Getting to Know CNO Powell

Getting to Know CNO Powell

Image of CNO Karrie Powell

Where are you originally from?

Born in New Jersey, but came down here at age 2. Raised in Summerville, SC. My dad was in the Air Force, stationed in Charleston, and that is where he met my mom. My mom took a very short stint up north and quickly decided to migrate back to the warmth. She is from the Charleston area. We actually have family from Charleston and Columbia.

Favorite childhood memory.

My mom used to take us to Myrtle Beach every summer and we would stay there for almost a month. That was great. It was a time when Myrtle Beach wasn’t quite so congested with tourist. We used to go to Kingston Plantation in North Myrtle Beach and Barefoot Landing. It would be my siblings, cousins, and I, that’s what stands out the most to me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be in healthcare. I thought when I was a little girl I might be a doctor. So when I got into college at Charleston Southern, I started Pre-Med. So I actually graduated with Nursing and Biology. But it was when I got through Pre-Med that I started doing clinical with a local surgeon. I saw the things that the nurses were doing, and I also had a personal experience with my younger sister having been in the hospital having lots of surgeries. So when I watched the efforts of the doctors and the efforts of the nurses, I really felt like the nurse was the heart of the situation. They were front-and-center. And while they made critical decisions, they also cared for the whole person. Not that the physicians aren’t the best and not that they don’t guide the care, it was the nurses that were really there to hand-hold and do the things that lots of doctors don’t have time to do.

Why Charleston Southern?

I was much a homebody. I didn’t want to leave home or the state. I played softball in high school and received a softball scholarship to play at Charleston Southern. I received a couple of other offers, but I really valued the Christian environment. I liked that we went to convocation on Wednesdays. Coming up, I went to Catholic School, so I was already in the environment where religion was a part of our career calling and I liked that environment. That, and the proximity to my family was a huge part of the decision.

When did you decide that nursing was the career for you?

I flipped into nursing in my senior year. I was the second graduating class at Charleston Southern from the nursing program, so I was one of the inaugural groups. And again, I just loved being at the bedside, loved being with the patients, and I also liked connecting with the family. In the nursing program I instantly knew that would be the place for me.

Hardest moment in your nursing career and what did you learn from it?

I came out of nursing school into a surgical trauma ICU. It was an acute-care, very sick people. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It was very difficult when the first patient that I lost was a 30-year-old gentleman. It was at that time when I realized how fragile life is, and how in a moment you never know when it is going to be your last time with people. Seeing a mother of a 30-year-old come in and lose her child. Watching that situation and being a part of that moment. The loss of a very young patient is probably my hardest first loss of a patient.

No is promised tomorrow. Forgive often. Love the ones you’re with, and just be present as much as you can. You have to know that something you’re not happy about or something that you thought mattered, didn’t really matter at the end of the day. Hug your love ones just a little bit tighter.

From a nursing perspective, what did you learn from this experience?

As a nurse in that environment we lost a lot of patients. So at first I was a little discouraged by that fact of being in a very acute trauma unit. What I learned was that when the patients came to us, when we were able to push them through and they were able to make it, that was actually a blessing and gift that we had given them. Truly, they weren’t on a road to living or life, but when we put all of our efforts towards helping them, we gave them hope. Every single move you make as a nurse is related to their potential outcome. Every time I give my meds on time or check pressure lines, all of the things I am supposed to do in care giving, it gives them one more opportunity to pull through.

What are your top 3 initiatives?

First, to recruit good nurses. Second, retain them. Third, make this a good place to be a nurse. I always say you can do anything if you have staff. So how do we get out in the community and talk about RMC? How do we go to local colleges and partner with their teams? There is a fantastic school right next door that I visited. What kind of events are we holding? We have two scheduled recruitment events offsite, and we held one onsite. So again, get the message out that (1) RMC is here, (2) we’re looking to get the best and the brightest a part of our team, and (3) we are going to make this a place where nurses want to stay.

What makes a good nurse?

I always look for somebody’s spirit and heart. The things that speak to them, that motivates them. I can teach the clinical and I can teach the manual things of nursing, but I always look for the people that love people and want to make a difference. Those that want to work hard. Someone that connects with the big picture. This is not just a job, it’s a calling. Because, at the end of the day, they are caring for their neighbors, their community, and potentially their family.

Do you have any common or uncommon approaches to nurse recruitment?

The best recruitment tool is word-of-mouth. People knowing that this is a great place to work. So how do we promote a positive image to our community and to other nurses. I also like the strategy of peer-interviewing. So getting a team together that will vet if they are a good fit for our environment. Sometimes someone doesn’t want to be in a certain department, but we can find a place for anyone where they will fit. But peer interviewing and getting that engagement from our teams that are here is very important. Then, after they get here, really making sure we’re incrementally checking in with them – 30, 60, 90 days – to see what they need, how things are going, and what that process looks like. So how do we get them here? How do we make sure that we’re hiring the right people – because retaining starts before they get here – not just hire people to hire. And beyond that how do we support them?

We also have a new nurse residency program that’s implemented now, but we are going to be doing that moving forward to ensure that the nurses have the support they need to make it through their first year. Because first year turnover is a big deal. It is a hard transition from out of school to on the floor for nurses. I know that, every nurse knows that. So how do we support them in that first year and make sure they are clinically sound but continue to work in nursing and love it.

In one-word, what do you want RMC to know about you?

I’m… Passionate. I’m passionate about caring for others and about nursing. I’m passionate about making sure that we have the people, tools, equipment and education needed to ensure we are delivering high quality care. I also love the fact that this is a community hospital that provides care close to home. We have state-of-the-art equipment, great training, and as we move forward we are only going to be more capable of taking care of the residents here in the community.

If Karrie Powell was a word in the dictionary, what would be its definition.

One quality that I like to hone in on is that I am kind. I do well with putting myself in other people’s shoes and I am good at looking at both sides of the story. I recognize that people are people, and no one is perfect. So how do we show compassion and kindness. And that really is my undertone of how I operate as a leader.

Karrie-Powell noun (1) a leader who operates with the undertones of compassion and kindness, (2) possesses an empathic and nonjudgmental approach to finding solutions.