story and photo by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Stephanie Collier’s experience and flexibility has made her highly adaptable to accepting new challenges as a registered nurse at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital, located in midtown Oklahoma City.
She helped start the regional float pool and the nurse extern program there. And she is nearing her second month as nurse manager of the progressive care unit.
“I think you have to be (flexible) if you’re a nurse,” said Collier, who was an ICU charge nurse in the COVID unit during the pandemic. Her acuity for a high learning curve associated with the pandemic has propelled her to enter nurse management administration. The best way to provide good patient care is to take care of the nurses and take care of people at the bedside, she said.
“Seeing how flexible they could be and seeing how hard they worked through all of that together — it was like, ‘Man, there is just no other place for me. I’d rather be taking care of the nurses,’” Collier said.
Collier’s nursing journey began in the US Air Force in 2003. She trained to be an LPN and worked in a level-1 trauma center, at first as a cardiac medic. Afterwards, she served as a medic assigned with a registered nurse in a cardiac ICU.
“When I got out, that equated to an LPN license,” Collier explained.
She began working at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital’s ICU in 2007. Three years later Collier graduated with her RN credential. And she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and health care management in 2021. Collier plans to finish her MBA degree. (story continues below)
She has high praise for Western Governors University (WGU). She earned her Bachelor of Healthcare Administration degree through WGU and intends to earn her Master of Science in Nursing from them as well.
“It’s so nice, you do it on your own time — they don’t pressure you,” Collier said. “You have all the access to professors and mentors.”
Collier is grateful for the nursing staff’s culture at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital. She walks through the hallways sensing that everyone on staff cares for each other and their patients from the top down.
“I have never felt unsupported in this organization, and I’ve been here for 17 years,” she continued.
Longevity among the nursing staff is high within the progressive care unit. One of the nurses has been with the unit for more than 30 years.
“You can’t replace that with a new grad because of the things he knows about the unit. And so, what made me want to come down here, was if I could take care of these nurses in a way that would retain them, then that’s the best service I could do for this hospital,” Collier noted. “Especially after starting this extern program this summer, it doesn’t do us any good to have a funnel of new nurses coming to this hospital if we don’t have anyone to train them,” she added.
Experienced staff train new nurses to learn about the SSM culture and set them up for success.
Studies have proven that new career nurses who are supported substantially during their first year are more apt to be retained in their careers within the same organization.
“That in the end is really the goal,” Collier said.
She plays close attention to ensure the progressive care unit is staffed, and audits charts to make sure they’re on budget.
Collier’s background in ICU is helpful when she makes rounds on patients in the progressive care unit.
“I feel that my strength is my assessment skills, so I can go in and assess these patients with my nurses and do teaching and talk to families” she said.
Good listening skills are important in patient care because it’s scary to be hospitalized thinking nobody is listening to concerns, Collier said. Otherwise, patients will feel lost in the shuffle. The same lesson was apparent when she was educating nurses when the pandemic erupted. Nurses who showed fear on their faces came out of the room showing fierceness, Collier said.
“The next day, nurses from all over the hospital had volunteered to come into the unit that we knew nothing about,” Collier said. “And for me that solidified what I’m supposed to do and my purpose in being the one to take care of those nurses. And I literally went home and decided to go back to school in health care administration that next day.”
Being empathetic comes so naturally to Collier. That is a gift that nursing has instilled in her. She’s not indifferent when seeing homeless people walking on the roadside on her way to work.
“Being able to see people that are vulnerable and angry when everyone else is thinking they are trash, I’m thinking that is the person that probably needs help the most. That for me is something I never planned on feeling. And it’s the best thing that I got from being a nurse.”
For more information about SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital visit https://jobs.ssmhealth.com.