Meet Charlene Grove: Clinical Nurse Manager, Neuro-ICU

Charlene Grove says the nurses on her unit embody a culture of teamwork and a bring-it-on attitude.

When her Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at Barrow Neurological Institute became the primary COVID-19 ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, her staff rose to the occasion.

“At first it was like, how are we going to do this? These are not our typical neuro patients—they’re very much medical ICU patients,” said Grove, who oversees 32 beds and more than 100 staff members on the unit.

She said the first week was especially challenging, between adapting to rapidly changing processes and fearing the unknowns surrounding the new coronavirus.

Kids in the community made artwork to thank Barrow nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many nurses have adopted new decontaminating routines before entering their homes. Others aren’t even living in their homes at all—opting instead to stay in a trailer or moving in with co-workers.

“The staff have really sacrificed for their patients,” Grove said. “This is why we became nurses—to take care of the most vulnerable patients.”

She has seen tears, laughter, fear, and anxiety among her team and expressed her gratitude for their dedication. The staff is grateful for the outpouring of support from the community, including food donations and handmade cards from kids.

Becoming a Nurse

Grove knew from a young age that she wanted to become a nurse like her grandmother. She remembers the moment when it really clicked.

When she was 7 years old, her dad had an accident with a power saw in the basement of their West Virginia home. When the saw tore through his arm, Grove sprang into action—grabbing towels, wrapping his arm, and getting help to get him to the hospital.

Grove was born at Andrew’s Air Force base in Maryland the day astronauts first walked on the moon. She mainly grew up in Southern California, where she lived from fourth grade through nursing school.

After earning her Associate Degree in Nursing from Mount San Antonio College, she moved to Phoenix for her first nursing job at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital-Shea.

She worked in hospitals around the country for the next several years; her husband’s job as a pilot kept them on the move. They eventually settled back in Arizona, and Grove began her 22-year tenure at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Growing With Barrow

Grove started at St. Joseph’s as a staff nurse in an intermediate care area. She was quickly promoted to a clinical nurse supervisor and ultimately a clinical nurse manager.

Portrait of Neuro-ICU Clinical Nurse Manger Charlene Grove
Charlene Grove, Neuro-ICU Clinical Nurse Manager

She joined Barrow in 2005, when the 32-bed general ICU she managed was converted to a Neuro-ICU with the construction of the Robert F. Spetzler Neuroscience Tower.

“I’ve always been one to take opportunities as they come,” she said. “When that became available, it was quite the privilege to be part of the growing and building of this tower and becoming part of Barrow.”

She sees her co-workers at Barrow not as her work family but as her extended family, experiencing many highs and lows together.

Since joining Barrow, Grove has had three kids and returned to school twice. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Canyon University and her Master of Science in Biomedical Ethics from Albany Medical College in New York. In addition to her role as a Neuro-ICU manager, Grove serves as an ethics consultant and chairs the organ donor program.

Managing the Neuro-ICU

As a clinical nurse manager, Grove’s overall role is to support the staff caring for patients—whether it’s removing obstacles, equipping staff with tools and resources they need to do their job, hiring new staff, or providing emotional support.

Finding simple ways to make someone’s day and being emotionally present for others are two of the main practices of the FISH! Philosophy, a workplace model pioneered by the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

Grove’s team has embraced the FISH! Philosophy, which is why nurses can sometimes be seen tossing around Swedish Fish candy. The other two practices are maintaining an enthusiastic, playful, and creative spirit and choosing your attitude.

But with such a large staff, Grove acknowledges the difficulty of trying to be there for everyone through everything.

“You don’t always know what everybody is going through,” she said.

She tries to stay connected to her staff by checking in with individual text messages, giving hugs, and offering words of encouragement.

“We need to lean on each other,” she said. “No one else can understand the life of a nurse like a fellow nurse.”

That team mindset is something Grove looks for when hiring new nurses. Most applicants are new graduates—all of whom have a similar education and experience level.

Don’t map out your life in nursing. Just live it, one patient at a time.

-Charlene Grove, Neuro-ICU Clinical Nurse Manager

“I can’t teach them to be kind; I can’t teach them to want to learn more and strive to be better and want to be a team player,” she said. “These are the characteristics I look for during the interview process. I feel confident we can teach them the skills if they have the will to learn.”

Coaching and mentoring nurses while they learn, thrive, and advance in their professions is one of the things Grove is most proud of in her career.

“As much as I hate to see members of our team go, I love to see them grow,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing my job by being a part of their growth and opportunities.”

Another point of pride for Grove is seeing patients leave the Neuro-ICU and make strides in their recovery. She said receiving phone calls and cards of gratitude from patients and families keeps the team focused on why they are here and what matters most—outstanding patient care.

Advice for New Nurses: ‘Keep an Open Mind’

Although Grove always wanted to become a nurse, she never imagined herself working as a manager in the Neuro-ICU.

She always envisioned herself as an operating room nurse. But her journey had more curves in the road, she said, which led her to St. Joseph’s and Barrow.

That’s why she reminds new and aspiring nurses to keep an open mind.

“Don’t map out your life in nursing,” she said. “Just live it, one patient at a time.”

Read more Year of the Nurse stories.