The different paths of 2022 DAISY Nurse Leader Award winner Barb Schuessler
Starting a new job can be equal parts daunting and exciting. For Barb Schuessler, starting as the nurse manager of the University Employee Health Clinic (UEHC) was a new challenge she felt ready to tackle.
Schuessler started in the role December 2019, but within a few months the world would change with the spread of COVID-19.
“It was a hard way to start a new job,” says Schuessler, MSN, RN, MBA, CPEN.
Under her direction, the UEHC pivoted multiple times as the pandemic evolved. From quickly expanding N-95 mask fit testing to standing up a contact tracing team for employees, the clinic nimbly adjusted to the needs of employees and the organization at each stage of the pandemic.
Her colleagues say that through the pandemic, Schuessler made herself available to answer questions and address concerns. As a leader of UI Health Care’s response to COVID-19, Schuessler says she wanted to lead her team from a place of compassion and preparation.
“I wanted to be able to understand the pandemic, to be able to speak to why we are doing what we’re doing and why that’s supported, either in the literature or from what we’ve found through our experiences,” she says.
Her leadership and compassion prompted colleagues to nominate her for the 2022 DAISY Nurse Leader Award.
A different type of nursing
When faced with the pandemic, Schuessler relied on decades of experience dealing with crises. Her career with UI Health Care—beginning in 1988—includes years in the Emergency Department. While there, Schuessler honed her problem-solving skills due to the ever-changing needs presented by patients in the ED. The UEHC provided a path for her to flex her skills in a new way.
“It’s been a completely different type of nursing than I’ve ever done before,” Schuessler says. “I’ve learned all about different vaccinations and mask fittings as well as how we protect our employees.”
Though her day-to-day job duties morphed over the course of the pandemic, Schuessler’s colleagues share that she always stayed positive, even after seeing record-high clinic volumes.
“I didn’t realize how global this position would be,” she says. “Our clinic touches every part of the university, and I didn’t think that I would still be seen as a leader in the hospital, rather than a manager of a clinic.”
In her management role, Schuessler made it a point to regularly check-in with staff to make sure they felt seen and supported.
“It’s important to know your staff and it’s important to have them feel supported by their employer and by their manager and by each other,” she says. “We need to know each other to be able to really connect and be healthy.”
The next path
Schuessler believes in the UEHC’s ability to continue supporting UI employees across the entire state. She sees potential in the services they currently offer and how they can expand, including looking at problems that deal with microscopic culprits: bloodborne pathogens.
“We have the ‘stick line’ where employees and volunteers can call if they experience an accidental needlestick, but I would really like to look into sharing more about prevention,” she says. “I think there’s always room to improve.”
But to do better, Schuessler believes we must prioritize the well-being of employees. Currently, both the Employee Assistance Program and liveWELL are based out of the clinic. She hopes to find creative, collaborative solutions by continuing the momentum the clinic gained during recent years.
“A healthy workforce includes mental health as well as physical health, and I think we can do much more with that,” she says. “And that starts by letting people know that we’re here and we support them.”