Two Ascension Seton RNs were chosen by the Texas Nurses Association-District 5 as among its “Fabulous 5.” The nurses were selected out of the more than 17,000 RNs in the eight Central Texas counties comprising District 5. They were honored May 10, during Nurses Week, at the annual TNA-D5 banquet.
The Fab 5 are chosen based on their qualities to lead and serve as role models and compassionate caregivers as well as for their significant contributions to the profession and service to the community.
One recipient of the award, Nancy Miller, MAHS, BSN, RN SSC Adult Psych and Psych ICU staff nurse, preceptor and new nurse educator, is the first psychiatric nurse to be named a Fab 5 winner in TNA-D5 history. Nancy had a fascination for medical science and wanted to become a veterinarian. But in the early 1970s few women were allowed into the veterinary school of Texas A&M University. Fortunately for her patients and for Ascension Seton, her high school anatomy and physiology teacher suggested nursing.
Nancy earned a bachelor of science in nursing from Texas Women’s University in 1978. She went to work in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital in neonatal intensive care and pediatrics. Then for more than a decade she worked in a pediatrician’s office as a pedi nurse.
Nancy attended a lay seminary in Dallas and obtained a certificate in biblical studies. She was a pastoral nurse for many years.
In 1993 she graduated from St. Edward’s University with a master of arts in human services, earning the extra hours to meet the criteria for licensure in professional counseling. She ran a Stephen Ministry for 15 years and had a private counseling practice in Austin. Her husband, Ed Miller, a pediatric nurse working in Dell Children’s Specially for Children outpatient Metabolic Genetics Clinic, encouraged her to consider going back to nursing and to go through the re-entry program to become a psychiatric nurse.
From the moment she started at Ascension Seton Shoal Creek in 2007 it was obvious that it was a match made in heaven. Certified in mindfulness-based stress reduction, she mainly cares for patients in the midst of a psychosis on the Adult Psych/Psych intensive care units. Five years ago she started and has maintained the clothes closet at SSC, which provides clean and gently used/new clothes and shoes for the adult patients in need. “My greatest models of fabulous nursing can be found on the third floor of Shoal Creek,” she says. “All three shifts work together as an amazing team.” In 2012 she was named the Behavioral Health Nurse of the Year.
I asked Nancy what her best day in nursing was, and she related this story: “While I was walking the halls with a severely disorganized patient suffering with schizophrenia, I attempted to ‘join up’ by finding some form of connection with her. She had been refusing medication and avoiding direct interaction with staff. She was rambling, mostly incoherently, with no eye contact.
“I had read in her history that her Christian faith was important to her. I began slowly quoting my favorite Psalm (121). From her memory, she began reciting along with me. When we finished, she turned, looked me in the eye and smiled. She was there. It was at that point that she began to respond to staff and try medication.
“The daily challenge is to find a connection with my patients who are disconnected from the community in order to better understand and be understood by them.”
Nancy is certified in critical incident stress management (CISM) and serves on the Austin Disaster Relief Network readiness team, using the CISM model to provide face-to-face debriefing for those affected by disaster, for example, the Bastrop fires, tornados or floods.
Nancy serves on the state Advisory Committee on Qualifications for Health Care Translators and Interpreters as the representative for mental and behavioral health. The committee advises the Health and Human Services Commission on standards, training requirements, and more for its interpreters as well as making recommendations for legislation to establish and enforce qualifications.
Nancy and Ed are weekly volunteers with Community First! Village, a program of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. It’s a 27-acre community planned to provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas.
Nancy reads every day and has an art studio in her home where she paints with other artists in the community. She and Ed enjoy country and western dancing. “My greatest teachers about life and myself are my own ‘Fab 5’ — my children Sarah, Kim, Rebecca, Justin and Rachel.” She also enjoys her 10 grandchildren.