Nursing Informatics Series: Dawn’s Journey

Me with my grandfather.

When I was growing up, I wanted to become a veterinarian because I love animals. However, when I was twelve, my grandfather, who had a chronic health condition, came down with influenza A and passed away after only three days in the hospital. As my family sat with him, the nurses came in to monitor his condition frequently to make him comfortable. Their compassionate care to him was wonderful, but they didn’t just care for him. The nurses made sure my grandmother was alright and that all of us kids understood what was happening. One nurse sat with my mom and I to answer any questions we had. She answered the questions at a level that a twelve-year-old would understand.  The loss was painful, but it instilled something in me: I wanted to help people. It set my course in life, even at that young age. While I do not remember the nurse’s name who sat with me, I do remember her face and her thoughtfulness.

At 13 years old, I started volunteering in my hometown nursing home, reading letters, playing games, and just visiting with residents. Bringing a smile to their faces brought so much joy. I was determined to go into nursing so I could take care of others. 

Graduation, 1983.

My passion for nursing lies with the elderly.  I wanted to make a difference in a patient’s life and their families, just as that nurse did for my grandfather and me. I have had many opportunities to care for patients, mainly in the Long-Term Care and Skilled Nursing Care settings. I have taken on many nursing roles ranging from Charge Nurse to Assistant Director of Nursing and Assisted Living Director. Quality care was not just a motto to me; it was my nursing philosophy. I wanted care for each resident as if they were my own grandparent.

Throughout the years, quality care was always foremost in my mind. But as all nurses know, after the care comes the documentation. Documentation is an essential part of healthcare although sometimes it can wear you down. The hours nurses put into documenting every detail of symptoms, treatments given, and the outcome is not only time consuming but tiring for nurses.  I remember thinking many times, there must be an easier and faster way to document so I could spend more time on direct care. Little did I know, I was already involved with informatics at the most basic level. Eventually our small nursing home started using computers but mainly for assessment and care plans. It took several years for nurses to do their charting on computers, which allowed them to spend more time with the residents and less time charting.

When I joined Lantana Consulting Group, I was heading for what is commonly known as “burnout” in my career and needed to find something new to challenge myself. I was worried I might not get to use my clinical knowledge or apply my personal quality of care belief at Lantana. But I have found the opposite. For the past three years at Lantana, I have been working on the Hospital Compare Support Contract quality reporting program and have worked with the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program. The quality program helps patients by summarizing a variety of measures across areas of quality of care into a single star rating for each hospital to help patients make more informed decisions about their healthcare options. It may not be hands-on care, but by working with the quality reporting programs, I can reach more patients across the nation to improve their quality of care. The healthcare information field is ever changing and very challenging but an exciting field to work in.  I think my grandfather would be proud.