Meet our 2016 Employee of the Year: Medical nurse Terry Brown
By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 27, 2017
When her manager told her she’d been picked Wyoming Medical Center Employee of the Year, Terry Brown didn’t believe it. The Medical Unit nurse started naming off her coworkers one by one.
What about so-and-so? Terry asked.
Or her? Or him?
No. It’s you, her manager told her.
“I just work with so many great nurses. And IV. And therapy. And respiratory. You just can’t do this without everybody on the team,” said Brown who has worked at WMC for 18 years, all of them on Medical. The unit has always felt like home, and her coworkers like family.
That’s why it was so hard for her to believe that she was picked for such a high honor: “So, I asked, ‘Is this so I can just retire? One last hurrah?”
Terry came to nursing later in life, but she can’t imagine doing much else. She explains in the interview below.
How long have you been a nurse?
For 18 years. Before this, I had a home daycare.
I was visiting with a friend when I was about 40, when my kids were in junior high and high school. My friend said, ‘Terry, you need to get out of the house. You’d make a good something, so go find out what that is.’
I tried out for the nursing program at Casper College, and got accepted.
I like caring for people. And I liked the flexibility, because I didn’t know when my kids would need me then.
But, then I realized I had to take anatomy and physiology. In that class, I thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this.’ I was 40 years old; I hadn’t been in school for years.
But my husband said ‘No. Your kids are at that age when if they see you dropping out of something, they’re going to be dropping out of something.’ So, I just had to power through. Plus I had an amazing teacher who said, ‘We’re going to get you through this.’ I had to restart my brain. It was a two year program at Casper College, and it took me four years.
Then I applied for a job here, and Mary Jo Daniels was the manager on Medical. When she called to offer me the job, I just wanted a vacation. I’d just gotten through finals, and I’d worked so hard.
But, I just started with Mary Jo, and it was so hard I thought I would never make it through the first year. Then, all of the sudden, I had three years under my belt, and it just kept going like that.
What was so challenging?
The computer. I was not computer savvy. I loved the care of the patients, but charting everything was tough. Mary Jo just kept saying, ‘You’re doing well. You have what it takes to be compassionate and to have empathy.’ She just called out those two qualities that I did have and eventually the computer got to be easier. And then they changed programs and I had to learn a whole new system.
What is your nursing philosophy?
I’m not sure what my philosophy is. But, when I go home at night, I feel like I haven’t done enough. The next morning I wake up thinking, ‘I’m going to do better.’ I just wanted to always do better and really touch someone.
I cared for this one young girl who was in with pain. She was just screaming and was really irate. As a new nurse, I didn’t know what to do. I just kept trying to get her comfortable and doing different things to help her. Later that same day, she apologized for being so upset about her pain. She said, “I’m just a bear when I’m in pain, but you did really well. Thank you for helping me.” That got in the back in my head and I thought, ‘I made a difference there.’
Do you take your work home at times?
I take it all home. I try not to. I try to leave it at the door, but it comes to me in the middle of the night. I wake up and I’m just thinking about a certain patient or something I did or didn’t do.
Do you remember your patients after they leave the hospital?
I used to a lot more than I do now. I remember being in Laramie at church, and the priest came up and said, ‘Is your name Terry?’ I said, ‘Yes.’
‘Are you from Casper? Are you a nurse?’
‘Yes ... yes.’
He said, ‘You took care of my father.’
I thought, ‘Oh gosh, I hope he was OK. I hope I took good care of him!’
How does it feel being nominated and chosen for Employee of the Year by your colleagues?
That is just overwhelming to me. I’ve been in those groups when you sit down to nominate someone. You think of everyone and consider all your peers. So to have them elect me was just phenomenal. There are just so many good people, and that is the best part of this.
Then, I heard that whatever they wrote about me went on to the committee without my name. So, they chose the Employee of the Year from the profiles that people wrote about all the nominees. That was like, ‘Wow.’
Tell me about the family here on Medical, the people you’ve worked with for so long.
They are all like sisters and brothers. When you’re a new nurse, you think you have to know everything and do everything perfect. That was the thing that scared me the most. But coming into this group, you just are never alone. You always have someone there that knows what to do or can walk you through it. We just worked with each other so well.
When I was also charge nurse, I felt like the whole hospital was like that. I could call any charge nurse, or any floor, or the ER or wherever, and say, “What do you think?” You are never alone here.
How many more years do you want to do this?
That’s a good question, because ever since I turned 60, I thought it’s time to retire. I could do some other things. But I just keep getting pulled back. When I have a few days off, I’m just anxious to get back here and see what’s going on. The other people are always just so nice. It’s just a nice community.