Laura Buzenski, RN, always wanted to be a nurse, even though she can only guess what inspired that career choice.
Whatever the motivation, the 2018 Clinical Excellence Award winner’s decision is regularly appreciated by patients and colleagues.
“Laura has demonstrated professional excellence in clinical judgment more times than I could ever write about,” says Margaret Good, a staff nurse who works with Buzenski at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “As a new nurse, I was terrified in the beginning but I knew I could always look to Laura for help in tough situations. She is very in tune with the patients and advocates for them to ensure they are well taken care of.”
Tell us a little about yourself.
I graduated from Capital University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Initially, I started out working at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and then did a few travel assignments. In 2015, I landed a job at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
Where are you from originally and what led you to Ohio State?
I was born and raised in Columbus, so, obviously, I knew of Ohio State from a young age. But it wasn’t until seventh grade that we took a field trip to OSU for a Women in Science day. I don’t remember a lot about the trip, but I do remember a spark of interest. I was excited about a lot of the work that was being done here and I remember going to a “women in the medical field” presentation. Fast forward years later, wanting to get back to Columbus, Ohio State was the only place I applied to. I knew I wanted to be in a large academic facility, an organization that promoted patient-centered care and one that continued to strive to make significant changes in health care. Ohio State hit all of these marks for me.
What drew you to the field?
This is always a funny question for me, mostly because I don’t really know. I remember in high school, anytime I was asked what I wanted to do, my answer was nursing. Ever since I can remember, it has been what I wanted to do. I even found a journal from second grade where our teacher gave us the writing prompt “When I grow up, I want to be …” and I drew a picture of a nurse! The desire for nursing was a call that God put in my heart at a very early age, and for that, I am very grateful.
Where do you work and what type of patients do you work with?
I work on 9 East Rhodes in Ohio State University Hospital on the main campus. Our floor specializes in hepatology. So we take care of patients that have issues with their liver, but we also take care of the general medical population. I currently serve as a staff nurse and often fill the role of charge nurse on our unit.
How do you build relationships with patients and other providers?
I am a big proponent of teamwork, so building relationships is crucial. When it comes to patients, I work to get to know them. Each and every person we encounter has a story to tell, and being in a hospital is a huge disruption in their normal routine. Because of that big change, I like to try to find ways to make them feel as “at home” as possible. Ultimately, their improvement and well-being is my biggest goal, and the best way to achieve that is to have us working together.
An interdisciplinary team of providers is definitely the best approach to patient-centered care. It provides a positive perspective from nurses, different physician teams, specialties and therapies. This ensures that the patient is being looked at as a whole person. I think open communication and respect is the key to building that relationship with providers and I strive for those things with each patient.
What’s the most important aspect of your job?
For me, it’s getting to spend time with patients and helping co-workers. Obviously, there are the tests, procedures, medications and various orders that need to be carried out. Those are definitely important. But getting to sit with someone, to process through their fear of this or that, hear about life when they aren’t in here, getting to see where they have been and where they are going. To me, that acknowledges their dignity and their humanity. And when we get the chance to do that, it fuels them for the fight ahead, whatever that might be.
And then there are my co-workers. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them. In one shift, there is the possibility for me, as a nurse, to go through every emotion you can imagine. Working on our floor, we have the opportunity to care for the same patients multiple times as they wait for a transplant, so you get to know them well. This is great for the care they receive, but a lot of times it’s hard for the emotions we feel. It is also a constant go, go, go pace and it’s a lot of hard and exhausting work. But I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
With all that being said, it is great knowing that I have the support and understanding of such phenomenal co-workers. We know each other well enough to know the hard stuff like when someone needs to talk, when someone needs those five minutes to gather their emotions and energy, or when someone needs another set of eyes evaluating a patient because our gut tells us something is wrong. We know the little silly things too, like favorite snacks and how we take our coffee. It’s all of these big and little ways of supporting each other that help us continue to give exceptional care.
Which of the medical center’s core values do you most identify with and why?
I think I would have to say empathy and sincerity. I feel like these go hand in hand. Helping people is one of the biggest passions of my heart. We have the opportunity to meet people where they are at each and every day, from every walk of life. We are able to be a face of compassion, of joy, of trust and of comfort to people each time we come to work. Each person has something they have been through, and each event we go through impacts us all differently. If we take the time to recognize that, to sit and hear where someone is coming from, and to keep that in mind as we throw them into the whirlwind of the medical world, I truly believe it results in better outcomes for the patient and the team.
How can others apply your winning skills or strategies?
I mean, I definitely have a lot of room for growth! But I think my biggest thing is just taking the time to hear your patient, to truly listen. It’s the goal I keep in the back of my mind.
I think the other big thing in that is finding my focus, knowing the experience and baggage that I personally carry and having a solid support system to process through those things. For me, prayer is helpful. It’s what keeps me grounded and keeps me focused. And being able to process is huge, so knowing how I process helps me keep in mind what my patient might need to get them to a good place.
What’s the most challenging part of your job? What’s the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part is easy: We have the challenge and the privilege of getting to be with patients on the happiest days of their lives and the hardest days of their lives and every moment or emotion in between. To know you’re sharing those moments with them is an honor.
I think the most challenging part of my job usually depends on the shift. But I guess overall, I would say that dealing with the harder emotional things – like having one of our liver patients be told they are not a candidate for a transplant, or receiving a poor prognosis, or even worse, losing one of our patients before they receive a transplant. Those present a big challenge for me because it’s the moments you take that blow of information along with the patient, and you’re feeling all those emotions while helping that patient or family process that information – and simultaneously helping up to five other people receive the care they need.
What else should we know about you?
Well, I guess that I have to say that while I am so grateful and proud of working here at Ohio State, when it comes to football, I am and always will be a Notre Dame fan. Go Irish!
Thank you, Laura, for Improving People's Lives!