Story and photo by James Coburn, Staff Writer
Lena Maxwell’s career in nursing entered a new role when becoming director of nursing for the med/surg unit of the emergency department at NW Surgical Hospital in Oklahoma City.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” she said of her new challenge. “It’s a smaller hospital which is so wonderful because there is a feeling of community. Everybody is a helping hand.”
Northwest Surgical Hospital is a nine bed, physician-owned hospital that offers pain management and surgeries involving orthopedics, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, endoscopic, spine and general surgery. About 40 nurses comprise the staff.
Maxwell comes from a perioperative (surgical services) line of nursing with 16 years at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. She began as a circulating nurse at INTEGRIS before moving into a leadership role there. (story continues below)
With nearly 17 years of nursing experience, she earned her associates degree at OSU/OKC before receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the OU College of Nursing, and her master’s degree at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond.
As a child she wanted to become a teacher or a nurse. She loved small children,
“I quickly realized that pediatrics in nursing is too difficult for me. It was so hard because I want to fix everything and I can’t,” she said.
So, she embraces her ability to care for someone when they can’t. She is there for a person needing a knee replacement. After surgery and they return home, the patient will usually come back in six weeks. She feels joy in seeing them walking again and returning to an active lifestyle.
“It’s a miracle. It’s really cool what we do every day,” Maxwell said.
She found that everybody at NW Surgical Hospital works together as close-knit professionals, including the physicians and technical staff. Maxwell said she cannot name one soul who is not kind with a smile on their face. She admires the nursing staff’s continued focus on their patients.
“They are patient-driven and goal oriented,” she said.
A nurse must have the No. 1 quality of compassion to work effectively at NW Surgical Hospital. Empathy goes a long way. They have the ability to care for others, and be able to look and recognize pain, she continued.
“You have to listen and have direct eye contact. Sometimes you don’t need to talk, it’s just your presence of having a body there and someone able to talk to you,” she said. “For others, they want to talk. That’s what we do — it’s all about the patient.”
The patients keep her motivated. One of the pivotal moments of her nursing career was a kidney transplant on a younger child at INTEGRIS.
“We gave life again to this sweet little boy. It’s a miracle every day,” she explained. “Honestly, I come here at Northwest Surgical Hospital not only to be there for our patients, but for our staff and our caregivers as well because you don’t know what they’re needing or what they’re going through at home. They may be the next ones on the table.”
She thinks about the shortage of nurses across the country when nursing is such an admired profession. Maxwell said people want to help. But said nurses and firefighters have something in common. There is risk, long hours and hard work.
“But it’s all about the drive. It’s what you want to do. I think you truly have to have a passion for it,” she added. “It’s not something that typically anyone just falls into. I think the love for others supersedes our love for ourselves. We just want to help other people and that’s a drive for me. And I think that if anyone feels that they ever have an urge to help others but don’t know how to do it, nursing is so neat because it’s not just one niche.”
She said nurses have many pathways of self-fulfillment. There are many caveats for nurses to explore without leaving their profession, she said. Maxwell is at a point in her career where she doesn’t have to go back to school if she were to hypothetically become an oncology nurse.
“You apply for an oncology position and then you learn from other nurses training you,” she said. “I think that’s really neat because you can find what your true love and joy is in nursing without ever leaving the profession,” she said.
The hospital invests in learning. A lot of shared governance wisdom trickles to leadership and is generated into best practices regulations among the caregivers.
Nurses are caregivers to themselves and their families. Maxwell and her husband have two boys who are active in sports.
“It’s a lot of soccer, baseball and football,” she said. “It’s being together and what I do personally is I like to read.”
For more information about NW Surgical Hospital in Oklahoma City, visit: https://www.hpillc.org/careers