PD Spotlight

Pathway Program Director Spotlight

Debra Rowell, BSN, RN

Debra L. Rowell is the RN Coordinator of Clinical Programs which encompasses being the Pathway Program Coordinator for Ascension Seton (part of Ascension Texas Network) which serves 12 hospitals. In this role, Debra manages the various aspects of coordinating not one but three hospitals that are either re-designating or on their initial Pathway to Excellence Journey. Currently, two hospitals have just submitted in the fall of 2020 working to achieve their 5th re-designation while one sister hospital worked on their initial Pathway to Excellence document submission. She also serves in the role of Magnet Program Director for other sister hospitals within the network. As an RN, her career spans approximately 24 years of experience to include various roles such as direct care nurse for pediatric hematology/oncology, then unit staff educator, followed by RN Residency Recruiter and Pediatric Recruiter in Human Resources for Ascension Seton. Currently, Debra has been serving in her role for the past 4 years and enjoys the work of being able to support hospitals on their re-designation/ initial journey to Pathway and living out the organization's mission every day as witnessed in the nursing care delivered at the various hospitals. Debra graduated from The University of Texas (UT) at Austin and plans to return to school in 2021 for her Master's Degree. She lives in Fayette County with her husband, Tim, and has seen her family grow in 2020 with the addition of a daughter-in-law (Kaci) as her son, Matthew, got married in the midst of the pandemic, and Kaitlyn (Tim and Debra's daughter) graduated high school and started college at UT. Debra also enjoys spending time with family and is deeply rooted in her faith and enjoys serving her community.

What did getting the Pathway Designation mean to you?
In Pursuing Pathway to Excellence, it means that nurses on the frontline are always seeking to provide the best quality care to our patients as well as finding the balance to care for each other, their community, and themselves. When accomplishing this task, direct care nurses are exemplifying our professional practice model as well as serving the mission of our organization. Our mission statement is “rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. Dedicated to spiritually-centered, holistic care that sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities." With this in mind, I see the great work of all nurses, at all levels within the organization, participate in achieving this mission day in and day out.

How do you feel the PTE framework has supported you during this time?
As the PPD for the three organizations that I have helped support this past year, the PTE framework has been very active in the midst of the pandemic that started for our surrounding counties, around mid-March 2020. From seeing the organizational support provided to the direct care nurses at the bedside in the midst of the pandemic, some of the proudest moments our organizations faced were no lay-offs for staff during this time and that all associates, including nursing, would be kept whole. As part of Ascension, our hospitals offered direct care nurses and all associates the ability to not only continue to work, but also provided child care stipends (if needed), and hotel accommodations to associates with live-in parents who were concerned about exposure to their families. In addition, communication was critical in the midst of this unforeseen event for all direct care nurses and associates to be kept up to date on the current changes. Both nursing and executive leadership did an excellent job maintaining daily rounding on the units as well as create an environment of transparency. It was also noticed that during this time, leadership was sensitive to the mindset and well-being of the frontline staff and nurses and worked to focus efforts on the resiliency of staff who cared for both COVID-19 patients and their community during such a difficult time. Lastly, professional development was alive and well even in the midst of the pandemic as direct care nurses still graduated with their BSN or obtained their certification.

What do you hope to do in the future to support your PTE designation?
Our organizations will continue to support the direct care nurses in all aspects of the Pathway to Excellence framework. From hearing their voices and gaining input into patient care during shared-governance meetings, our organizations strive to keep direct care nurses (and other interdisciplinary team members) involved with making the decisions that impact quality patient care. Quality and Safety are lived out within the halls of the hospitals as nurses participate in a variety of committees that focus on keeping patient safety first. Even during this past year, one can see the resiliency of direct care nurses and the efforts being made to not only care for the patients and families that entered the hospitals, but also their community involvement to improve the overall population health. For example, one of the ways the hospitals supported the community was by offering virtual healthcare especially for those who were fearful of coming into the hospitals.

What are some of the highlights/ take-aways that you would want to share with other organizations?
Within my role, I was able to see all the great work that the three organizations were doing and could help spread that knowledge to other sites. While working on three documents this past year, it is always a good reminder to be persistent yet patient. However, I can also truly say I was honored to be able to read and be a part of the amazing work accomplished by the direct care nurses and other interdisciplinary staff. Some extraordinary examples that come to mind were direct care nurses spurring on food drives to feed the hungry within their community, a nurse-led interdisciplinary quality initiative, ("Preparing to Go Home" toolkit that started at the time of admission and improved patient satisfaction scores up to 96%), and nursing leadership supporting our frontline nurses in caring for COVID-19 patients ensuring their voices were heard. All of these were excellent examples of our nurses impacting quality patient care.

In addition, I wish to thank the Pathway to Excellence staff and leadership in their support of our direct care nurses and being sensitive to what we, as leaders, and our organizations, were (and are) facing during these extremely challenging times.

Lastly, it is through faith and hope that many of us still stand proudly amongst a very challenging year. And yet, we will be stronger because of it.