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Treating a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is tricky and time-consuming work that Brain Injury Program Coordinator Jackie Murray, Ph.D., BS, RN, CPN, does every day.
The diagnosis of a TBI is scary and can be devastating. Family support and coordination of healthcare and resources is critical for these children and their families.
“The whole story doesn’t always come out right away,” Murray said. “Kids come in for a head trauma and it reveals a lot more about the rest of their lives.”
Murray spends hours educating, consoling and counseling each of her patients and families to weave a story, with her team, that will lead to the most effective and efficient recovery.
What Murray does for patients and families who have experienced a TBI is remarkable, and for that reason, she was named 2014 Magnet Nurse of the Year in Exemplary Professional Practice on Oct. 10. Five clinical nurses nationwide received an award in each of the five Magnet Model components.
“Jackie is the lynchpin of the [concussion] clinic,” said Scott Laker, M.D., who works with Murray in the complex concussion clinic. “She keeps kids moving through clinic efficiently, and gives a sense for what is really happening with kids and families. She’s the most talented nurse I’ve ever worked with.”
Murray did not grow up wanting to be a nurse – she wanted to be a chemist, and has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. But when her mother, in Denver, became sick, Murray moved home and searched for a career that had flexible hours and required her base of scientific knowledge.
Nursing fit that profile, so Murray pursued a degree from Regis University and completed her senior practicum at Children’s Colorado.
“Right away, I knew I wanted to work at Children’s Colorado because the approach to pediatric care valued the clinical nurse’s expertise and focused on family-centered care,” Murray said. Eventually, she came to realize that, “Nursing was the career for me, not chemistry.”
Seven years later, Murray is indispensable at Children’s Colorado. She began work in the concussion clinic when it was in its infancy, and partly due to her influence, the clinic has seen nearly 20 percent yearly growth. All the while, Murray dedicates herself to reducing readmissions and preventing concussions.
“Jackie has been instrumental in making the Concussion program the success it is today,” said Norine Hemphill, MS, RN, NEA-BC, executive director of the Orthopedics Institute, and Murray’s first supervisor. “Jackie daily demonstrates strong clinical and leadership skills, community advocacy, and work ethic. She works tirelessly to provide personable and quality care to all patients and their families.”
Murray took an active role in the 2011 Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act that stipulated that all youth athletic coaches receive concussion training and remove a child from play if he or she sustained a head injury. But when the legislation passed, coaches and parents didn’t know what they were supposed to do, so they called Murray. She fielded hundreds of calls and traveled across Colorado and Wyoming to counsel coaches on how to implement the new requirements.
Now, “I think it’s going really well,” Murray said. “We’re in a place where most people know about SB40, most of the kids are getting out of play and getting medical help. It’s really good for the players and provides the coaches with a lot of protection.”
Murray also helped develop a regional concussion registry with data points that are starting to tell nurses and providers more about the injury.
“We’re starting to ask this registry questions,” Murray said. “Are there kids who get better faster? Does one-on-one education reduce anxiety and recovery time?”
In the end, though, Murray always returns to the families. “These families don’t stay within the hospital walls,” she said. “They go home with you. I’m wondering if Alyssa is going home today. If someone did her hair the way she likes today.”
The patients Murray most remembers are the ones whose families made an impact on her, whether they cried with her, experienced the unexpected with her, or embraced her like their own.
“People like you, and that’s the best part of nursing,” Murray said. “When you say you’re a nurse, people trust you. Clearly nurses are doing something right.”
In 2013, Murray became program coordinator for the new Non-Accidental Brain Injury Care Clinic. This multi-disciplinary clinic provides consultation and ongoing family-centered care for infants and young children who have been diagnosed with a non-accidental brain injury, such as Shaken Baby Syndrome and other forms of abusive head trauma.
So far the clinic has cared for more than 50 newly diagnosed young children. In the past, children like these did not have comprehensive treatment for their unique medical, social, emotional, and academic needs. Children’s Colorado is currently one of only a few hospitals in the U.S. to offer a multidisciplinary follow-up clinic for these young victims.