Last November, Tamryn Fowler, BSN ’09 and a current student in the MSN program at the SON, traveled with Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor Kristen Swanson, PhD, to the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA. Her trip was supported by the Hayes Fund, a fund created by Art Odom in memory of his mother Annie Lathan Odom Hayes. The fund is unrestricted and can be used at the discretion of the School of Nursing Dean. Tamryn has generously shared some reflections with us from her experience in Seattle.
Traveling to Seattle as a graduate student was a dynamic, once-in-a-lifetime experience. To be able to fly across the country to embark on a new learning opportunity was incredible. When I first arrived in Seattle, I remember riding in a ferry boat, saying to myself, “It is late at night, and I am riding in a ferry boat with the Dean. This is surreal!” It is difficult to explain the extent of gratefulness that I have toward Dean Swanson and my UNC School of Nursing family. I have only rode in a plane a handful of times in my life, but flying to Seattle last November changed my perspective of myself, my goals, and the meaning of investing in others.
The Dean saw this trip as an opportunity for me to learn more about the role of clinical nurse leaders at the Virginia Mason Medical Center. My academic pursuits in the graduate program are focused on being a nurse educator as well as a clinical nurse leader. Dean Swanson knew that Virginia Mason is a pioneer in executing the clinical nurse leader role in healthcare institutions. I learned how Virginia Mason recognized breakdowns in a patient’s healthcare experience, care fragmentations, and uncoordinated care, and how, in 2004, they began enhancing the effectiveness of front-line nurses, preventing redundancy in clinical practice, and promoting efficiency in coordinating patient care by introducing clinical nurse leaders at Virginia Mason.
I visited Seattle for three full days in November. I first attended the Virginia Mason Model of Care Inpatient Services Retreat, at which I had the privilege of hearing Dean Swanson speak about her theory, the Swanson Caring Theory, in front of hospital employees, including social workers, nurses, clinical nurse leaders, nurse manager, and patient care technicians. As a group, we talked about the organizational context for caring, recalled the five principles of the Swanson Caring Theory, described the phenomenon of compassion fatigue and associated coping strategies, and thought about ways to foster actions of caring on a unit-level.
This retreat reminded me that I am a part of something greater. Nurses have moments when we are hard-pressed from caring for severely-ill patients, but we must remember the beauty of connection and the privilege we have in being able to care for others every day. Dean Swanson emphasized the importance of believing in yourself, trusting your teammates, and honoring each individual you encounter. Listening to the staff’s personal patient stories and the Dean speaking about her theory, I was reminded that I have a purpose to care for others, advocate for them, and figure out what patients need and what they are going through. The Dean demonstrated how we are all the faces, hands, heart, and head of the hospital’s mission. I talked with several clinical nurse leaders at the retreat and learned firsthand what it means to be the keepers of a patient’s story. Patients rely on clinical nurse leaders to tell their story, their struggles, their needs, and promote a continuity of care for them.
On the last day, I met with Kelsey Rounds, a wonderful clinical nurse leader at Virginia Mason. He allowed me to shadow him to learn what a typical day is like for him. It was a post-surgical floor, and we encountered many different patients with various needs. Kelsey mirrored confidence, resourcefulness, strong listening skills, problem-solving capabilities, creativity, and translated information effectively for all team members to understand the patient’s care. His role focused on ensuring safe verbal hand-offs among staff, making recommendations, organizing team rounding, demonstrating critical thinking, clinical judgment, as well as good follow-up and note-taking. He recognized the importance of listening to various perspectives while keeping the patient’s needs in the forefront.
I am incredibly thankful to the family of Ms. Annie Lathan Odom Hayes for providing me with the Hayes Award. As the first recipient, I am very appreciative and absorbed everything during my visit to Seattle. I am grateful for the UNC School of Nursing family for organizing this trip, advocating on my behalf, and investing in me. This experience outlines the importance of constantly bringing your best self forward in all situations because you never know how your purpose in life will help someone else.