Stacy Walton blends clinical, managerial experience to master job
By Barbara Pierce
A great nurse is caring, compassionate, understanding, nonjudgmental, and has a strong ability to empathize with patients from all walks of life.
A great emergency room nurse must have all those qualities, plus the ability to stay calm, function well under pressure, adapt quickly to rapidly changing conditions, and have good common sense.
On the other hand, a great manager must have the ability to provide direction, inspiration, and guidance, nurturing the strengths and talents of his or her people to build teams committed to achieving common goals, good communication skills, and a love for and commitment to the organization. Great managers are difficult to find.
It’s even more difficult to find a person who combines the skills and talents that make a great emergency room nurse with the skills and talents that make a great manager, but Stacey Walton blends the necessary qualities to achieve that.
Walton is assistant nurse manager for the emergency department at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica.
She has been in this position for two years. Prior to becoming assistant nurse manager, she served as a clinician-educator in the emergency department.
“You always have to remember you’re a nurse,” said Walton when asked how she successfully combined the characteristics of a nurse with those of a manager. “We have to take care of patients. Anyone working in a health career has to keep that in the back of his or her mind. We must care about patients first of all.”
“Though I don’t provide direct patient care, they’re all still my patients, so all of their outcomes matter to me,” she added.
Much of Walton’s time is spent ensuring patients have good outcomes when they come to the St. Elizabeth Medical Center ED. That means a doctor sees them quickly, they get diagnosed, a treatment plan is established, and they are discharged in a reasonable length of time.
She is successful in this. “We do well. Patients report that they have had a positive experience with us. We send out patient surveys and ask patients to evaluate their experience with us,” she said. “Ninety-four percent of patients report that they would recommend us. That’s huge!”
Ninety-four percent of patients report a positive experience with St. Elizabeth’s. They report that they are seen quickly and treated well, and that makes her happy.
“And it means we’ll get reimbursed,” she added. “Health care is driven by insurance. Yes, it’s sad. But we’re paid by our performance. If a patient’s survey reports a bad experience, we don’t get reimbursed for that patient. It’s not just the insurance company’s perception of us that’s important; it’s the patient’s perception.”
Insurance and insurance coverage is the most challenging part of her job, she added.
“We don’t deny anyone care because they don’t have insurance. But for those who have insurance, we can’t get them admitted as an inpatient, can’t get them into surgery or discharge them without the insurance company agreeing. Or maybe the patient may not need to be admitted as an inpatient, but they need things in place to be cared for at home. Insurance has to agree,” she added.
Because of insurance, there are many requirements that must be met before a patient can be discharged from the ED, she said. Things like a physical and occupational therapy evaluation, radiology and lab reports, and locating an appropriate facility, if necessary.
All of these must be in place for insurance to reimburse the emergency room visit.
What’s most rewarding about her career as nurse manager?
“It’s the small wins,” she said. “Getting the patients in, getting them seen, and having them leave happy with the care they’ve received.”
She’s proud of and committed to St. Elizabeth’s. “We excel in cardiac care. We’re a center of excellence for cardiac care. We do that phenomenally. I relish those wins,” she said.
Having a cohesive team with medical staff is another strength she’s proud of. “We work closely with physicians. They’re a tight knit group of physicians, mostly local. We have an investment in our community, to give the best to our community. We’re invested in our family,” she said.
Walton received her associate’s degree in nursing from St. Elizabeth College of Nursing and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Utica College of Syracuse University.
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