Barbara Browning, R.N., Director of Quality Assurance Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital
The Heart and Soul of Nursing and a Hospital Icon for SMUCLA
Barbara embodies the ideals, values and spirit of the nursing profession and has received this year’s “Rick Crocker Spirit of Volunteerism Award” for outstanding community service from the Santa Monica Red Cross.
How long have you worked at SMUCLA?
I’ve worked at SMUCLA since 1965, ever since I graduated from nursing school. I liked the idea of working near the beach, and never planned on staying at the hospital for more than a few years, but as new opportunities kept coming up for me to grow, I stayed on. I’ve never had a job in nursing that I haven’t loved.
What has inspired you to devote so many years here?
Through the years, I have been involved in so many projects near and dear to my heart. In the 1960s, I organized the first mother-baby class while working as the Postpartum Unit and Nursery head nurse. In the 1970s, I created the hospital’s first medication administration course for licensed vocational nurses. In 1975, I help establish the Westside’s first Oncology Unit, which was expanded to include AIDS patients in the 1980s. In 1982, I began working on my favorite project — Hospice in Home – a program I created with Pastor Bob Richards to care for cancer and AIDS patients.
What are your job responsibilities now?
Since 1990, I have taken my nursing skills and dedication to patient programs to the administrative side of the hospital, although the transition was not easy. I remember sitting in my office the first day I got the desk job and I said, “What do I do now?” However, soon after, I had my hands full with patient safety, risk management, infection control, and even more as director of quality assurance. I continue to work on new programs and practices for patients, such as the Palliative Care Program to address end-of-life needs and the Center for Humane and Ethical Care at the hospital. I just recently received the “Rick Crocker Spirit of Volunteerism Award” for outstanding community service from the Santa Monica Red Cross. I also work to provide medical care for homeless patients and am active in Santa Monica’s annual American Cancer Society “Relay for Life” event.
What experiences have been most memorable for you?
There are many memorable experiences. Everything I do is based on my interactions with patients, hospital staff and physicians. I look at every interaction as an opportunity to help and learn. I enjoy learning about the people I meet. The experiences that touch me the most are those that involve patients, families, staff and physicians dealing with end-of-life issues. I feel it is a privilege to be with people at the end of their lives. Even though I can’t change what is happening, I can be there for them and try to support them the best I can. I often feel that they have given me more than I have been able to give them. I am blessed by all the people I meet and interact with daily.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’ve enjoyed every aspect of nursing, but oncology and end-of-life issues really captured me. When patients reach hospice care, they have what they need in terms of medicine and doctors. However, they and their families are often overwhelmed by the transitional process and the daily tasks they must do. Hospice workers support the medical and emotional needs of the patient and family and I hope to focus more time when I retire on securing volunteers for Hospice in Home.
What is the most challenging part of all you do?
The most challenging part of my job is when I am not able to satisfy a disgruntled patient and family. I try to listen and offer support and reach out to other resources, but sometimes it is not enough. I listen and sometimes that is all I can do. In my “ideal” world I would like to effectively help everyone!
What do you do in your spare time?
I am very involved in my church, Lutheran Church of the Master in West Los Angeles. I love spending time with my family and friends and I enjoy playing the piano. I walk every day and enjoy the quiet time with nature and am so thankful to be alive!