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Hospital nurses to be honored May 4-8 for skills, caring

- By Diane Rogers

Credit: Norbert von der Groeben coronary care unit

Senior nurse recruiter Terri Wieske (center) talks with fellow nurse Carole Kulik, patient care manager for the coronary care unit.

5:07 p.m.: The call comes in, and within seconds Rick Greenawalt, RN, is wheeling a patient out of room 5 in Stanford Hospital's Emergency Department, to make room for an incoming trauma case. 'Bicycle vs. delivery van,' Greenawalt explains as the team of residents and attending physicians assembles. The patient is 97 out of a possible 99 on the triage decision tree - an impact injury with neck and back pain. And, no, he wasn't wearing a helmet.

5:14 p.m.: The cyclist is wheeled in by EMTs, and Greenawalt moves into place beside the gurney to help roll him onto his right side, so the trauma resident can check for tenderness on his spine.

5:29 p.m.: Greenawalt wheels the stabilized patient across the hall for a CT scan. 'Feet first? Head first?' he asks the CT technician. Then adds, 'He has no allergies to iodine or other meds, and no kidney problems,' just before removing the patient's crucifix.

5:47 p.m.: Greenawalt watches for heart rate and blood pressure changes on the patient's monitor as he waits for the neck-to-pelvis scan to be completed.

6 p.m.: Greenawalt continues to monitor his patient until the man is cleared for discharge later that evening.

So went one fairly typical hour for the former Web designer who changed professions five years ago to become an ED nurse, working the 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. shift. 'I didn't like sitting in a cubicle,' Greenawalt said. 'If I'm not going, going, going, you might as well send me home.'

Employees who sign up to spend an hour or two shadowing a nurse during National Nurses Week May 4-8 will get a glimpse of the passions that drive Greenawalt and the 1,395 nurses at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. Registered nurses will be demonstrating nursing care in action to colleagues who would like to learn more about the various units, which include general medicine, orthopedics, cardiac care and bone marrow transplant.

Like Greenawalt, Terri Wieske gave massive blood transfusions and kidney function tests for more than 10 years as a Stanford ED nurse, thriving on the hectic pace and constant challenges. 'Things change moment to moment. You can have a critical patient one moment, and five minutes later, you can get a more critical patient,' Wieske said. 'You have to find out what's going on, and set priorities accordingly.'

Unlike the high-strung characters on TV medical dramas, Wieske exudes calm. She knows how to prioritize and solve problems. More importantly, she knows how to spot those critical-thinking skills in others.

As senior nurse recruiter for Stanford Hospital & Clinics, Wieske is the first point of contact for many nurses applying for positions. She chats up recent nursing graduates at job fairs, and asks the kinds of questions that will enable her to recommend a nurse to the manager of a busy unit.

'A lot of it is gut feeling,' Wieske said. 'We want people who have a strong sense of what they're looking for. We want the person who says, 'I really love oncology and I want to take my practice to the next level.''

Stanford Hospital's excellence in nursing practice and quality patient care was recognized when the hospital was named a Magnet facility in 2007.

'While there continues to be a nationwide nursing shortage, we at Stanford Hospital & Clinics are experiencing it in a very minimal way,' said Nancy Lee, vice president for patient care services and chief nursing officer. 'Nurses want to work in a place where they can make a difference for patients every day, and our Magnet journey and experience has helped us to create an environment where professional registered nurses can make that difference.'

Thanks to the hospital's reputation, Wieske said she and her four colleagues in the recruiting office - Talia Pico, Lorelei Rivers, Linda Varon and Martha Wolde - have a deep pool of candidates to tap. At the same time, 16 percent of the nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital are 55 years and older, and retirements are looming.

The hospitals need to continue hiring and training new nursing graduates for the specialized care that is required in oncology, orthopedic, intensive care and many other units, Wieske said. 'Because in five years or so, we're going to need them.'

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford Children's Health. For more information, please visit the Office of Communications website at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

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