Meet Stephanie Strickland: Clinical Nurse Manager, Neuro-ICU
- Byline: Christina O'Haver
- June 25, 2020
Stephanie Strickland joined Barrow Neurological Institute 20 years ago as a travel nurse. She’s been caring for patients in the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit ever since.
Strickland came to the United States from England, where she was born and where she attended nursing school after growing up in the Solomon Islands.
She chose to pursue nursing after her aunt, who also is a nurse, helped her get a job in a nursing home. It was a much different role from her first job as a traffic surveyor and a deviation from the career path in finance that she had envisioned.
“I thought I wanted to be an accountant like my dad, but I’m very bad at math, which put a bit of an obstacle in the way,” she laughed.
Strickland earned her Diploma of Higher Education in Nursing from Leeds University in England. She started her career as a staff nurse in a med-surg unit and quickly moved into intensive care.
After joining the Barrow Neuro-ICU as a staff nurse, she was promoted to clinical nurse supervisor and then clinical nurse manager.
While at Barrow, Strickland has had three children and returned to school. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Phoenix and her Master of Science in Biomedical Ethics from Albany Medical College in New York. She co-chairs the ethics committee at Barrow and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.
Dedicated to Patients, Committed to Excellence
As clinical nurse manager, Strickland oversees more than 100 staff members and 32 beds in the Neuro-ICU.
“We have a mantra: dedicated to patients, committed to excellence,” she said. “That’s how we run the unit. The patient is front and center of every decision we make.”
Strickland also describes her unit as a family, albeit a little dysfunctional at times. She feels the family environment leads to exceptional care for patients.
“We share good times and hard times, and we are there for each other no matter what,” she said. “Although each nurse has two patients, we care for the whole unit as a family, so the patients always receive the best. I am privileged to work with the best staff in the world.”
The team culture is evident in Strickland’s management style; she leads from the middle of the pack.
“Being their manager is an honor, and I never forget that,” she said.
The team has longstanding traditions, such as providing a Thanksgiving feast for patients’ family members who cannot be at home. They also send packages to troops stationed in Afghanistan—a little piece of home so they know they are not forgotten.
“That’s just two of many examples,” Strickland said. “It’s who we are.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, teamwork is more important than ever. The situation changes rapidly, but Strickland said her team takes it in stride. Her unit has partially become a COVID-19 ICU.
“Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but our team is ready for the challenge,” she said.
Working with a staff that feels like a family is what Strickland finds most rewarding about her job. She attributes the family culture to Dr. Robert Spetzler and said it’s what makes Barrow so special.
“Cut me in two: I bleed Barrow blue,” she says.
Advice for New Nurses: ‘Love What You Do’
The job is not without its difficulties, though. One of the hardest parts of being a nurse, Strickland says, is seeing family members who aren’t ready to say goodbye to their loved ones when it’s time. As an ethics consultant, Strickland is even more familiar with those tough decisions.
Nursing can be mentally and spiritually exhausting, which she reinforces to nurses who interview for the Neuro-ICU.
“It’s not just a job,” she said. “You have got to love what you do. Wherever you find your home, give it at least a year to settle in.”
While some days they experience heartbreaks, other days they witness miracles.
“The Neuro-ICU is full of amazing stories of people who couldn’t have survived anywhere else,” she said.