Brenda Williams – What an interesting woman who is a true believer in life-long learning! She has so many interests, and her curiosity and experiences compel her to dive deeper into the profession. Her dissertation was inspired by her own workplace bullying experiences, and her next research endeavor is a result of her husband’s recent hospital stay.
M: Hi Brenda! Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about yourself. Did you grow up in Ohio?
B: I’ve lived in Ohio most of my life. I was born and raised in Ashland and graduated high school from there – which was 1,000 years ago! I’m older than Moses, let me tell you!
I went to nursing school at Mansfield General and lived in Mansfield for 20 years.
In 1994, I moved to Chicago because Chicago had case manager jobs, which was a new type of job that was just coming out. I actually got the job because at the time, my husband had one of this first two strokes and the insurance company had a case manager that called me to follow up all the time. I explained to her that I was looking for work and she told me they were hiring.
I came back to Ohio within 3 years when the company I worked for closed. Ohio started to have case manager jobs about then, so I moved to Columbus and took my Certified Case Manager exam and have been living in Columbus ever since.
M: Do you still work as a Case Manager?
B: Yes and no. I’ve done it off and on for the past 19 years and went back to working on the floor for a stint.
My last job was at Mt. Carmel where I was the Supervisor of Employee Health, which was essentially a case management position. In addition to managing the employee health department, I also handled workman’s comp. claims and so forth.
That job ended in 2010 and I’ve been teaching online ever since.
Actually, today I have an interview for a case management position. So, we’ll see!
M: Oh wow! Good luck! Are you really hoping to land this position?
B: Well, my ultimate goal is write books, get into research projects and teach. In order to do any of that, it really takes time to build up people and get your name and books out there. I need a job to pay the bills until I can get all of that underway.
M: Those bills always just get in the way, don’t they?
B: Yes! And I need health insurance. I’m on Obamacare right now, which is actually what I teach about online. It’s interesting to teach about something while also experiencing it.
M: What do you feel about the repealing and replacing of the Affordable Care Act?
B: Well, I feel the Affordable Care Act is a stepping stone, or a foundation for a different health care system in America. And I feel that people should be insured and should have access to care.
But, when they were putting this together, they didn’t take into consideration the nursing shortage – or actually the healthcare shortage. We don’t only have nurses who are retiring, we have doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and so on. Everyone in healthcare is in the boomer age and are ready to retire. The only thing that held us up was the crash of 2007.
They dumped 32 million people into a system that’s retiring a lot of people and there’s not enough healthcare professionals ready to replace those who are retiring. So now you have an overload of patients and not enough people to care for them. They didn’t plan that one out too well.
M: They’ve been talking about a nursing shortage for decades. I’m surprised that wasn’t taken into consideration.
B: The shortage is really a debate among scholars. Is there really a nursing shortage, or just a shortage of nurses who are willing to work in a hospital because of the stress?
M: That’s a great point. We’ve heard all about the hardships of working is a hospital setting, and it’s one of the many reasons why ONA members pushed for an avenue to solve staffing problems in healthcare settings. We know nurses are leaving hospital jobs and unsafe staffing is one of the reasons.
B: That’s right. That’s why I left my floor position. A 12-hour shift is always a 15-hour shift, and I just can’t do those anymore.
This brings me to something that really bothers me in nursing, and something I want to do more research on.
The last time my husband was in the hospital, he had to share a room for a week. What an eye opener! I really noticed how poor nursing care can be. It’s not because the nurses aren’t knowledgeable, or that they don’t know what to do. It’s the fact that we have all of these toys – IV alarms, bed alarms, telemetry – all these fancy toys that do what they’re supposed to do but the nurses aren’t paying attention to them. And this isn’t unique to the hospital we were at. This is happening all over the nation.
It gets me wondering…. What ever happened to good old-fashioned nursing care? There was a reason why you gave patients a hot, soapy bed bath. One was to clean them up, but more importantly it was because you were able to spend that time – a half an hour or so – talking to them, learning about them. You got to inspect their body head to toe. You got to change their bed. You got to build a relationship with them. You knew them.
And now, nurses are so busy with so many other things they have to do that they don’t have time to get to know their patients.
M: That’s interesting. Last month’s featured member also touched on this. Nursing is a second career for him, and he was really surprised at how little he’s able to sit and get to know his patients and their families. It was something he was really looking forward to coming into the profession.
B: Yea, it’s shame. We’re spending so much time on these ‘things’, and not enough time on patient care. And the patients are losing out.
I’d love to do research on this, and I’m in the process right now of seeing if anyone else has. I’d love to visit hospitals, and just sit with different patients. I wouldn’t do any nursing ‘care’, but I would just sit with them, give them a bath, clean up their area – just pay attention to them – and see how they feel with that treatment versus what they were getting before. I want to see if they’re more satisfied with their care than they were before.
I’m sure that the more time you spend with a patient and just talk to them, you’re going to lower blood pressure, decrease arrhythmias, and have a better outcome.
M: Can you describe an A-HA moment that you’ve had that’s validated why you became a nurse?
B: Oh boy! I’ve had a lot of those.
I think the thing that stands out most to me is taking care of my husband. He had his first strokes 28 years ago. It’s taken all of my nursing knowledge to take care of him all of these years.
Now we’re going through dialysis at home, which is interesting because I never was into kidneys. Now I am! He is paralyzed on one side, so I have to really help him. We’re a team.
I really feel that because of my being a nurse and having the ability to take of him, he’s been able to live as long as he has.
After his first stroke, we were told he would be on dialysis after 2 years and dead in 5.
He started dialysis 6 months ago. And it’s been 28 years since his first stroke.