Rhonda Collins, RN, DNP, FAAN

Chief Nursing Officer at Vocera

Rhonda Collins
I distinctly remember the first CNO I had as a young nurse, and the impact she had on my life and my career.

She did not walk down the halls with her arm around me, whispering in my ear what I needed to do here or there. She was tough. I wanted to be good enough to please her because she gave out accolades very sparingly. I wanted her to see me and to value me. Because of that, I worked hard.

An opportunity came up for me to reopen an obstetrical service in a different hospital that had been closed. I would need to hire all the nurses, write all the policies – all that goes with it. I saw it as an exciting challenge, and I resigned.

The CNO called me to her office – and you understand this is West Texas. She said, “Rhonda, I just want to make sure no one has stepped on your tail here because you know you could run that service out of your garage with one hand tied behind your back, right?"

I think the challenge and opportunity for nurse leaders is to let the nurses around you know you value their work and see their contribution. 

Rhonda Collins Chief Nursing Officer at Vocera

In that moment, I knew she saw me. I knew she truly valued my work and found it extraordinary. I left to go do the other job with the CNO’s blessing. I try to give back to every nurse around me that same gift of knowing that I find their work valuable, that I value what they do with me. I try to do that with my team always.

I think the challenge and opportunity for nurse leaders is to let the nurses around you know you value their work and see their contribution.

This is how we lift each other up, not only as nurses, but as human beings.

Michelle Grate, RN, MSN

Director of Clinical Informatics at Vocera

Michelle Grate
I would get really involved with a couple, and after going through a long delivery with them I’d feel like I was a part of them . . .

My background is mostly in mother and baby, labor and delivery, newborn nursery, those areas.

Being a labor and delivery nurse was always exciting to me because we’d get this wonderful experience at the end. I would get really involved with a couple, and after going through a long delivery with them I’d feel like I was a part of them.

In labor delivery, people have different views about how they want to have their birthing experience. Some want it to be a very natural experience, while others want to be given an epidural, among other options.

I was the nurse for one couple where the woman did not want to have an epidural or any pain medicine. Near the end of her labor she was ready to say, “Forget it – give me the epidural.”

I was her nurse for the entire day. I didn’t tell her she couldn’t have an epidural, but talked her through understanding where she was in her labor, how she would progress, and the pros and cons of doing an epidural at this point.

They appreciated how I talked them through their options without telling them what to do.

Michelle Grate Director of Clinical Informatics at Vocera

She chose to hold with her original plan, and not do an epidural. She delivered her baby within the next couple of hours and had a really good experience.

As a couple, they were a great team. They wrote me a letter a few weeks later thanking me. They appreciated how I worked with them and talked them through their options without telling them what to do or being pushy. They said I helped them get through that experience, so they were able to achieve their original goals.

They were so eloquent in their appreciation, and that letter has always stood out to me. I think I still have it.

Sandra Burton, RN

Senior Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients Throughout the United States and Canada

Sandra Burton

I’ve been a nurse for going on 36 years. My background is primarily intensive care nursing. I have done a little bit of everything, except for ED and labor and delivery. 

I remember one incident very specifically from when I was an intensive care nurse.

The father of one of my co-workers had to have bypass surgery. I was taking care of him post-op and something just didn’t look right about him. His EKG didn’t look right, and I didn’t like how he looked.

His color was very gray and very ashy. For someone who had just had his heart arteries opened, he looked like he would if they were still closed off. He didn’t say he was in pain, but when he moved even slightly, he looked very pained.

I didn’t like how his numbers looked, but nothing was specifically wrong. I called the doctor and said, “Something’s just not right. I just feel it in my gut.” We took him for scans and discovered he had a dissected aorta.

Most people bleed out and die within minutes if their aorta dissects. This gentleman had a balloon pump in his aorta helping his heart rest after surgery, and it was keeping him alive because it wasn’t allowing his aorta to just bleed out. With every contraction of the balloon pump, he would lose a little blood out of his aorta. With every expansion, the blood loss was stopped.

He probably would have eventually died had we not found the dissected aorta when we did. He would have slowly just kept bleeding out into his body.

It felt amazing to have recognized that something wasn’t right. We were able to save the man’s life. We had him transported to a hospital in Houston and he survived. 

She hugged me and said, ‘Thank you for saving my husband’s life.’

Sandra Burton Senior Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

There was also another time when I saw a patient, a man in his forties, who didn’t look quite right. 

I called the doctor and said, “Hey, something is going on. His EKG’s not showing it yet. His blood pressure’s not showing it yet.”

The doctor and I had a good enough relationship that he was listening to my intuition. We took the man emergently to the heart cath lab and found that his left anterior descending artery was completely closed off. They call it the widow maker. He probably would have died from it.

After he was out of the hospital, I was at Walmart. His wife was there shopping too, and she came up to me, crying. She hugged me and said, “Thank you for saving my husband’s life.”

I was happy she remembered me and that her husband was still alive and doing well.

Sandy Jenkins, RN, BSN, MBA

Senior Clinical Executive at Vocera, Supporting Clients in Canada

Sandy Jenkins

Most of my bedside experience was in the Neonatal ICU. Probably two years into my rotation in there, I was taking care of a 24-weeker – a baby so tiny she fit in the palm of my hand. Her parents were from a Latin country, it might have been Guatemala. 

The mom spoke no English whatsoever and the dad spoke just a couple of English words, but I was able to communicate with them because I’m bilingual; my mom is Hispanic.

When it became evident that the baby wasn’t going to make it, the doctor asked if I would translate his communication with the parents. I was rusty with medical terminology and concerned about my ability to say the right thing.

I mustered the courage, and we went into what we called the quiet room with the dad. The mom was still in her bed because she was critical as well. 

The doctor explained that the baby was not going to make it, and we were going to have to pull support with their consent. It was difficult to translate those words into Spanish, but the dad pretty much knew what I was saying. He nodded his head a lot. When we went back to the baby’s bedside he said, “Thank you very much.” I could tell that he and his wife were touched that somebody had taken the time to translate the information for them, to let them make the right decision for their baby.

I always think back to that experience, because I felt like I had accomplished something. I felt touched to my heart that I was able to help, above and beyond what I normally would do. 

It’s a scary situation when you see all these tubes, wires, and things coming out of a baby, and it’s a very hard situation to be in no matter how many times you do it.

Sandy Jenkins Senior Clinical Executive at Vocera

When the baby died, we got the chaplain to pray with the family in Spanish. We gave the couple an impression of the baby’s footprints, photo, and a card from the team so they would have a remembrance of their baby. I don’t remember if the baby had enough hair to give the parents a lock of it.

As a neonatal nurse, I was always asked, “When will my baby go home?” We always gave parents the ballpark of, “Depending on the baby’s progression, it can be 30 days plus or minus from your original due date.” This timeframe at least gave parents a sense of how much time they’d have to wait to take their baby home. I never wanted to have to tell parents, “I’m sorry, you were planning for your baby to be well in nine months, and here I’m telling you that I’m sorry she’s not going to make it.” 

It’s a scary situation when you see all these tubes, wires, and things coming out of a baby, and it’s a very hard situation to be in no matter how many times you do it.

Andrea Leverett, RN

Senior Clinical Executive, Supporting Clients in Australia and New Zealand

When I was a young nurse doing my first six months of training on the wards, I got to know a patient who had cancer of the esophagus. 

He was in a ward where there were probably six to eight men; they called it the sunroom. This patient had been in the sunroom about two months and he’d developed a very close-knit relationship with all the patients there. The patient was suffering a lot, but he had an incredible network of caring friends looking after him.
Unfortunately, his cancer got to the stage where his condition was deteriorating, and the smell was quite unbearable. We used a lot of Nilodor to try to mask the odor. Because people were complaining, we decided to move him into a private room.

The night before we moved him, another nurse and I went to him in the sunroom. In a very kind and loving way, the other nurse said, “We need to move you.”

We told him it was because he looked like he was starting to suffer and we wanted to give him his dignity, his privacy, so he didn’t have to suffer in front of people. We didn’t tell him it was because of the smell. 

He said, “If you move me, I will die.” This frank response startled me but on cue of watching the other nurse we both held his hand and said jovially, “Not tomorrow you won’t. We’ll make sure you’re not lonely in there.” Some of the other men were listening to the conversation and they said, “We’ll come and see you. It will be fine.” 

The next day, we moved him.

He was standing next to a sink in the corridor when I last saw him. He was just looking at me with the saddest eyes. I moved all his stuff into the room, then went and gave lunches to the other patients. I returned to give him his lunch and he wasn’t in his room. I went back down to the sunroom. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I asked everyone where he was, but no one could locate him. I then went into the toilets and found him collapsed there. We tried to resuscitate him, but we couldn’t. 

His dying made me realize how strong the mind is and how breaking his community network had broken the thing that kept him going. 

This experience changed me. It caused me to become very conscious of and receptive to what patients need.

Andrea Leverett Senior Clinical Executive at Vocera

This experience changed me. It caused me to become very conscious of and receptive to what patients need.
I became much more compassionate. I learned to advocate for my patients and to make sure that no matter what the situation, I always listened to the patient. I always made sure that other staff members knew the background of why a patient behaved a certain way. I learned to do the right thing by the patient, not by the system. 

If I had it to do over, I would have proposed a more transitional approach for this patient in which we could have discussed the move more with him, and given him a lot more time to think about it. 

If I had it to do over, maybe I would have found a way to just let him stay in the sunroom. 

Carolyn Lopez, MSN, RN, CAHIMS

Clinical Executive at Vocera, Supporting Clients in the Southern United States

Carolyn Lopez

I was a labor and delivery nurse for 14 years of my career.

I had one patient who came in at 37 weeks pregnant. She was sent to the hospital after her OB discovered the baby did not have a heartbeat during her weekly OB visit. She had lost her baby and we were going to have to induce her to have a vaginal birth.

I took care of her the rest of my shift. When I came back the next day, she had not delivered yet, and I requested to take care of her again. She delivered a perfect, beautiful baby boy they named Andrew, later that evening. It was especially heartbreaking because it wasn’t evident at the time of delivery what had caused her to lose her baby. Later tests revealed it was from an infection. It was a very emotional shift for 16 hours, to support her and her family throughout the labor and delivery process as well as to ensure her memory box was complete with footprints, photos, armbands, and a lock of hair.

It's the greatest honor to be there and take care of someone in their darkest moment.

Carolyn Lopez Clinical Executive at Vocera

By the time she delivered, her entire family had rushed to her bedside – her husband, three sisters and brother, her parents, and her two and a half-year-old daughter. She had the most incredibly close-knit family I’ve ever met.

Earlier that day, I’d observed that the family valued photography because one of the patient’s sisters brought in a professional camera. I wanted that sister to be able to support her family and not worry about capturing this part of their family’s history behind the lens of a camera. After all, the entire family was in shock and grieving and she was no exception.

I knew a photographer in the area who was sometimes available for moments like this. I called the photographer to ask if she was available. She said she had an early morning appointment scheduled the next day and could only come in if the baby was delivered that evening. Unfortunately, her assistant would not be available the next day either.

I offered the family the option to have the photographer capture images of their son with his family, and they were very thankful to be able to do it. When Andrew was born that evening, the photographer was able to capture the moment. She did an amazing job capturing the overwhelming amount of love and grief in the room. She put the images to beautiful music in a video for them. About a month later the patient sent a copy of it to me and told me she would be grateful to me forever for providing this gift to her and her family.

Andrew’s mother went on to have two more sons, and I have remained very close with the family.

The grandparents have invited me to their home. They have a wall where they display an 8x10 photo of each of their grandkids. Where Andrew’s picture should be, they have a picture of the sky with the balloons they released on the anniversary of his birth. Every year they do something in his remembrance. Andrew will always be loved and remembered by his family.

That was 10 years ago, and we still send each other messages to this day. I feel forever close to that family. It’s the greatest honor to be there and to take care of someone in their darkest moment. They need you to make the biggest difference for them.

Jeff Shufeldt, RN, BSN

Sr. Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients in the Southeastern United States, and All of North America

Jeff Shufeldt

As a former ICU, ED, and recovery room nurse, I’ve been blessed with countless opportunities to take care of patients and their families in their times of greatest of need. I’ve been a nurse for 22 years, and I keep coming back to two main reasons as to why I’m glad and grateful I became one.

The first reason is that as a nurse, I’m always a nurse. Not just in a formal hospital patient care setting, but rather anywhere I am, I am a nurse. Whether that be at home, at my kids’ athletic events, on an airplane mid-flight, or on the side of a country road after seeing an auto accident, I’m always a nurse.

The second reason is that being a nurse has allowed me to have deeper and more intentional relationships with my family members and close friends.   

The beauty of the nursing profession is that there are countless opportunities if we're willing to take advantage of them.

Jeff Shufeldt Sr. Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

I count it a privilege to be their nurse and their patient advocate. Today’s healthcare system is extremely complex and difficult to navigate, especially if you don’t have somebody to help guide you through it. I cannot imagine trying to navigate a serious illness without the knowledge I’ve gained as a nurse.

A few years ago, I lost my grandfather to stomach cancer. I take great comfort in knowing that he and my grandmother were able to lean on me during his illness. Their countless appointments, tests, procedures, and medications could become confusing and overwhelming. Being a nurse allowed me to give them some comfort in knowing what to expect, what to ask, and ultimately what to consider with the various treatment options presented to them.

Last summer while my family was up in Michigan on vacation, my 16-year-old son was involved in a bad ATV accident and broke his jaw in three spots. When the surgeon learned we lived in Florida, he strongly encouraged us to take him from Michigan to Florida to have his treatment and surgery there, so that a single surgeon could manage his care from beginning to end.

I had to pack up my son, coordinate a flight, and get him from Michigan to Florida with the jaw broken at three spots. I cannot imagine doing that if I weren’t a nurse. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to bring comfort and calmness to my son and my family during that very chaotic situation.

I decided to leave direct patient care because after ten years I reached a point where I wasn’t learning anymore. I worked as a hospital supervisor for a couple years. I managed an ICU and ER. I had taken that stage of my career as far as I could take it without going back to school and doing something different.

At about that time, about 11 years ago, electronic health record systems were coming into play. The hospital I was working for had an opening in the IT department for a nurse and it just made sense to me. I’ve always been a technology geeky guy, and working in healthcare IT has allowed me to bring that together with my clinical knowledge.

When I made the decision to leave direct patient care, I said I had to always be able to check two boxes. One, that I’m still using my clinical knowledge. And two, that whatever I’m doing is positively impacting patient care. I reached a point in the electronic health record world four years ago where I was not able to check those two boxes anymore. And that’s when I made the jump to Vocera.

The beauty of the nursing profession is that there are countless opportunities if we’re willing to take advantage of them. In my career, I’ve changed positions about every three years because I could. My career has evolved and I’m constantly learning new things, yet I’m still wrapped around patient care.

When you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse, and that’s what I enjoy most about this profession.

Jenilyn Turner, MHA, RN

Senior Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients Throughout the United States and Canada

Jenilyn Turner

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a scientist because I just knew that I was going to find a cure for cancer. But then my grandma, Catherine Crowther, influenced me to become a nurse.

My family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was an only child, and I spent every summer with my grandmother in Brooklyn, New York. She would take me to work with her.

My grandmother was a nurse advocate. She advocated for the rights of people with disabilities and their access to healthcare in the state of New York. While every nurse is a patient advocate, nursing advocacy is a profession in which the nurse is dedicated to working on behalf of patients to maintain quality of care and protect patients’ rights. My grandmother drove meaningful legislative change through her activism.

Consider an MRI machine in a hospital. Can someone with a disability access that machine? My grandmother made sure that type of question was always asked and worked to make sure an accessible machine would be made available. As another example, women with disabilities have gone undiagnosed with breast cancer because they couldn’t access a mammography machine. My grandmother worked to be sure they could.

When I was 18 and planning to go to college, I found myself wavering from my goal of becoming a research scientist and considering nursing as a career. I talked about it with my grandmother. She said, “You don’t have to put the research aside. There are nursing researchers.”

I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.

Jenilyn Turner Senior Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

I decided I would like nursing better. I liked the idea of engaging with people, advocating for them, and seeing them get better. I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.

In my role today with Vocera, I engage frequently with hospital leaders, managers, providers, and nurses about how to make their communication more efficient and more effective. When we’re designing and building communication systems, I always make it a point to talk to them about what the patient experiences and how to make the patient’s engagement and the coordination of care even better with Vocera. I make sure we’re keeping the patient at the center.

An example that stands out for me happened while I was working with a hospital in Brooklyn.

I learned that a lot of the hospital’s patients were not coming back for their follow-up physician visit after discharge. An appointment would be scheduled for them, but they wouldn’t show up.

The hospital ran a patient survey and learned that patients felt that the appointments were being scheduled without including them in the conversation. No one was engaging with them to ask something as simple as, “What day and time work for you?” or, “Do you have transportation?”

We helped the hospital to change the patient follow up visit scheduling workflow. In the new workflow, a nurse wearing the Vocera Badge contacts central scheduling directly from a patient’s bedside. The nurse just presses a button on the Badge and says, “Call Central Scheduling.” The nurse can then include the patient in scheduling the appointment, and in coordinating transportation if needed.

The hospital’s analyst told me that patient attendance at physician follow-up visits increased by 40% after implementing this workflow.

Usually when we think of Vocera we think about throughput or emergent workflows like Code Blue or Code STEMI. We forget about the simple things that are meaningful for patients, like making sure they have a visit scheduled that works for them so they can come back and see their doctor.

This is an example of how watching my grandmother advocate for people with disabilities to make sure they had access to health care impacted me. I keep her lessons at the forefront of my mind as I advocate for patients in the way I think about communication.

Jamie Duffy, BSc, RSCN, Specialist Pediatric Practitioner (SPQ) Post-Grad

Clinical Informaticist at Vocera, Supporting Clients in the United Kingdom

Jamie Duffy

Throughout my 20-year career as a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner, I was involved in the care of many patients and their families. Of the many experiences that have shaped the way I work and impacted how I have understood the importance of my role as a nurse, one stands out.

About ten years ago, I was performing a role that allowed me to spend a portion of my time working as part of a Children’s Community Nursing team in the South West Wales region of the United Kingdom, which is where I worked for the large part of my career.

I would regularly visit children and their families in their own homes and provide care ranging from invasive therapies and procedures to delivery of medical supplies to patients at home.

Our team shared an office with a group of school health nurses, and we’d often do favors for each other. The lead for the school health nursing team asked me one day if I would deliver some incontinence pads – adolescent nappies – to a 12-year-old child who had just started high school and was suffering from nighttime enuresis.

I asked for background as to why the child was incontinent. I was told he had a history of anxiety and that a large part of this ongoing episode, which had been happening for the past few months, was due to his starting in a new school. I was told that the incontinence would probably pass once the initial anxiety of starting school wore off.

On arrival at the family’s house, I met the boy’s mother and delivered the nappies. She invited me in, and I met the young man. On talking with her and her son I learned that he was highly embarrassed about wearing nappies overnight and was also displaying symptoms such as increased thirst and weight loss. I noticed that his breath had an unusual sweet smell to it. I suspected he might have pediatric diabetes.

Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare.

Jamie Duffy Clinical Informaticist at Vocera

I asked the boy’s mum if she’d mind if I tested her son’s blood sugar. She consented and I went to the car and got my blood sugar monitor. I took a small sample, and as I expected, his blood sugar level was well above the normal range.

I got in touch with the Children’s Community Medical Consultant for the area and asked for the boy to be referred for further assessment.

Several weeks later the boy’s mother contacted me. She told me that her son had recently been assessed by the local pediatric medical team in an outpatient clinic and as a result had been diagnosed with pediatric diabetes. She appeared unusually happy with the diagnosis, and as she described how much it had changed her son’s life, I understood why.

The treatment for his diabetes included nighttime medication which prevented the bedwetting. He didn’t have to wear nappies at bedtime anymore. This increased his confidence and allowed for an easier adjustment into high school. Understanding that the bedwetting had been a symptom of the illness, not a result of anxiety, reduced his sense of embarrassment.

Other positive outcomes resulted for the boy and his family. Because he was now receiving the correct treatment for his underlying condition, his long-term health prospects increased. His parents were enjoying a better quality of life because they were relieved of constant worry about their son’s emotional and physical situation.

This experience stands out to me as one of my most valuable in terms of understanding how important we as nurses and caregivers are. We can make a difference not only in the lives of our patients, but also in the lives of the family and friends that they touch.

Nurses epitomize everything that is good in healthcare. We are medical detectives, caregivers, counselors, and usually the central link between all the other professions allied to medicine. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved as a nurse and am incredibly proud to have chosen this as a lifelong profession.