an issue for all hospitals. The Seton Family supports several ongoing initiatives to recognize and reward hard work – including the Seton Nurse Scholarship Endowment, Certification bonuses and Excellence in Action awards. Seton nurses are valued not only by patients, but also by hospital leadership.
With five children, Phyllis Martinez knows how to multitask. After spending several years as a staff nurse in the Pulmonary unit at Seton Medical Center Austin, Phyllis moved to the Oncology unit as a case manager.
Working side by side with Seton social workers and other healthcare team members, Phyllis spends her days educating patients and family members and helping them prepare for a safe and easy discharge. Her troubleshooting skills are put to the test on a daily basis, but one story stands out in her memory.
“I had a patient with Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia who was also a transplant patient, so he had double immunocompromise,” she recalled. The patient’s back yard was infested with hundreds of birds. His wife had tried everything to remove them from their property, which was no easy task because the bird was protected under the migratory bird act.
They had hit a brick wall, so Phyllis started placing phone calls and doing Web research until she found the necessary permit information to have the birds removed. “Their relief and gratitude was so amazing,” Phyllis said. “I felt as though I had earned a jewel in my crown that day. It was so fantastic to have made a difference in someone’s life. That is what this is all about.”
A self-proclaimed “homebody” who loves to cook, sew and play with her children, Phyllis has also found time to go back to school. She is taking courses online to earn her BSN and sees herself possibly returning to direct-care nursing someday when her children are older.
"Nursing is a second career for me – I was previously a police officer. I had a friend who once tried to recruit me into nursing, so I took a long, hard look and felt that it would be a great fit with my work as a police officer. Nursing allows me to continue my service to the public at a much different level."
Seton, AISD Collaboration
For the past 12 years, the Seton Family of Hospitals has been entrusted with the care of Austin Independent School District students. A team of 70 registered nurses and 60 school health assistants are under contract with AISD to provide school health services at the district’s 110 elementary, middle and high schools.
In addition to providing health screenings and developing health education materials, the school health team administers prescribed medications to students during school hours, provides basic sick child care for minor ailments and coordinates emergency medical treatment for major injuries or illnesses. Much of the RN’s time is spent on case management for students with special health needs such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or severe food allergies.
Ivonne Conde, RN, has been a school nurse for about a year working at Dobie and Pierce middle schools in east Austin. “The kids are fun,” she said. “They are full of life and energy. I like being able to help them.”
This past year, Ivonne worked with a diabetic student who wanted to fast during the Islamic tradition of Ramadan. “It was a learning experience for both of us. The doctors and nurses worked together to honor the student’s beliefs – and everything went great.”
Ivonne also works with pregnant teenagers, helping them understand what is happening to their bodies and plugging them into services available in the community. “This is a fulfilling job,” she added. “I am trying to reach these students at some level.”
"The most rewarding part of a school nurse’s job is the close relationships that develop with the students."
Children’s Health Express
In June 2008, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas introduced the new Children’s Health Express, a mobile clinic program made possible by Dell Children’s and the Children’s Health Fund. This state-of-the-art unit delivers primary and preventive pediatric care to more than 1,500 Central Texas children who do not have a medical home.
The Children’s Health Express, which is staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner, clinical assistant and licensed vocational nurse, includes two exam rooms and a pharmacy to help dispense medicine on-site. In addition to providing medical services such as well child exams, immunizations and treatment for minor illnesses, the program offers counseling and case management by a licensed medical social worker.
Following Hurricane Ike in September 2008, the Children’s Health Express traveled to Houston to provide healthcare to victims of the storm. During the week-long stay, the team visited a church shelter in inner-city Houston housing approximately 150 people before moving on to a larger shelter with an estimated 1,900 people. The team saw approximately 100 patients and distributed medications that they had on-board or wrote prescriptions for medicines that were not stocked.
"It is so rewarding to see the relief on a mother’s face when she realizes that Children’s Health Express will care for her sick child regardless of her ability to pay."