Alumni Spotlight - Nancy Theis is New to the Bedside, Happy to Contribute

She was looking for a way to help. Nancy Theis, a transplant coordinator who follows patients after their kidney transplant, knew the staffing shortages were adding stress on her friends and colleagues who worked on the Solid Organ Transplant Unit, located on level five of Clarkson Tower.

“I talked to Vicki Hunter to see how I could help,” Theis says. “It’s hard to sit back and watch.”

Theis has never worked in an inpatient unit. She came to Nebraska Medicine in 2006 to work for Donate Life Services as an organ procurement coordinator. Her training was as a heart and lung perfusionist. During her time at Donate Life, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Clarkson College. She left Nebraska Medicine for a brief stint at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center before returning in 2018 to work in the Kidney Transplant Program.

Theis knew SOTU nurses were floating to COVID-19 units and that they were also short patient care technicians. Hunter advised there was a nurse rover position available on SOTU.

“I thought that would be a good fit for me,” she says.

In early November, her fellow transplant coordinators assumed care of her patients and Theis began working three 12-hour shifts each week. She’s partnered with colleague Wendy Scholl, who is also a transplant coordinator.

Together, the two go to each patient room to help with various tasks, including taking vitals, checking blood sugar levels, perform additional insulin checks, assist in administration of blood products, transport patients to procedures and help with showers.

“It took a couple of weeks to adjust to being on my feet for that long and the physical nature of the job,” Theis shares. “It takes your body time.”

She says she is inspired by the work of the nurses and the physicians who are also floating and working in different roles.

“Some of the nurses are floating, but SOTU is also caring for patients they don’t normally see,” she says. “To see them take it all on professionally, and to see your leadership do that, it motivates you to do the same. It just feels so good to contribute.”

Hunter, who is the manager of Kidney/Pancreas Transplant and Donate Life Services, has several team members who deployed to the inpatient units.

“As their manager, seeing Nancy Theis, Brianne Clare, Amy Schurke and Jarrod Newlin volunteer to assist their fellow inpatient nurses was powerful,” says Hunter. “Nancy, with no inpatient nursing experience, demonstrated the courage to learn a new role during these challenging times. Both of my teams have exemplified the ITEACH values during their inpatient rotation.” 

“It takes courage to work on an inpatient unit where you may not be as comfortable working,” notes Maria Lander, nurse manager, SOTU. “These nurses demonstrated teamwork by their willingness to assist the patients, families and their co-workers. Our SOTU team is truly grateful for all of the help they have provided while on the unit. They are a great group of nurses!”

“We are so thankful for all of our colleagues who were asked to leave their home departments to help care for patients in our acute care settings,” says Sue Nuss, PhD, chief nursing officer. “We can all empathize with being asked to do something outside our comfort zones. These deployed colleagues did so with grace and professionalism. We could not have gotten through these past few months without them.”

Theis plans to continue working on SOTU until February, and may stay longer if they need her. She says there’s no doubt this experience will change her perspective when she returns to her “day job”.

“I’ve learned so much from the nurses on the floor,” she says. “I’ve seen the struggles they experience. The best way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone.”

This story has been reprinted with permission from the Nebraska Medicine Editorial Team.