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Kathy McCormick, RN, CBIS, WWC

Profile: "Being a Nurse Defines Me"

By Kathy McCormick, RN, CBIS, WWC

I have been a nurse all my adult life. Thatís who I am - being a nurse defines me.

I was born and raised in New York State in whatís known as the Southern Tier area... When I was in high school I originally wanted to be a teacher. My guidance counselor back them saw something in me and felt that I had the qualities needed to be in the helping professions and talked to me about becoming a nurse. I thought about it and decided that is what I wanted to do. Immediately after high school I attended Alfred State College in the nursing program and Iíve been a nurse since I was nineteen.

My first position as a nurse was in regional medical center. I was there for five years and basically I learned ďthe ropes,Ē by working literally in every nursing department including ObGyn, surgical intensive care, and supervision. It was valuable working in a hospital where I got to do a lot of things and I gained a lot of experience that I have drawn on throughout my career as a Nurse.

After I was married, we relocated to the Capital District of New York State and I began working in long-term care. I spent twenty-five years in long-term care - twenty of those years I worked the night shift. For a number of years I was a nurse-manager.

During that time I worked with a geriatric population, including individuals with dementias. That group of people has a lot to teach a nurse because they can be so challenging and their needs are so special. I also learned early on to support and involve their families. Family members really help you to understand the person since they know them best and that helps me meet the needs of the individual more effectively. Iíve relied on a close relationship with families throughout the years.

Six years ago a friend of mine, who is also a nurse, began working at Northeast Center for Special Care. She talked a lot about working with people who have had a traumatic brain injury and how unique and rewarding it was helping people through their rehabilitation, helping them re-learn and recover lost skills and watching them progress and eventually reintegrate back to their communities.

That stimulated my interest because I learned that Northeast Center had a mission of community reentry which was quite different from traditional long-term care. I thought that I would like to take on a challenge like that and I did a lot of soul-searching because the commute would be longer for me. I decided to apply at Northeast Center and I said if I got the job I would give it a year and see how I like it. Six years later and Iím still here!

With all my experience to build upon, I was amazed at how much there was to learn. My first position here was as a Nurse Manager for the Ventilator Care Program, which I held for two years. The Ventilator Care program is phenomenal and I worked with an experienced, dedicated staff of nurses and registered respiratory therapists. It was a challenging job and I have great satisfaction in having seen so many people being weaned from ventilators, work through their rehabilitation to become independent, and be able to return to their homes and families.

Four years ago I was asked to become an Assistant Director of Nursing at Northeast Center. I did a lot of soul searching again because I loved my job as Nurse Manager, but I finally decided to accept the new responsibilities.

As Assistant Director of Nursing I oversee the ventilator/respiratory unit as well as our complex medical recovery unit. In this position I am able to work closely with our Resident-Neighbors who have had a brain injury. I am able to draw on my years of experience to assist people with cognitive limitations. I never thought I would be successful in really helping someone with a TBI, but the Resident-Neighbors quickly responded to my friendly, helpful, and secure presence. The wonderful thing is that I get to see people really improve and I have been able to say goodbye and good luck to so many people who have been able to return home and resume their lives.

I interact every day with our multi-disciplined team members. We are a team of many skilled professionals at Northeast Center: not just nursing staff, but also neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, special educators, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, assistive technologists, as well as artists, writers, musicians - this is such a unique place to work and to help people because there are so many specialties and programs that are offered. And everything has to be integrated, like an orchestra, or maybe a big jazz band. We treat the person, help them become whole, and help them redefine their roles in life.

I have three grown daughters. One is a special educator, one is a dental assistant and another became a nurse. I am proud of all of them, but I am especially happy that all of the hard work I have done in my career as a nurse helped me pass the love of nursing onto one of my daughters.

Northeast Center is a wonderful and interesting place to work. We have a lot of nurses in our programs and the Center is very supportive of our nurses. We have a full-time education department and we are always encouraged to participate in continuing education. Through that support I was able to attend an education program on wound care and I received my certification as a wound care specialist (WCC). Recently I attended a long series of training classes and became a Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) from the American Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists.

I love being a nurse and I love working here.


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