Mary Wright is a pediatric nurse endocrinologist whose primary commitment is to her patients; she promotes, advocates, and strives to protect their health, safety, and their rights.
As an example of how Mary has gone above and beyond for her patients, she voluntarily extended her hours into the evening to accommodate her young patients’ and their families’ school and work schedules.
As a Type 1 diabetic herself, Mary understands the hardships her patients, their families, and their support teams face every day, and she uses her unique perspective to help them in their journey.
Mary was one of the recent winners of the Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award, and she shared her nursing journey with us in the following Q&A session.
When did you know you wanted to be a nurse?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 10. As a kid, I went to diabetes camp, which is essentially a traditional summer camp with hiking, swimming, rock-climbing and all that, but we had medically trained counselors who checked our blood sugars, calculated how many carbohydrates we were going to eat for each meal, and administered our insulin. When I got older, I continued attending as a counselor.
At the same time, I’ve always had an interest in math, management and business. In college, I went back to diabetes camp as a volunteer, and realized I wanted to be a nurse. And because diabetes management involves a lot of number-crunching and math, it was the perfect fit for me.
What do you love about being a nurse?
It’s such a great opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives. When you’re in pediatrics, it’s not just the patient you’re impacting, but often the entire family and support team. When we get a newly diagnosed patient, it’s a big, life-changing event for the family. I feel fortunate to be in a unique position to hopefully make a hard day better for them.
It truly takes a village to manage Type 1 diabetes. In my role, I’m connected to so many aspects of my patients’ lives – the clinic, their families, their schools – and it feels really nice to be a part of a team of people who really care about each child.
For how long have you been with Kaiser Permanente?
I started in 2006 as a diabetes educator and I moved to a nurse practitioner role in 2010.
Nursing is a demanding job. What do you do to stay level-headed?
Knowing I can make a difference keeps me going — that means a lot to me. The hardest part of my job is the emotional drain of working with families who are going through hard times, managing this chronic illness. Knowing that I’m helping them helps me.
On a personal level, I try to prioritize my health. I have to exercise every day. I love to swim and I run on my lunch hour at work.
What has being a nurse taught you, personally and professionally?
As a nurse, one of the first things you have to get down is to remain calm in the midst of crisis. That’s a lesson that’s helped me personally too.
I’ve also learned that you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control your outlook and your response to challenges. I see such a wide range of people who are dealing with hardships, and it’s so inspiring to see how they embrace life despite their challenges.
Tell us about a project you’ve led and of which you’re very proud.
When I started in 2006, there had been recent changes in the standard of care for Type 1 diabetic children, and there was a disconnect between health care providers and school nurses. So I spent some time shadowing several school nurses to understand their processes and see what their days looked like, and see where I could help and what resources they needed.
As a result of the work, we actually identified some discrepancies in how our children’s diabetes was being managed during school hours. The nurses have been very receptive to the education we’re providing. We’ve put together education seminars, Web-Ex sessions, and I continue to serve as a resource to them.
What do you do to thrive?
For me, the most important thing is to exercise, but I’ve also recently practicing mindfulness and meditation – that’s been a nice discovery for me. Also, it’s important to have time for myself to relax and read, or as we like to call it in our house, “mommy time.”