Meet a Unity Center employee: Patty Danielson, MSN, R.N., nurse manager

November 6, 2020

Tell us about your career in health care.

I’ve worked at Unity since day one, so that’s January 31, 2017. Prior to that, I worked at Adventist for 37 and a half years, starting as a nurse and rising through the ranks to director of psychiatric programs. I would have probably retired at Adventist if Unity hadn’t been created. I’ve been involved in Unity from its inception.

What does your job entail?

As the manager of 1E and Unit 2, I’m responsible for the overall operations of those units, including budget, annual reviews, coaching and quality metrics. I have 90 staff members under my supervision.

Some days I get in early to round with the night shift staff to see how they’re doing. I check in with each of my units on the day shift to find out about our patients and discharges. I gather information for our safety and clinical huddles to identify any needs. I review safety reports to see if any incidents need to be addressed. I also have a fairly heavy administrative load, doing things like payroll.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

The number one thing I find rewarding is the interaction with the staff I manage. I feel really called to make sure they can do the job they’re hired to do, make sure they have the resources they need, answer their questions, and to inspire and encourage.

I also like doing some of the nitty gritty paperwork, things like auditing. That work is really important to ensure that we’re improving safety and that patients are getting the best care possible. It can be seen as grunt work, but I like delving into things like that.

What else should we know about your job?

I got into psychiatric nursing in the late 70s when everything was about control. We did what we thought was best then, but the goal was to keep people quiet. That included medicating them, putting them in restraints, etc. Psychiatry has come a long way since then. As I reflect on that practice, it’s nice to work in a system that fully embraces trauma-informed care. By that I mean, we’re meeting the patient where they’re at, not where we want them to be.

What does trauma-informed care look like?

It takes lots of forms. When we started Unity, we made decisions like offering expanded visiting hours so patients can have visitors more easily. We also do everything we can to minimize risk and address safety issues before we ever consider things like restraints or medication.

We learn their triggers so they don’t get pushed. We have to understand that everybody comes with their own story and that usually includes trauma of some kind, whether it’s physical, emotional or vicarious. We seek to understand that story, use it in their care and do our best to not add trauma.

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