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Nellie Dwyer talked with nurses as she completed her call duties at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital emergency room in St. Louis on May 6. As part of her mentor role at the hospital, Dwyer helps new staff from orientation and beyond.
Nellie Dwyer talked with nurses as she completed her call duties at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital emergency room in St. Louis on May 6. As part of her mentor role at the hospital, Dwyer helps new staff from orientation and beyond.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Nurses who are mentors, trainers play key role

Endowment boosts nursing education at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital

Nellie Dwyer, a staff nurse in the emergency department at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, is doing her best to help her co-workers do their best.

The work of Dwyer, mentor/educator of the year at the hospital, is one example of the importance placed on training for nurses. That work recently got a boost with a $500,000 endowment for nursing education set up by a Catholic couple from St. Louis, Don and Nancy Ross.

Dwyer trains the new staff members that come to the department. Some are recent nursing school graduates and some are just new to emergency medicine. She also helps with trauma training when staff members qualify for it.

On a recent afternoon, Dwyer’s skills were evident as she calmly checked the vital signs of 7-month-old Layni, arriving in the department with dehydration, while reassuring her mom, Taylor Carter of Sandoval, Illinois. Dwyer checked in with the other staff, including Chloe Eberhart, who volunteered praise for her co-worker’s approachability. “I’ve learned a lot from her,” Eberhart explained.

Dwyer helps the new staff from orientation and beyond. Each department in the hospital also has a couple “champions” who serve as mentors. “We just want nurses not to think that once they finish orientation they are on their own and expected to know everything,” Dwyer said.

‘It’s OK’

Nellie Dwyer took vital signs for 7-month-old Layni while talking to Layni’s mother Taylor Carter at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital emergency room in St. Louis on May 6. Dwyer was named mentor/educator of the year at the hospital.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
In the emergency room, “I like to help when nurses have to deal with the very stressful things we see — a death for the first time, for example,” Dwyer said. “I want them to talk about things they are feeling, let them know it’s OK. That way they don’t feel like they have to go through it alone when they’re past their training and orientation period.”

Dwyer said the department has seen an increase in the number of children caught in violence or overdosing from drugs, which is particularly tough. It doesn’t matter whether someone has worked in the department for many years or several weeks, it’s important for them to talk about it rather than bottle up their feelings, she added.

The hospital’s mission statement, “Though our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God,” is important to Dwyer. “I’m an advocate of leading by example. I want to live our values of compassion, respect, excellence, stewardship, community. I demonstrate that when I’m training people rather than show them that on a piece of paper. I’m assigned to a person a couple weeks or a couple months, and I always keep in the back of my mind to interact with patients, families, co-workers and the inter-disciplinary team reflecting these values and mission. If I’m living the values, I tend to see it in the nurses I train.”

A member of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Fairview Heights, Illinois, Dwyer incorporates her faith the same way. “We’ve always been taught to practice God’s words and what Jesus wants through your actions and not just preach it to other people. I keep that in mind when I’m at work.”

Being a nurse is another component of herself: a daughter, partner, sister, a Catholic. “I incorporate all those same values into every aspect of my life no matter what my role is that day,” Dwyer said.

Whatever specialty a nurse has, they are the backbone of health care, she said. “They’re the hand to hold, always making sure to answer your questions.”

Recognition for nurses

About 15 years ago, Don and Nancy Ross funded awards in five categories for nurses at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, with staff voting for the winners. The Rosses are longtime supporters of the hospital. Nancy is a registered nurse and had worked there and appreciated the help she received from her supervisors. “Pediatric nurses are special, they really get connected to the patients as all nurses do but it’s one thing to take care of kids,” Don Ross said. “Those women and men at Glennon are amazing and what Glennon does is pretty special.”

Cardinal Glennon is a hospital that has achieved Magnet recognition, awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center to hospitals that demonstrate excellence in nursing and patient care as well as innovation in professional nursing practice. Only 8.28 percent of all U.S. hospitals have Magnet status. In order to help Glennon continue this excellence with ongoing education, the Rosses were motivated to create the endowment overseen by the chief nursing executive.

“For me, it was a way to recognize Nancy and her commitment to pediatric nursing and her early years of Glennon, how important it is to her,” Don Ross said.

Members of Annunziata and Ste. Genevieve du Bois parishes, their faith helps motivate their commitment to causes such as pediatric nursing and archdiocesan and Catholic causes. He refers to the Gospel quote, “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

For information on ways to help the mission of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, visit Glennon.org.

>> Couple’s gift helps with ‘best care’

Michelle Romano, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, is thrilled to oversee a new endowment for nursing education set up by Don and Nancy Ross.

Nurses are “the ones who provide the care at the bedside, enact the physician’s orders and help educate the patients on medications they are taking and care for themselves. They are essential in the promotion of health and well-being for patients,” Romano said.

The mission of revealing the hidden presence of God through exceptional health care services extends to patients and families, said Romano, a member of Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville.

The Rosses’ gift for continuing education “is a true honor,” Romano said. “The generous donation helps us with our professional development and education as nurses. That’s key to us so we can provide the best care for patients and families.”

Besides the new Nancy Fedak Ross Endowment for Nursing Education, the Rosses also established the Nancy Fedak Ross Awards, given each May during National Nurses Week. They are named after Nancy Ross, who years ago began working at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon on 2 South, which was a burn unit at the time. Her love for children was evident during her time there, and she continues to support a variety of children’s causes throughout her post-Glennon life. The awards honor nurses in several categories including: Rookie of the Year, Mentor/Educator of the Year, Leader of the Year, Community Service Nurse of the Year and the Exceptional Nurse.

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