National Nurses Week, recognized May 6 to 12, has passed, but the work of nurses continues to be the backbone of health care.
Theresa Dillman, Glen Cove Hospital’s chief nursing officer and associate executive director of patient care services, became a registered nurse when she was 21. She said she received “instant gratification” on the job.
Once Dillman was offered the opportunity for leadership, however, she seized the chance, moving up the ladder as a nursing leader at hospitals such as North Shore University Hospital and Lenox Hill Hospital over the course of the past 15 years. Her advice and motivation for her career success: not to settle.
“For nurses, always have a quest for lifelong learning, and honestly challenge the status quo,” Dillman said. “Be innovative. Think outside the box. Don’t settle.”
With her new role as a leader at Glen Cove Hospital, she has applied her passion for patient care to helping her nurses. “My goal is to support our nurses within their full scope of practice,” Dillman said.
Every day she aims to provide the resources and tools to help her nursing team in their education, leadership development, and ability to stay motivated and inspired.
“For me, as the nurse exec,” Dillman said, “I empower and give my nurses the autonomy to critically think [and] to question when something doesn’t feel appropriate.”
“It’s all about listening to our staff, and hearing what they have to say, and doing things to support them,” said Kerri Scanlon, executive director at Glen Cove Hospital and a registered nurse. “That’s really our mission.”
In a more hands-on approach, Dillman walks throughout the day with her clinical nurses and helps them when needed. For example, one day she noticed that a nurse was having difficulty putting in an IV line. She stepped in to help. “I’m here to support you,” Dillman recalled saying to the nurse. “And I’m also going to roll my sleeves up, if needed, to put in an IV to [help] a patient.”
Dillman’s skills as a leader were evident before she became an administrator. Nurses are essential to every patient’s case, she said, and must be able to handle and dictate every step of their care. “Whether you’re at the bedside or an administrator, they’re the undesignated leaders of their unit,” Dillman said.
“Nursing is a very instrumental and global part of the health care team where you really get to see everyday components of a patient’s care delivery,” said Francine Kelly, associate executive diretor of quality management at GCH and an RN. “And we have the ability to touch every component of care and interact with the family.”
Education and teamwork are essential to bolstering the development and growth of the profession. Many high-ranking administrators in the hospital are nurses.
“Nursing is becoming an opportunity in our state to wanting to really push for advanced nurses working at the highest degree of their licensure,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon earned her master’s as a prepared nurse practitioner at Columbia, which she does not currently practice, and Dillman and Kelly are Doctors of Nursing.
“My graduate degree has allowed me really to look at how can we better provide care, and it starts with our doctors and with our nurses,” Scanlon said.
At the hospital, nurses are given an opportunity to partake in clinical practices and research to further cultivate their skills in patient care. Like university classes, the hospital has dedicated education units with a simulation lab to help nurses enhance their knowledge of medical procedures on cadavers. There are fellowships, residency programs, critical care advancement and other educational initiatives to bolster each nurse’s career.
The pandemic has placed a spotlight on stress management in the workplace as well as sharpening skills, Kelly said. At GCH, there is a room called the Watson Room, where nurses are given a chance to decompress and recharge. As a leader, Kelly looks to see how she can help understand and manage her teams through the stress of the job.
“Everyone perhaps needs a little something different to help them get through their day or manage their worries or concerns while they’re doing a very pivotal job of caring for our patients,” Kelly said.