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Q&A: Local Nurse Explains the Importance of Humanizing Our Healthcare

Healthcare professionals dole out life-changing medical advice on a daily basis. But not all advice comes in the form of dosages and bandage instructions. Rather, they’re making the jump from clinician to healthcare hero by providing individualized, elevated care. This runs the gamut from braiding a young accident survivor’s hair or, in the case of at AI DuPont PICU nurse manager Ruthann Turner, relaying the benefits of owning a Subaru Forester to parents of wheelchair-bound children. Because Turner, too, has a daughter who travels by wheelchair, she knows how accommodating the added trunk space is. And it’s these helpful tidbits that humanize healthcare and give patients peace of mind.

We asked this local healthcare hero to weigh in on the benefits of teamwork, her own professional goals and how Subaru is streamlining her day.

What’s your favorite part about working as a nurse manager?

I really like that I get to work with such a large group of talented professionals and I feel like I get to be a coach, to help them develop their careers and match their strengths with our patient population. My favorite part is looking where we have to go, figuring out what skills people need to get there, and then helping bring them along so that they are prepared for when that moment arrives.

How has being a nurse manager affected or not affected your care style? Would you say teamwork as a nurse is a critical aspect of effective healthcare?

Care is improved when we work together as a team. The way our hospitals works is we’re staffed for an average daily census and our average daily census at the end of last year was 16. So for every number of days we had 12 patients, we had an equal number of days with 20 patients. That variability in the actual number of patients can be challenging. And then in our winter busy months, we have 24 beds, and most days, we have 24 patients in those beds. There are times I get pulled into staffing and I still get to provide patient care.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job and how do you combat it?

The challenging part is having the right number of PICU nurses available on any day given the unpredictable nature of how many patients will be here. One of things I spend a lot of time doing is balancing the nurses so we are spending the money on having the right number there, but also doing it in a way that allows us the latitudes so nurses have time to do the things they want to do with their families.

Healthcare is under a lot of scrutiny and there’s a lot of effort to pushback to do [only] what’s necessary, but there are so many things that are necessary, but you can’t wrap your head around: time spent braiding the hair of a girl who has been in a car accident and hasn’t had a chance to have her hair washed. It takes time to do that.

One of my jobs is to connect improved outcomes with having spent the time doing that. So if there are fewer days in the ICU for that patient because we provided that kind of care and it has improved or sped up their healing process, I can connect outcomes with the hours the nurses spend at the bedside. I’m lucky I have the support of my boss to make those staffing pattern choices.

Do you have any pre-work or post-work rituals (i.e. pot of tea) that help you unwind?

I’ve been a nurse for more than 30 years and I’ve figured out some things along the way that really help keep my soul well-tended. I wake up every morning around 5am; I put on a pot of coffee and I do a little bible study. I wake up other people in my house. I drive my high-school-age daughter to school and then I report to work at 7:30am.

Setting up my day like that makes the day unfold so much better. And at the end of the way when I come home from work (I don’t even have the radio on in my car) I need absolute quiet to spend some time reclaiming my energy.

Do you work strictly with patients or do you also offer community initiatives?

One of the things I get to do to is help some of the PICU nurses to be involved in the community initiatives. I try to free up some of the bedside nurses so they can go do bike helmet safety and that sort of thing. My pie in the sky would be to make the world a safer place. It would put us out of a job, but wouldn’t it be great if children did need to get critically ill?

What advice would you give to a nurse just beginning their career?

I love being a nurse and I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. Nursing is so diverse. I would tell somebody to figure out what kind of nurse you want to be and find a group of people you like doing it with. It’s the team you do it with that makes it all come together.

What model Subaru do you drive?

I have a 2009 Subaru Forester. Its name is Gump.

How has your Subaru Forester made your life easier?

My youngest daughter travels in a wheelchair, which I have to lift in and out of the back of the car. So that’s why I have the Forester. The wheelchair fits in the back and I’m able to get it in and out. That’s the reason I picked this particular model. I have told families in the ICU—if they’re going to be a family with a child in a wheelchair—about the car; I try to work it into the conversation. There was one time a person came back and brought me a picture of it!

It also gets us everywhere. There’s a nurse that works in the PICU that lives across the street from me and she’s terrified to drive in bad weather. And when the weather was bad, I looked at the schedule and if she was scheduled to work, I would bring her back and forth to work because I know my car is going to handle well. Recently, she asked me if I noticed that she doesn’t call me for rides anymore, and why that was. It’s because she bought a Subaru!

For more information about finding the right ride for you, visit Subaru, here.