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UIHC nurses named among Iowa's best

BY JENNY EARL | APRIL 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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Stopping a painful ulcer, preventing a stroke, and preparing a patient for surgery are just a few things that nurses Donna Dolezal and Sandra Roberts have done for more than two decades.

The pair, who have grown accustomed to rising before dawn, said their drive comes from the desire to give good patient care.

"A disease is a family disease; it's not just an individualized disease and process," said Roberts, the vascular nurse coordinator at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "We see a lot of patients come through every day, but we have to stop and remember this is their lives — it's not just an everyday thing."

Roberts and Dolezal are among 10 other nurses from the UIHC who were added to this year's list of 100 Great Iowa Nurses.

Roberts and Dolezal — selected from a pool of hundreds with a variety of different backgrounds — work in the UIHC Surgeries Specialties Clinic.

For anything a vascular patient needs, Roberts is the person to go to.

As the day progresses, she takes pictures of patient's wounds, teaches nurses, and schedules patients for procedures, interventions, and surgeries.

Standing alongside the physician while he or she assesses the patient, Dolezal said teamwork is important.

"We're more like a team with the physician. We're on the same level — we're part of a team," Roberts said. "We aren't waiting for them to tell us to do something, we're planning and looking to be proactive instead of reactive."

That approach helps to save lives, she said.

Dealing with patients with a variety of health complications, Roberts helps patients with ulcers, lymphoid threats, life-threatening aneurysms, and stenosis — putting patients at risk for a stroke.

"People come in who can't do their daily activities anymore because they can't walk," she said. "These pain issues or ulcer issues can be life-threatening."

Down the hall, Dolezal, the nurse manager of the UIHC Surgery Specialties Clinic pre-operative and anesthesia clinic, prepares patients for surgery.

Working for 25 years at the UIHC, she has helped patients through every type of surgery imaginable. As a manger, she must know how to balance patients needs with staff needs.

"As a nurse, especially as a manager, it is all about change and instituting changes in the institution," she said.

Part of the change she brought to the UIHC involved her dedicated work to a project involving undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Dolezal learned how to identify patients with sleep apnea and worked toward documentation and educating people about the changes in the disorder.

"My whole reason for the project and all projects is to make it better for the patients — make surgical experience better for patients — make it safer," she said. "You never know when it's going to be you or a friend or a relative or somebody else who's going to be in surgery."

Dolezal and Roberts serve as role models to UI students, said Keela Herr, the associate dean for faculty at the UI College of Nursing.

"The College of Nursing and UIHC are partners in providing strong clinical education experiences for student nurses," she said. "Having great role models at the UIHC inspires our students and promotes a positive environment for quality patient care."

Out of roughly 13,000 nurses who work in hospitals statewide, the 100 nurses chosen to be awarded personifies what is great about nursing in Iowa, said Scott McIntyre, communications director of the Iowa Hospital Association.

"Taking care of people's health and their lives they take very seriously and at the same time with a great deal of humanity and compassion," he said.


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