Employees in the News
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Amy Barker, RN
Presurgical Assessment Nurse
Presurgical Assessment Nurse says: It's all about 'caring'
When Amy Barker, R.N., 54, was in junior high, she helped her mother study for her nursing school classes. While mom cooked dinner for the family of seven each night, young Amy quizzed her on medical terminology.
The lessons “took” – Barker, her mom and her two sisters all went into nursing, and one brother became a surgical tech. It really was the only choice for her, Barker said.
“Nursing is all about caring,” she said. “If you really care about people – your patients, families, co-workers, doctors – everything else falls into place.”
Barker has an especially soft spot for elderly people. When her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, she was still in her teens; but she stopped by his house after school each day to clean his tracheostomy. Predictably, after high school she went to work as a nurse’s aide in a long-term care facility. “I love working with elderly people,” Barker said. “You can learn so much from them.”
Barker has made a career of “learning.” When she and her husband, Rick, moved from Massachusetts to Oakville 32 years ago, Barker joined the staff at St. Anthony’s Medical Center as an LPN. Over the next two decades, she worked medical-surgical floors, postpartum, float pool and psychiatric services; she worked evenings or nights, part time, so she could be home with her own two children. And when her kids grew up, she went back to school.
“That’s the great thing about nursing,” she said. “You can work whatever shift fits your lifestyle, in any area of patient care that interests you. St. Anthony’s gave me the schedule I needed and paid for all of my schooling.”
While working full time, Barker earned her associate in nursing degree from Excelsior College in 2006; and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing in 2008 and 2009, respectively, from Central Methodist University, where she also co-authored a chapter in a nursing textbook about the fundamentals of nursing care. She has received her certification as a clinical nurse leader and chairs the Shared Governance steering committee at St. Anthony’s. Barker currently works full time, dayshift, as manager of presurgical assessment.
“I was instrumental in building the presurgical assessment clinic from its inception,” Barker said. “Patients make appointments to meet with anesthesiologists prior to their surgeries, and we see 35 patients a day in the clinic.”
On a typical day, Barker answers patients’ questions, assigns nurses to obtain patient information, communicates with doctors’ offices and provides patient education. “I do whatever is needed to insure that the patient is ready for the planned surgical procedure – we work as a team,” Barker said.
When patients come into the clinic for the first time, Barker gives them her card, so they have someone to contact if they have questions. “Sometimes people are so nervous and scared about the surgery; I want to make sure they feel safe,” Barker said. “Some of them keep coming back to me,” she added with a smile.
Like the man in his late 40s who was having surgery for a lung problem. When Barker heard he had to walk a long distance from another building to reach the clinic, she grabbed a wheelchair and walked over to get him. He hadn’t eaten for awhile and had no appetite, but Barker was able to entice him to have a few Cheez-It® crackers, while she talked with him and his family. She promised to visit him after his procedure, and she did – bearing Cheez-It® crackers.
“I saw him every time he came to the hospital, and I always brought him Cheez-It® crackers,” Barker said. “He called me ‘The Cheez-It® Lady.’ ”
Then there was the older woman, who was scheduled for a very serious procedure. Barker talked with her beforehand, trying to build her confidence. She also promised to visit her after the surgery. When she did, the woman was surprised.
“She said, ‘You told me you’d visit me, and you kept your promise;’ I actually visited her every day she was here,” Barker said. “Some patients just really strike at your heart. You can learn a lot from your patients.”
The worst part of her job, Barker said, is trying to help grieving families cope when a patient is given a poor prognosis. “I cry right with them,” she said.
But the good definitely outweighs the bad, Barker said. “The best part of my job is my patients,” she said, then added, “and the people I work with, my boss and the hospital’s environment. I love what I’m doing and where I’m doing it!”
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