Meet the WMC Employee of the Year: Casey Robberson, R.N.
By Kristy Bleizeffer Oct 21, 2019
It was Easter Sunday, and a new nurse in the Gastrointestinal Lab encountered her first coding patient – a patient who needs immediate medical intervention. The new nurse called her manager who was at home with her family.
“I just needed to hear your voice, Casey,” the nurse said.
Casey Robberson, R.N., went in. She stayed with the young nurse until the situation was resolved and all patients were taken care of.
“It is just what she needed at the time,” said Robberson, nurse manager of Perioperative Services, and the Wyoming Medical Center Employee of the Year.
In her current role, Robberson supervises more than 100 employees on the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit), surgical staging area, GI lab, the operating room, pre-hospitalization and other departments. She is also working on her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
“Casey has been one of the strongest leaders we have ever had the privilege to work with,” reads her nomination form, submitted by members of her staff. “Not only is she an amazing patient advocate, but she advocates for all of her nursing staff … She brought our team together when it was most needed, and she is always present even when she is not physically visible.”
In this interview, Robberson explains what brought her to nursing and what kind of leader she hopes to become.
When did you know you wanted to be a nurse?
When I was 6 years old, my grandpa, John, was diagnosed with cancer. He was in and out of the hospital a lot, and I saw how kind the nurses were. It was the same with my grandpa, Jerry, who was also in and out of the hospital. The nurses were just always really nice to him. They treated him like a person and not like a patient, and I decided that I wanted to go into nursing.
Grandpa Jerry was my role model. When he got really, really sick, he was bedridden for many years. He had home health care that would come in and do all the bed baths, changing his catheters, all those things. I asked him if he felt sorry for himself. He said, “You know, I don’t. There is always somebody out there who is worse off than I am.”
When did you really start pursuing nursing then?
In high school in Glenrock, I set myself up to take all the classes I would need. I remember a class where we learned to take care of sports injuries – all the different wraps for sprained ankles or knees, thumb spica splint, that kind of thing. In science, we dissected a pig and I got over 100% because that was awesome.
I went to Casper College on an academic scholarship. I was, I think, the youngest nursing student in my class so I had a lot of mommas, which was helpful. I think nursing has been glamorized, you know, in the media and on TV. And then you get to nursing school and you really don’t realize what it all entails.
How is it different than on TV?
Well, on TV it is doctors that are doing all the skills of patient care. They’re doing the chest compressions, starting IVs, etc. But no, it is really the nurses that do all those things.
Did you have much experience with Wyoming Medical Center before you started nursing here? Were you ever a patient or was a family member a patient?
Nope, none. I went to nursing school prior to the requirement that you had to have your CNA (certified nursing assistant) license, so I had no exposure working in the health field. In school, I did two rotations on the surgical floor at WMC, and I loved it. I like all the nursing skills required in surgical: removing chest tubes, dressing changes. I saw a patient on my second year that had necrotizing fasciitis from a dental cleaning through his whole leg.
There was never a dull moment. You learn something new every day on surgical, and it really laid my foundation. I worked on surgical for eight years.
And what did you do next?
For three months, I went to work at Dr. Vigneri’s office full time. I quickly realized that I missed the critical patients we cared for at Wyoming Medical Center. So, I interviewed for a position on the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) with Carol Nelson and Vanessa McDaniel and got hired right on the spot.
And I love it. If I could go back to being a floor nurse, it would be in PACU. It is so awesome to have the patient come out from anesthesia and have a puzzle to solve. Why is their blood pressure low? Why is their oxygen low? And then they stabilize and go home or to another floor and it is very satisfying.
You said you most remember the kindness of the nurses who care for your grandfathers. What impression would you like your patients and families to have about you?
Most of the time on PACU, patients don’t remember the nurses. They are still under anesthesia. So, when I am sending that patient from PACU to the floor, I want to know that I was able to meet all their needs. that they felt comfortable in me delivering their care. That they felt safe. Just knowing that I was there at somebody’s most vulnerable moment and that I was able to make them feel better.
And when did you become the nurse manager of PACU?
I started this June 2017.
The reason that I did not get my bachelor’s in nursing for 16 years is because I told everyone that I was never going into management. But, this job opened up, and instead of sitting on the sidelines and not participating in our perioperative services and making it better, I decided to apply for it.
I worked with Lisa Mosier for two years. She really took me under her wing and taught me a lot. Lisa was really good at talking with people and having those difficult conversations when she needed to. I am much more confident in my ability to have those conversations when they need to be had, so I thank Lisa for being my first mentor.
What kind of leader do you want to be?
So I tell every single one of my people that they do not work for me, I work for them. My job is to make sure they have everything they need so that they are able to give excellent patient care. If they are not able to do that, then I am not effective in my job. I collaborate with my people because they work day in and day out in the department and they are the experts in what they do. If they have ideas on improving a process, for example, we throw it up on the wall and we try and see if it is going to stick. I am pretty sure that is a “Karenism.” Karen Buck said that, my new mentor. (Karen in the interim VP pf Perioperative Services.)
What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a manager?
My staff shaped me into the leader that they needed me to be.
What do you mean?
So, I quickly learned that my staff needed somebody that was going to listen to them, be transparent with them, and involve them in the decisions that were happening in their areas. I am proud to say that I love every single person on my staff, and I do love them. They have been so supportive of me.
So do you get on the floor very much? Do you still get to be a nurse?
That is what I love. I love when I get to leave my office, and I get to go interact with the patients and I get to go be a nurse.
How did you find out that you were the employee of the year?
Tamara Thomson, R.N., nurse manager of the Neuro Unit, announced it at our 8:30 morning briefing. I can’t remember what I was doing, but I was in La-la Land. She said my name, and I was like, “What? Me?” There are so many other people who are more deserving. I did what my staff needed me to do. I just came to work and showed up and I was here for them. That is what all of us should do.
How do you feel now that you’ve had more time to think about it?
Still embarrassed because I don’t like being recognized. It is just something that I needed to do.
I told my family and they were very proud. My husband, I mean I have been with my husband since I was 15 years old, so 22 years, he said that was amazing, that I deserved it. He knows how hard I work. He tells me all the time that I need to work less, you know.
How do you feel about working at Wyoming Medical Center?
So Karen Buck, the vice president of perioperative services, is from Connecticut. She said, “I made an observation. You people wear your University of Wyoming apparel all the time. You would never see that back east. Why to do think that is?”
I had to think on that a little bit. So then I text her and I said, “We are proud to be from Wyoming because, one way or another, we are all connected. You might know somebody who has a ranch outside of Gillette, and they could end up in Wyoming Medical Center and you could be taking care of them.”
And I think that is why Wyoming Medical Center is so important. We are taking care of our neighbors, our friends, our family, people that we went to high school with, from all over the state. I think that is why we are proud, and why we wear our Wyoming attire, because one way or another, we are all connected.
We don’t go into nursing because we want to find a doctor. We do it because we want to help people. And let me tell you, working 12-plus-hour shifts, being on call, not seeing your family, having a stretched out bladder, not eating, all the things it takes to do this job, it’s not always glamorous.
Do you feel that it is worth it?
Yep. I love it. I love it when my kids say, “My mom is a nurse.”