Meet Kevin Patterson: Charge Nurse, Neuro-Rehabilitation Unit

Kevin Patterson says that to work as a charge nurse, one must be a “Jack-of-all-trades.”

Patterson has worked as a charge nurse on the inpatient neuro-rehabilitation unit at Barrow Neurological Institute for nearly 12 years.

His primary responsibilities are to ensure appropriate staffing on the unit, provide support to other nurses, and address the needs of patients and families. This could mean anything from taking on bed assignments when the nursing staff is overwhelmed, to filling in for a secretary who calls in sick.

“Servant leadership is definitely his style,” said Marsha Branche-Spelich, who recently retired from her role as nurse manager of the inpatient neuro-rehabilitation unit. “No task is too small. He is consistently on the front line to support staff in providing excellent care.”

From Pharmacy Tech to Registered Nurse: ‘I Needed to Do Something More’

Patterson began his health care career as a pharmacy technician. But between lacking a formal education in the field and performing all the “grunt work” assigned to technicians, he felt overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

“I felt like I needed to do something more,” he said.

Patterson already had an associate in science degree and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, but he began to think about nursing school.

“My mom’s family, so many of them are nurses,” he said. “So I thought, hmm, let me try this.”

Kevin Patterson poses in front of the doors to the Barrow Neuro-Rehabilitation Center
Kevin Patterson, BSN, CRRN, RN

Patterson first became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and then a licensed practical nurse (LPN) before earning his associate degree in nursing from Olney Central College in Illinois and becoming a registered nurse (RN).

He began his nursing career in skilled nursing and then worked on a medical-surgical unit. His introduction to rehabilitation came when his sister, who was a social worker at Forest Park Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, told him the rehabilitation unit had an opening for a clinical nurse supervisor.

Patterson left his home state of Illinois and worked in St. Louis for about a decade. He then moved to Florida, where worked as a staff nurse and charge nurse in the rehabilitation unit at Broward Health North in Pompano Beach.

“I was living in Fort Lauderdale during all the hurricanes,” he recalled. “I said, where can I go where there are no natural disasters?”

That thought brought him to Phoenix, Arizona—where he could still enjoy ample sunshine and outdoor activities without the threat of hurricanes.

Patterson became a Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse in 2008, and he has been working as a charge nurse in the Barrow Neuro-Rehabilitation Center since 2009.

“I like working at Barrow for so many different reasons,” Patterson said. “It’s a very high standard, it’s internationally known, and I like the fact that they keep raising the bar. They expect a lot from their nurses, so it’s challenging, but in a good way.”

Patterson returned to school once more, earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Chamberlain University in 2019.

‘A Stabilizer’ on the Neuro-Rehab Unit

Patterson finds his work rewarding for many reasons. He enjoys seeing patients with complex diagnoses make progress, overcome obstacles, and return to activities they enjoy.

His biggest reward, though, is knowing he’s made an impact on someone during their hospital stay.

“Patients see so many faces on my unit because there are three shifts and over 100 employees,” he said. “When patients call you by name or they’re glad you’re their nurse, that makes you feel good.”

Beyond providing compassionate care to patients, Patterson strives to be a resource to his fellow nurses—especially those who are new to the field.

Kevin helps to create order out of chaos. He engages his team to work together collaboratively to take care of patients.

-Marsha Branche-Spelich, Former Neuro-Rehab Nurse Manager

“Today’s nurses are so busy,” he said. “They have so much on their plate. So if there’s someone who can offload, support, help, or just be a resource, it’s just huge. I always want the nurses I work with to look at me like that.”

Remaining calm and balanced while juggling the needs of patients, families, and staff is challenging—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone’s stress has been heightened, Patterson explained.

But Branche-Spelich said Patterson’s peers are always relieved to learn he is working. She called him “a stabilizer on the unit” and “one of the anchors of neuro-rehabilitation nursing leadership.”

“He comes to work every shift with a positive attitude, even when things are going crazy,” she said. “Kevin helps to create order out of chaos. He engages his team to work together collaboratively to take care of patients.”

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