Tending to anxious parents is a daily challenge of nursing in a pediatric hospital, but how do you cope when you’re the anxious parent and the patient is your own 8-year-old daughter? At American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) in Wisconsin, Nurse of the Week Windy Smith, MSN, RN is in this strange position while her daughter Ellie is undergoing chemotherapy for Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare cancer that causes tissue lesions.
While Langerhans cell histiocytosis can damage organs or cause tumors to form, most patients can be expected to survive. When the illness is more extensive, though, treatment can be grueling, and Smith’s little girl has been undergoing a year-long course of steroids, antibiotics, and hospital visits for chemotherapy treatment. Fortunately for Ellie and her mom, however, the 8-year-old’s favorite nurse has been available to provide care. Smith, a managing nurse at AFCH, says that Ellie “has to get labs before her chemotherapy and she has wanted me. She has a port in her chest, and so she has wanted me to access her port.” Her daughter explains her preference simply: “[It’s] just cause I sort of trust you more.” Smith reflects, “It’s like a heart-breaking privilege I have.”
Being able to participate in your own child’s treatment is indeed a privilege, but the experience has nonetheless been extremely stressful. “It’s all-consuming,” says Smith. “And while I know Ellie’s treatment is essential, it breaks my heart every time I access her port.” Their mother-daughter bond has helped to sustain them when things are hard. Noting that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Smith remarks, “We have had some challenges with some depression and anxiety. It took us a while to actually start talking about it, start talking about feeling sad and feeling kind of angry about some of these things, but it’s really normal, so I’m glad she felt comfortable to open up and talk to us about it.”
Happily, Smith’s dual role will be over quite soon, and Ellie is eagerly looking forward to the end of her chemotherapy treatments, which will be marked by a Make-a-Wish trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios.
A video interview with Windy Smith is available at WKOW.
The University of Wisconsin Health (UW Health)
recently announced it will be expanding
its nurse residency program due to a state and national shortage of nurses.
UW Health will increase its recruiting efforts to cope with the rising demand.
UW Health’s nurse residency program
takes one year to complete and is comprised of groups of 20-40 nurse residents
who have graduated from an accredited nursing program. Residents are used to
fill vacant spots left by retired nurses as well as to fill new positions.
Program Manager Kim McPhee tells uwhealth.org, “We’ve really tried to be proactive, so that we don’t feel the shortages as much as some other sites have felt…Before we had this nurse residency program, we were experiencing what everyone experienced around the country, where up to 60 percent of new graduate nurses left the profession in the first year. That’s a huge concern.”
The UW Health nurse residency program
is one of 29 programs recognized by the Certified Commission on Collegiate
Nursing Education. The residency program has hired over 2,000 nurses in the
past 13 years, accounting for two-thirds of the current UW Health staff.
According to the Bureau
of Labor Statistics, job growth for registered nurses will increase 15
percent from 2016 to 2026, from 2.9 million registered nurses in the workforce to
3.4 million nurses. They also project that 203,700 registered nurses will be
needed annually to carry out new positions and replace retiring ones.
The UW Health nurse residency program currently holds
3,152 nurses and added 572 nurses in 2019. The most recent class of resident
nurses graduated in February.
To learn more about UW Health’s announcement to expand
its nurse residency program to meet increased demand in the state and
nationwide, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Becky Zimmerman, a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at a Wisconsin hospital who was recently nominated for a DAISY Award by one of the families she cared for. Her patient, Whitney Driver, went into labor at 26 weeks, almost three months before her due date, and gave birth to twin boys who weighed just under two pounds.
Zimmerman was assigned as the primary care nurse for the twins, named Hudson and Hayden. Zimmerman and Driver both report growing close during the Driver twins’ 89 day stay in the NICU, but the family truly formed a connection after they lost one of their sons, Hayden, at just 17 days old.
Driver was overcome by postpartum depression and grief
from losing her son, but knew she needed to find a way to be there for her
other son. Zimmerman became a huge part of helping Driver manage her emotions
and get the help she needed.
Zimmerman tells nbc15.com, “I’ve taken care of a lot of babies. But this story is the kind of one that really clenched my heart.”
The Driver family eventually nominated Zimmerman for a
DAISY Award, a program that honors exceptional nurses. To learn more about Becky
Zimmerman, a NICU nurse from Wisconsin who was recently nominated for a DAISY Award
by one of the families she cared for, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Cassie Dietrick, a mother of two who worked two jobs and overcame a deployment to Afghanistan, but never stopped working toward a nursing degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-Madison).
Dietrick completed her nursing education almost entirely online and through clinicals at an area hospital, but very rarely stepped foot on campus. The flexibility of UW-Madison’s online nursing program was integral to her success. When Dietrich started nursing school, she had an associate’s nursing degree and a full-time job at St. Mary’s Hospital, plus a part-time job with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, with two young children to take care of at home.
While most students take two and a half years to complete the program, Dietrick completed the program in one, even though she spent four of those months serving in Afghanistan. Dietrick was halfway through the nursing program at UW-Madison when the Guard called on her to deploy to Afghanistan. At the time, her youngest child wasn’t even one year old yet and she feared that a poor internet connection overseas might delay her studies and self-imposed deadline to graduate.
Dietrick tells madison.com, “I kind of overextended myself, but feel like I do better when my plate is full.”
During her time overseas, Dietrick made a video call home to her kids at the end of each of her shifts, and then threw herself into her coursework, finishing five classes before returning home. She says she wanted to get as much done as possible so that she could spend time with her family when she came home. When her deployment was extended from three months to four, Dietrick still had 60 required hours of clinical observation that were unmet and she would only be weeks from graduation when returning home in November. Thankfully her mentor was willing to pick up extra shifts so that Dietrick could shadow her to get the hours she needed to complete her degree.
Despite all of her setbacks and challenges, Dietrick managed to finish her clinical hours and walk across the stage this past December with her bachelor’s degree in nursing from UW-Madison. To learn more about Cassie Dietrick, a mother of two who worked two jobs and overcame a deployment to Afghanistan, but never stopped working toward her nursing degree, visit here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Cami
Loritz, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse from Wisconsin who donated part of
her liver for a transplant
that saved an 8-year-old boy’s life. Loritz is an ICU nurse at Froedtert
Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
The boy’s mother,
Ruth Auten, says she now considers Loritz a part of their family. Auten’s son,
Brayden Auten, was diagnosed with an aggressive
virus that was attacking his liver this past April at the Milwaukee
Children’s Hospital. Brayden’s parents were devastated to learn that their son
was in need of a partial liver transplant.
Desperate to find
a donor, they shared Brayden’s story online. They were flooded with positive
responses, but no one who reached out was a match. Then Loritz showed up, a
perfect match, and Brayden’s doctors immediately moved forward with the
was able to go home in July and is now preparing to return to school as a
healthy 8-year-old. Brayden and Loritz showed off their surgery scars in a
photo shoot, which shows them wearing matching shirts and wide smiles.
Brayden’s parents told People.com, “What she did was completely selfless and she saved his life, plain and simple. We can’t thank her enough. She’s a true miracle. We consider her one of us, one of our family.”
To learn more about Cami Loritz, an ICU
nurse from Wisconsin who donated part of her liver for a transplant that saved
an 8-year-old boy’s life, visit here.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing has partnered with the Monroe Clinic-SSM Health to offer rural placements for nursing students to help address rural healthcare shortages.
Students earning their doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree require field placements to meet their degree requirements and to help positively influence their employment after graduating.
Pamela Ann McGranahan, director of the DNP program and associate clinical professor of nursing, tells news.wisc.edu, “To help meet our goal of educating nurses for the entire state, the School of Nursing is emphasizing relationships like the one with Monroe. Some of our students really respond to a well-run clinic that is large enough to offer a fairly intricate level of specialties and technology, but not so large as to become anonymous.”
Monroe Clinic operates 11 clinics in Wisconsin and Illinois, with more than 85 physicians, over 200,000 annual patient visits, and 40 to 50 advanced practice practitioners, primarily nurses. In four years offering clinical placements to UW–Madison DNP students, three have returned to work there as nurse practitioners.
UW–Madison offers DNP degrees to nurses who hold a bachelor’s or masters degree in nursing with one year of working experience. The coursework can be completed in-person and online and prepares nurses to use advanced clinical expertise, advocacy, leadership skills, and research understandings to provide up-to-date practices and best clinical outcomes.
To learn more about the UW–Madison School of Nursing’s partnership with the Monroe Clinic-SSM Health to offer rural placements for nursing students to help address rural healthcare shortages, visit here.