Nurses are the ‘glue’ of health industry

( Griselda Brown started as a social worker in a nursing home in Yuma. She really enjoyed the interaction with patients, but she found that when a patient had something simple like a headache or gash on the arm, she couldn’t help them.

So Brown became a nurse, which allowed her to bridge the gap and directly care for patients. She has been a nurse for nine years and currently is a palliative care staff nurse in the intensive care unit at Yuma Regional Medical Center.

“I love my job,” Brown said.

School nurse Shirley Rodriguez likes giving shots to kids. Not because of the pain she might inflict, but because she’s learned how to do it WITHOUT hurting them. She’s good at distracting kids and getting them to laugh at the right time.

Rodriguez is the health services coordinator for Yuma School District 1 and the school nurse at Alice Byrne Elementary School.

“I love kids. I love getting them the help they need,” Rodriguez said.

For Steve Champion, a former Army medic, hospice nursing is like being an “ER on the fly.” He enjoys the “ongoing rush” he gets from helping people in crisis. As a registered nurse with Hospice Compassus, he has to use all of the skills he’s worked for years to develop.

“This job requires you to use every skill you have and to give of yourself. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing,” Champion said.

Fran Mack, a home health nurse, feels honored at being allowed into patients’ homes, “the most sacred place on Earth for patients, their sanctuary and haven.”

Her role as a nurse practitioner with Caring Touch Home Care allows her to treat patients in their home environment. She feels strongly about empowering patients and their families so they can make informed decisions.

“Nursing is not a profession, it’s a way of life,” Mack said.

The Yuma Sun interviewed nurses in a variety of fields — hospital, home health, hospice and school nursing — in honor of National Nurses Week, which will be celebrated from May 6, also National Nurses Day, through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing.

“Glue” of health care

Brenda Hall, who oversees the 760 nurses at YRMC as vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, calls nurses the “glue” of the health-care system.

“Nurses are there 24/7. They are your 24-hour caregivers when you’re in the hospital. They’re there to meet your needs and figure out how to take care of you.”

Hall has been a nurse for more than 30 years and has worked in seven states in just about every field, from heart surgery and operating room to delivery.

“I absolutely fell in love with nursing. For me, there’s no better career. I love taking care of patients. It’s almost like magic, seeing someone so sick and being a part of them getting better.”

She believes anyone can be a nurse and it doesn’t take a specific personality. “It’s so broad, there are so many things you can do, I don’t know if personality is important.”

Some nurses don’t have contact with patients, like nurses who work in the insurance business, while others work “up close and personal,” like those in the neonatal intensive care unit.

However, Hall noted, a nurse has to be willing to “focus on something or someone else other than yourself and be able to extend yourself.”


Being able to directly care for people is what drew Griselda Brown into nursing six years ago.

“Honestly, the best part are the families and patients. I spend a lot of time with them, and when I can help them understand something, it feels good.”

As a palliative care nurse, her “job is to support and advocate for our patients. Sometimes we get so busy looking at the medical, we forget the emotional and progression of the disease. Families might not understand what’s happening.”

Aside from managing symptoms, Brown helps families understand all of the issues “so they can make decisions for the future.”

The challenge is discussing topics related to end of life. “Some don’t want to talk about it.”

Home health

Fran Mack, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years and a home health nurse since the early 1990s, values the opportunities to teach and educate patients and families.

“The best part of the job are the patients and helping people to make informed decisions.”

If a patient is dealing with a new diagnosis, she teaches the person and family how the disease will affect them not only on a physical level, but every aspect of their life. This means informing them about diet, medication side effects, what happens if they don’t take the medication, etc.

The challenge for her is adapting to whatever environment she’s “thrown into.”

“I have been in homes with chickens in the living room. Sometimes they’re dysfunctional homes. I have to make sure it’s safe. But I have to put aside my own values and standards to take care of a patient.”

She noted that “frontline nursing really needs to be the voice that leads how health care should run.” Because they spend so much time with patients, they understand how health-care policies “trickle down to the single patient.”


At the end of Steve Champion’s career as an Army medic, he found out that nothing on the “outside” compared to his job training except nursing. He went into the field 30 years ago, when male nurses were somewhat rare. But being a male nurse has since lost its novelty as more men enter the field.

Champion started working in hospice in 2007 as a “filler” between other jobs. “After four weeks, I was hooked.”

He enjoys being able to “give of yourself to others” and “provide support and comfort to the family and patient and allowing them to stay together as a family unit” by receiving treatment at home.

“A lot of times, we just visit and provide comfort.”

Working as an on-call nurse has its challenges. “Every time I see someone I may not know them as well as their regular nurse.”

He often gets called in the middle of the night. “It’s a scary time for anybody. At night everything is magnified. People are afraid they won’t be taken care of.”

He considers it a “blessing” being able to be there for them during those difficult times.

Champion also noted the role of nurse is “dynamic, not stagnant. There is no cookie cutter for nurses. Some are meant to be in the ICU, some are trauma nurses, some are hospice nurses.”

But he did point out one thing they have in common. “Nurses are notorious for being caring and compassionate. Either you like it or you don’t. It not a job, it’s a calling.”

School nurse

Shirley Rodriguez, Yuma School District 1 health services coordinator and school nurse based at Alice Byrne Elementary School, has more than 40 years as a nurse and 36 years as school nurse.

“I have loved it.”

She make sure kids are healthy and getting the medication they need. She watches out for injuries and takes care of them when they occur. She also watches out for signs of infection and contagious diseases.

But school nurses aren’t just responsible for the physical health of students. They also help kids with emotional and mental problems and learning disabilities and refer them to the appropriate doctors.

As a liaison between the medical and school communities, Rodriguez does a lot of teaching.

“Sometimes parents are not familiar with agencies available to help them. I love being able to help families and kids become successful educated people in the community.”

However, school nurses can become overwhelmed with the issues children might face, such as child abuse.

Rodriguez oversees all health policy procedures in the district, which includes 18 schools, and is the school nurse for four schools. Because of budget cuts, each nurse is responsible for three or four schools.

“I like challenges. I think they’re good for me and help me grow. But without nurses in every school, it’s a little harder.”

Because of budget cuts, health assistants have replaced school nurses in many schools. Not having someone with a medical background at every school poses special challenges, Rodriguez noted.

Nevertheless, she points out that school nursing is a “great job.”

“You learn something every single day. Kids are wonderful. They may be a bit of a challenge, but they’re kids and I want them to grow up to be healthy, responsible adults.