National Nurses’ Week is celebrated each year to recognize a profession that centers on caring for others. When Teresa Bell, RN, BS, assistant vice president of clinical services at Rome Memorial Hospital, began her career in nursing more than 40 years ago, she knew she wanted to be in a career that would help make a difference in people’s lives.
Growing up in East Amherst, NY, Bell was originally on track to start a different path. “I was always interested in becoming an elementary school teacher,” she explains.
“My older sister was in nursing school and I was helping her study for her nursing exams. As I was asking her questions and I started really thinking about what a miracle the human body is, it made me feel like nursing was something I’d really like to do. So as a senior in high school, I changed my course and began applying to nursing programs in the Buffalo area, which were all full! So I actually wrote to the department of education in New York State, and they pointed me to Utica.”
Bell enrolled in the Marcy Psychiatric Hospital School of Nursing, spending the next three years working towards her nursing degree, and also got her first taste of the only workplace she’s ever known. “I spent time at Rome Memorial Hospital as part of my clinical rotations, and I remember thinking that I really felt at home here,” she said. “After graduation, I decided to apply, was hired, and 43 years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
A graduate of the Marcy Psychiatric Hospital School of Nursing, Ms. Bell earned her bachelor of science degree in health care administration from Kennedy-Western University. In 2017, Bell was recognized by the New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders (NYONEL) for outstanding leadership in nursing practice.
Bell started her career with the hospital as a medical/surgical staff nurse in 1975. Moving up through the nursing ranks, she was promoted to director of medical/surgical/pediatric nursing services in 1994 and assumed additional responsibility for maternity services in 2001.
In 2009 she was named to her current role of assistant vice president of clinical services, where she assists in nursing department administrative functions and projects to effect change within the department and the hospital as a whole.
Bell credits changes in technology and medicine to contributing to a safer environment for patients and nurses alike.
“I am amazed by the sheer volume of advancements which have been made in medicine since I became a nurse, almost all of them directly improve patient safety and outcomes,” she said. “From electronic medical records to computerized doctors’ orders which eliminate the possibility of errors when trying to read doctor’s handwriting, patients today are safer than they’ve ever been.”
According to Bell, while there have been many changes, one thing remains constant. “The heart of every hospital, is the nurse at the bedside, willing to do whatever it takes to help their patient,” she says. “When a medical emergency occurs, the first priority is the patient. The computer, the paperwork, the filing and often personal needs all can wait until later.”
Although she didn’t know it when she changed the course of her future many years ago, her talents as an educator are still used every day.
“As a frontline nurse, you spend so much time teaching patients and their families how to improve their health and manage their conditions,” Bell explains. “As an administrator, my job is to educate our staff, to make sure they have every tool available to help them provide the best care possible for each and every patient.”
Bell was an instrumental part of implementing the hospital’s new model of care, Relationship-Based Care (RBC), an operational blueprint for improving patient experience, safety, quality, employee relations and financial performance.
RBC advances the culture of health care organizations by focusing on three key relationships: relationship with self, with colleagues, and with patients/families. Structures, processes, and relationships are designed to support every team member’s ability to provide attuned, compassionate, high quality care.
“The Relationship Based Care program puts parameters around a philosophy which our hospital has been embracing for years,” Bell said. “The fact that we have been able to implement this program speaks volumes about the advantages of working at a small hospital. We value the importance of providing personalized care, getting to know our patients and their families beyond a diagnosis and making a difference in their lives.”
At Rome Memorial Hospital and its affiliates, there are more than 250 dedicated nurses providing quality care for the community. Whether administering medications, monitoring vital signs, soothing discomfort or calming anxiety, nurses are vital to the quality care provided through Rome Memorial Hospital.
“I am proud of the team we’ve built here at Rome Memorial Hospital,” she said. “We have built an award winning team which follows best practices, leads the way in preventing hospital acquired infections and truly puts the patients first. Our nurses are here because they want to help our patients and as an administrator, we offer every means of support from emotional encouragement to continuing education to ensure success. I can think of no better reason to celebrate.”