A little girl in South Carolina dreams of becoming a doctor. She marries young, goes through a divorce soon thereafter, becomes a surgical technician and through hard work and a scholarship, goes back to school to become a nurse.
One of the best.
Today - twenty-six years later - she is the Orthopedic Charge Nurse at Conway Medical in Conway SC, a proactive founding member of the hospital's Committee for Total Joint Program, a tireless patient advocate, and a cancer survivor who as of this writing, goes to work in the OR every day while allowing time for chemo on the side.
It will take more than cancer to slow down Debbie Causey, “God has lead me this far” she says,” I have been truly Blessed”.
A day I spent in her OR was a portrait in the power of compassionate mentorship. Deb directs traffic at the epicenter of the OR. Questions for her to answer abound, and her counsel is sought by the minute. She maintains her caring demeanor and sense of humor throughout the busiest of days. Smiles, hugs, and positive reinforcement are her trademarks and the staff gravitate around her like a circle around the sun.
Crystal Kimball RN, CNOR,,Director of Surgery/CPD handles the business aspects with the same concentration and eye for detail that one hopes for in air traffic controllers, and the two of them confer throughout the day. She and Deb have based their successful working relationship on a deep and long time friendship. When asked about her mentoring roll with the staff, Deb simply states “I love their hearts.”
“Even though I am good at what I do, I want them to be better, and to be able to hold onto their passion for their work even if I am not here.” Deb's absence after emergency surgery this past year, gave them time to test their wings in this endeavor, and she feels they passed with flying colors. The busy eight-room OR has Deb leading the way in ENT, Orthopedics, Urology and General Surgery. The staff cross-train in all those areas, nurses with nurses and scrub techs with scrub techs, Having been a scrub tech herself in another lifetime, she says “when you know what's going on at the table, you can be the best circulator there is!” Their turnover time averages an amazing 13 minutes.
Deb's pride in accomplishment as a group, is also reflected in Conway Medical Center's Total Joint Program, an extremely successful outreach to the community that is based on education for the prospective Joint Replacement patients long before their surgical procedures, and ongoing support and camaraderie afterwards on their roads to recovery and back into the mainstream of their lives.
Deb explains that the patients education begins in the doctors offices, continuing with classes in what to expect, how to prepare for the surgery and the modifications that will be needed at home.. Each patient has a coach who is also educated and goes through classes with that patient. Community seminars are given twice a month to inform the public and raise awareness of the program and to assist in informed decision making for patients and their families. Their first Annual Picnic was held last fall, with many 'graduates' and prospective candidates in attendance, their nurses, and their surgeons. A lovely South Carolina afternoon, white tents on the lawn and laughter rising from a group of caretakers and their charges, now friends for life. Their success rate is unparalleled, education being the key. That is evidenced by the remarkable average of a two to three day stay in the hospital before transferring to home care. This limited need to remain in a hospital setting is indeed a milepost for Total Joints, Knees and Hips. In expressing her pride regarding the program she is a part of, Deb Causey states “knowledge is a powerful thing!” So is compassionate proactive care for her patients.
When asked about the challenges she faces in today's OR, Deb speaks for many nurses, maintaining that patient and employee safety in the OR is paramount.” It all revolves around safety as we go forward”
“We advance technologically” and she says, “ and our productivity must increase as well”. She stresses the importance of “keeping the doors open” to be able to serve everyone in the community in spite of rising costs. Conway is a non-profit hospital and met their budget goals last year by involving, once again, the entire staff. Ideas were solicited and accepted from a variety of departments, including a green initiative with recycling and environmentally conscious themes throughout.
Still her nurse's heart leads her back to the circle of care, stating “We can never forget the basics, no matter how advanced we become. That patient we are charged with protecting cannot get lost in business or politics, but must remain our focal point; at the top of the pyramid.” That, she believes, is the model for any successful hospital.
No matter how busy we are, we have to take that moment to be there, hold their hands, listen to their fears. I tell my patients “I am your voice while you are asleep.”
Her patient advocacy is not only a practice but a way of life. Deb's faith has carried her far, and her patients and staff are born on those wings as well. She says “Jesus tells us to love each other, loving God with our hearts and minds as we minister to the sick, and seek healing for our patients.”
In December of 2010, Deb experienced the ultimate turn around.. In the flash of an instant, she became a patient.. A routine Colonoscopy on December 15th turned in to emergency surgery on December 16th with her friend Crystal taking charge of the details. The staff and surgeons, the head of the endoscopy department all closed ranks around the nurse they love. Deb's grandmother had dealt with colon cancer as well, but lived another 40 years beyond her diagnosis, so the survivor's spirit is alive and well in her granddaughter. As a nurse, Deb knew the life altering possibilities once she learned of her own cancer, yet she says she was not afraid. “Illness can be a gift” she says,” so that we can experience Gods love through other people” Throughout this journey she says she has experienced “the peace that transcends understanding” Her chemo treatments , begun in January, will end June 20th.
She says she now has lived these months from a patient's perspective, has known the vulnerability inherent in illness. “We sometimes have to learn to trust people we don't know…. I have received that lesson and as a result, I feel that I have become a more compassionate person.”
The circle of Hope, Faith and Love is completed and begun anew every day in the life and work of Deb Causey.
Blessing to you Deb, and to those whose lives you touch with your nurse's heart.
Clare Tager. March 27, 2011