Our Nurses of the Week are Diane Johnson, Mary Mangiamelli, and Judy Spaen, three nurses who spent the majority of their careers working in the same surgery unit of an Omaha hospital, amassing a combined 130 years of experience in the nursing profession. Sharing a common passion for helping others, these three women became like a second family to each other.
“It’s an interesting career. It’s a rewarding career. Health care is always something people are going to need. There are always opportunities.”
During their tenure at Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy in Omaha, NE, the three nurses treated each new day as a learning experience. Decades of working at the same hospital taught them how to work with different doctors and medical professionals and how to adapt to new and changing technologies.
Johnson tells Omaha.com, “I think it’s a great career. Each day is different. You get to meet a lot of patients, and you see them at their worst. But sometimes you can see how far and how healthy they’ve become.” Johnson began her career as an aide at Bergan and went on to complete her nursing degree during her 42-year tenure at the hospital. Her nursing career reaffirmed to her the importance of caring about people and giving each patient the individual attention they deserve.
Mangiamelli’s career spanned 44 years, including many night shifts, which taught her to appreciate the time she was able to spend with her husband and three children. Looking back on the beginning of her career, Mangiamelli shared the following with Omaha.com: “I just thought the human body was a pretty fascinating thing to explore. I don’t think I had two cases the same, because each patient has a different problem. No day ever repeated itself.”
Spaen’s career in nursing spanned 50 years in which she has “nearly seen it all.” She witnessed the Omaha hospital grow from one small wing to what it is today. Spaen remembers being unsure about whether nursing was the right field for her, but facing new challenges each day kept her engaged and drawn to the way the profession adapted, and she began to enjoy the work. Now retired, Spaen tells Omaha.com, “It’s an interesting career. It’s a rewarding career. Health care is always something people are going to need. There are always opportunities.”
These three women are a perfect example of the resiliency that nurses show every day. To learn more about their inspiring careers and passion for the nursing profession, visit here.
Our Nurses of the Week are Kyle Cook, 53, and Carla Saunders, 51, neonatal nurse practitioners at a children’s hospital in Knoxville, TN. After decades spent caring for infants, these two nurses recognized a major problem when they had six babies in the nursery at once suffering from substance withdrawal. After looking to experts for answers on how to treat these delicate patients, they discovered that no one yet had the answers, and became the experts themselves.
It was 2010 when Cook and Saunders began to see the effects of the opioid crisis themselves. The first time they realized that they had a problem was when they had six babies suffering at once, but that number quickly began to grow. Cook, 53, tells NPR.org:
“We couldn’t fix it; we couldn’t make these babies better. Little did we know that was the tip of the iceberg. We had 10, and then 15, and then, at one point, 37 babies in the NICU that were withdrawing. We were bursting at the seams.”
Unprepared and short-staffed, they knew they needed to find a new solution because their current practice wasn’t helping the inconsolable infants they were attempting to treat. They worked at a small children’s hospital, but knew that the problem they were facing was a representation of a greater substance abuse problem happening all over the US.
When they called across the country looking for experts to advise them on how to treat these special patients, they discovered that nobody had the answers. They were left to find the answers themselves, and wound up helping to establish one of the first treatment protocols for babies exposed to opioids and a program connecting mothers with treatment and therapy options.
To learn more about Cook and Saunders’ experience treating babies suffering from opioid withdrawal, listen to the full podcast below:
Our Nurse of the Week is Bianca de Leon, a recent graduate of Penn State University’s nursing program and a commissioned officer in the US Navy Nurse Corps. De Leon emigrated from the Philippines at 5 years old with her father who wanted his family to start a new life in the United States. Now seventeen years later, de Leon has overcome many hardships to pursue her dream career in nursing.
“Despite my upbringing, I flourished because my teachers believed in me, my family pushed me, and this country gave an immigrant family a chance to prove themselves.”
De Leon’s family suffered many hardships when she was younger. She was 13 when her mother and younger brother were finally approved to join her father and the rest of their family in the US. Then she began her first job at 15 years old while also taking Advanced Placement classes and participating in sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities. Exhausted by all that she took on, de Leon thought she would always feel that way.
After mentoring an elementary school student with behavioral issues and working in a retirement home where she observed the nursing staff taking care of the residents, de Leon realized that she wanted to pursue a career where she could interact with people and help make changes to improve their lives.
Inspired by her older brother, de Leon decided to apply for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). She tells News.PSU.edu, “I became interested because they had nursing scholarships. At the time I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to pursue a military career. I knew that I needed to go to nursing school and this was a way that I would be able to do it.”
De Leon received a Naval ROTC scholarship to Penn State and was accepted into their four-year bachelor’s degree program in nursing. She graduated in Spring 2017 as a commissioned officer in the US Navy Nurse Corps and in July she passed the exam to become a licensed registered nurse. Shortly after, she set out for her first duty station at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia.
De Leon credits her achievements to the supportive environment she grew up in. She tells News.PSU.edu, “Despite my upbringing, I flourished because my teachers believed in me, my family pushed me, and this country gave an immigrant family a chance to prove themselves.”
To learn more about de Leon and her career in military nursing, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Marie Carmel Garcon, DNP, Columbia University School of Nursing, who has been named the 2017 Nurse Practitioner of the Year by the Nurse Practitioner Association New York State (NPA). Dr. Garcon’s award aligns with National Nurse Practitioner Week 2017, taking place November 12-18.
Garcon leads the House Calls services at ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Group, the faculty practice of Columbia Nursing, where she provides primary care directly to Washington Heights and Inwood residents who have difficulty leaving their homes. This involves overseeing patients’ care the same way she would in a clinical setting, setting up specialty visits like X-rays and blood work in patients’ homes, and managing their overall care.
The NPA is recognizing Garcon for her outstanding commitment to providing compassionate care after serving the Columbia University Medical Center community for more than 28 years. An NPA release states:
“Dr. Garcon has extensive experience working on the front lines of intensive care and oncology units and is able to advocate for patients and their families giving voice to those who cannot speak for themselves due to illness. Among her many noteworthy accomplishments over her 20-year career as a family nurse practitioner, Dr. Garcon established a support group for patients and families affected by pancreatic cancer.”
The NPA has been recognizing a Nurse Practitioner of the Year since 1987. Garcon was presented with her award at the NPA’s 33rd Annual Conference on October 21 in Saratoga Springs, NY. To learn more about Dr. Garcon and the NPA, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Carol Fowler Durham, 63, a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Nursing who was diagnosed with sepsis in 2010. She was in the middle of a faculty meeting when she began violently shaking, but she didn’t understand what was wrong at the time. Now seven years later and fully recovered, Fuller is helping raise awareness about sepsis, the deadly condition that nearly killed her.
When Durham began to feel symptoms of sepsis, she didn’t realize that her body had launched an attack on itself. Confused by the reaction she was having, she left her meeting and drove herself home. Her condition later worsened and her husband, Stephen, drove her to the emergency room where she was placed behind a long queue of patients.
By the time Durham was seen by staff in the emergency room, she had a high fever and chills which was enough to admit her. Staff still didn’t recognize what her symptoms meant, allowing her condition to worsen overnight. After her blood pressure plummeted, her medical team finally realized that she had sepsis and was moving into septic shock, a condition with a high mortality rate.
“Sepsis occurs when a massive immune response to a bacterial infection gets into the blood,” Durham tells People.com. “The condition can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure, or death.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the US and about 250,000 die from it.
Durham was finally taken to the intensive care unit where she received antibiotics to stave off her raging infection. She responded to the antibiotics and began to improve but doctors were never able to determine the cause of her sepsis. Now fully recovered, Durham has a passion to get the word out about the deadly condition and make medical professionals aware of how to recognize and treat sepsis.
Durham now speaks to groups around the country teaching health care audiences, publishers, medical simulation vendors, and others to recognize sepsis and how to fight it. Quick and proper intervention are key and Durham drives that message home every chance she gets.
To learn more about Carol Fowler Durham and her experience surviving septic shock and becoming an advocate for the dangerous condition, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Joseph Bruno, 36, who was the nurse in charge of the trauma unit at University Medical Center (UMC) in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 1 when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert crowd from his shooter’s perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, ultimately killing 58 and injuring hundreds of others.
“I know that we did everything we could to save the men and women who came to us. I hope the families of the slain that passed in my unit can take comfort in that.”
Bruno recalls receiving a call from emergency dispatch around 10 pm informing him that there had been an active shooter on the strip and more than 20 critical patients were headed their way. He quickly mobilized the nursing and surgical staff, giving them what little information he had and warning that they would soon begin treating patients in very bad shape.
UMC’s emergency department began receiving their first wave of victims in non-emergency vehicles within 5 minutes of the dispatcher’s call. Thankfully many surgical staff were still on hand from treating earlier patients and were able to jump in and help as the shooting victims began to arrive. Patients continued to arrive until 4 AM with varying degrees of injuries. The most critical patients were rushed to operating rooms to have life-threatening abdominal injuries repaired surgically while others had tourniquets applied to control their bleeding or IV fluids and blood transfusions started.
Bruno tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “There were times when patients pleaded with us to help others first, that they could wait. The only time I’ve ever seen that happen before is in the case of a husband and wife or parents with children after a car accident. But these were people with horrific injuries telling us they could wait in line for treatment so complete strangers could have surgery first.”
The pain and sorrow of treating the victims that night is still ongoing for Bruno, but he emphasized that one message be delivered loud and clear: “I know that we did everything we could to save the men and women who came to us. I hope the families of the slain that passed in my unit can take comfort in that.”
To learn more about Joseph Bruno and his courageous acts as the nurse in charge of the trauma department at UMC in Las Vegas on the night of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, visit here.