by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer
Jessica Deaton was in high school when she learned the impact nurses could have on one person’s life. For Deaton that one person was her mother; it was a lesson the young woman would never forget.
“My mom had medical problems, and I was in my senior year at Moore High School when she had a stroke,” she said. “It was an experience that had such a big impact on my whole life since that time, and it showed me what I was truly interested in – and that was nursing.”
That interest led Deaton to University of Oklahoma, where she graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing degree in 2011.
After graduation, the young nurse joined the Interventional Unit at Oklahoma Heart Hospital. The five years she spent at the hospital was full of practical experience that could translate to anything she could encounter later, she said.
“It gave me a good knowledge base in critical care, there was a lot to learn, always,” Deaton said. “I felt that it was important work, it was interesting and I enjoyed the interaction with the patients, but I wanted to find something just different – I wanted a change.”
That came about thanks to her husband, Zach Deaton, a registered dietician now working at Variety Care. But, in 2011, Zach was doing his clinicals at Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, giving him a chance to practice his own passion of assessing patients’ nutritional needs and finding the right therapy to achieve them – it gave his wife just the opportunity she was looking for.
“It was just such a perfect thing for me – I was looking for a job where I could have more long-term patient contact, could do more for people in a leadership-type role,” Deaton said.
At OKCIC, that’s exactly what happened, she said. Deaton became a care manager, working with patients as a follow-up after hospitalization or emergency room visits. But, that was just the beginning – one reason why, from the start, she loved this job more than she even expected, Deaton said.
“There is such a big, big variety – I get to talk to so many patients, check their progress, help them with what they need as they move forward in the process and so much more,” Deaton said. “It’s just such a great feeling when you see that look on a patient’s face and you know you’ve helped them find something that will make them healthier and feel better.”
One way Deaton found to help those patients become healthier was through her work working in OKCIC’s colorectal screening program.
“It’s so important to educate each patient and to let them know these screenings could save their life,” she said. “There’s scheduling, there’s research – it’s just an area where there is a need to pass on this information that’s so critical.”
Deaton is not alone at OKCIC in that belief. The facility joined a 500-member-plus nationwide coalition that includes American Cancer Society, National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the “Eighty percent by 2018” initiative.
“What we’re trying to do is to get at least 80 percent of adults who are 50 years old or older scheduled for regular colorectal screenings,” Deaton said. “The problem is that colon and colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms in its early stages, so without screenings, it can be difficult to see successful treatment later.”
In fact, CDC officials estimated if the national “80 percent by 2018” effort was successful, it could translate into preventing 203,000 colorectal deaths by 2030.
While the results of Deaton’s one-on-one work with patients was obvious, her efforts behind the scenes also greatly helped many who rely on OKCIC for their medical treatment – without them even knowing it.
It was in December 2015, not all that long after Deaton joined the facility, that OKCIC CEO Robyn Sunday tasked members of her nursing leadership team to address a huge problem, the clinic’s new patient waiting lists. With about 1,200 new patients on that at that time waiting for appointments, two RN/BSNs – Deaton and Staci Deland – worked with Kelli Guinn, RN, MSN, to come up with a solution.
The trio rose to the task, creating a team of staff members who helped enter the 1,200 names into a database, calling and mailing patients, gathering historical medical records and coordinating appointments, until, less than a year later, the new system resulted in new patient wait times decreasing from six to 12 months to one or two days.
“That was an experience – it was a lot, a lot of work, but it also really showed what a great team all of us are, how well we work together and how much we can accomplish,” Deaton said. “We are a family, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”