Working in Lawton at a facility treating chronic dialysis patients, Elizabeth Teague, RN, always wanted to work at an acute setting but her company wouldn’t let her.
Teague knew there had to be something better than the monotony she saw day in and day out and it just so happened that a mutual friend introduced her to Leslie Whiles, administrator of Sooner Acute Dialysis Services in Norman.
She knew it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Whiles not only hired Teague but took her under her wing and her nursing career to a new level.
“The hours were always different. You went into the clinic and you saw new people every time and you got to work with the whole hospital staff,” said Teague, while working in her office at Norman Regional Hospital. “I like to see the whole body process and not just the kidneys three days a week.”
Teague finally was introduced to a niche where she thrived.
“I like the autonomy,” Teague said. “I like working by myself but I also like working with my techs and the doctor. Any problem I have I can get hold of them right away.”
Teague’s days are always different – and she loves it. Continuous renal replacement therapy, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis now fill Teague’s days.
It’s a different patient and different floor every day and her nursing career is revitalized.
“In the acute care setting they really need you,” Teague said. “They can’t breathe or their potassium is really high. They are appreciative of it. It’s life or death. If you don’t get it, you won’t live.”
Four full-time RNs and two part-time nurses work for Sooner in Norman. Two more full-time nurses and one part-time nurse are working in Lawton.
For Teague, she found more than just an unexpected career change. She found a friend.
“She is like the mom,” Teague said of Whiles. “You don’t go through HR you deal with her. She takes care of your problems first-hand. You don’t go through a chain of command.
“Whatever we need she takes care of it.”
It’s been six years now since Teague first met Whiles and the same nurses who trained her are still with Sooner Acute Dialysis today.
“A larger company, they don’t really care if you have a doctors appointment,” Teague said. “They don’t care if you have family. She does. I love that about her.”
It’s this type of personalized service that Whiles delivers to her clients at Sooner Acute Dialysis as well. As one of the few remaining independent dialysis companies in Oklahoma, Sooner Acute has more flexibility to meet clients’ needs.
The company is mobile and can travel to facilities with a small need or a daily demand.
“We do not have an outside clinic that we serve,” said Whiles, who carries nearly 30 years of dialysis experience with her. “Our service is to the hospital. The hospital is our customer. Because we are an independent unit we can tailor our programs to the needs of the hospital and the patients they take care of.
“Their patients are our concern.”
The acute dialysis market is dominated by a few larger players who mainly specialize in Chronic Dialysis. Large companies are buying up smaller ones left and right and working with doctors who only refer to them.
Whiles is proud that Sooner Acute Dialysis has had no deficiencies from VHA or the Joint Commission for seven years running.
She likes the fact that being a smaller company allows Sooner Acute to be more nimble and responsive when it comes to client concerns.
But in Whiles’ eyes it all comes down to people like Teague
“My nurses are the best in the region,” Whiles said proudly. “If you hire the best everything else falls into place. We would not be a company if it wasn’t for these nurses. They know their business and they’re very good at what they do.”
Whiles only hires nurses with a minimum of one-year of continuous chronic dialysis experience. ICU experience is preferred and critical thinking skills also must be finely-tuned.
It’s a commitment to both patient and nurse that she insists on.
And for Teague, it’s a breath of fresh air as she helps the neediest dialysis patients every day.