ALMH Nurse Lu Ann Ploense
Lu Ann Ploense always wanted to be a nurse, plain and simple. Her path to nursing was as succinct and direct as her personality, which might explain why she landed in the emergency department.
Lu Ann graduated in 1974 from the Mennonite School of Nursing, which is now a college within Illinois State University. Immediately after her three-year program ended, she began working in emergency medicine at Mennonite Hospital in Bloomington.
"You never know what to expect in the emergency department. You have to react quickly," Lu Ann says. "That's what makes it fun."
She gained expertise in stroke care at Bromenn Regional Medical Center as an independent contractor, working with studies involving neuroprotective medication for stroke patients. She worked in case management for six years and started the stroke program there, and that's how she later got to know about an opening at ALMH. The emergency department manager in Lincoln called her with a stroke question and encouraged her to apply for the open position.
Lu Ann started working at ALMH in April 2006, commuting from Bloomington where she raised three sons. A grandmother of four, she works night shifts – three days a week and every fourth weekend. That consistent schedule allows her to plan out her personal calendar months in advance. "Our schedule here is fabulous," she says. "Hour-wise it is a lot better for nurses. Nurses, I think are getting more of a voice."
She appreciates that ALMH is committed to its mission, vision and values and takes suggestions from hospital employees quite seriously.
"Here you really know what the expectations are and what the hospital stands for," Lu Ann adds. "Here you really have teamwork. Your co-workers are there for you. They don't complain. It is a team effort. We see that all the time. There's never a day here that I dread coming to work. I love it."
She enjoys that there is no "normal day" in the emergency department. Nurses who work in that area must be well versed in all types of care and have a skill set that can cover everything from trauma to heart attack and orthopedics to stroke, she says.
That adrenaline rush motivates Lu Ann, but so does the fact that being a smaller hospital means she can spend more time on patient care.
She's also quick to point out that ALMH is a critical access hospital and gets its fair share of challenging cases.
"Obviously we don't have the resources to treat all of them," Lu Ann says "Lincoln is very lucky to have this facility because patients can come here to get stabilized and start treatment (before being transferred.) We have excellent nurses in the ER. It makes it really rewarding to come to work."
Lu Ann says she has witnessed many changes in her field – particularly in cardiac and stroke care. She's also watched as the emergency department has become primary care for many patients who otherwise have no access to healthcare.
She notes that ALMH has received accolades for its Stat Heart program, a treatment protocol in which certain types of heart attack patients are diagnosed and stabilized before they are transported to a cath lab at a larger hospital for life-saving angioplasties – in 90 minutes or less, the time recommended by the American Heart Association.
"We have some really good procedures in place so our patients get the best care they can," Lu Ann says. "It is life-saving."