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2020 Health Care Champions Nurse: Tessie Bowmaker

CoxHealth Neuro Trauma and Cardiovascular ICU

Posted online

From the emergency room to the military battlefield, Tessie Bowmaker’s motivation is to help patients achieve the best outcomes.

The registered nurse has held many positions in patient care and staff management. In her current role as a nurse manager in CoxHealth’s cardiovascular and neuro trauma intensive care unit, Bowmaker’s passion for patients is now channeled through the staff she supports.

“When I have staff nurses fulfill their dreams by completing advanced degrees and excelling in their careers, it gives me great pleasure as I know I was a part of that process with the support I provide them,” Bowmaker says.

The now-retired U.S. Army Reserve captain managed the daily operations of the ICU and intermediate care ward at the 325th Combat Support Hospital at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait from September 2011 to September 2012. She also has worked as a nurse in the ER and has been a sexual assault nurse examiner.

As a health care leader, Bowmaker’s job was quickly affected by COVID-19.

“In March, the world we once knew at CoxHealth changed drastically,” she says. “My job as the nurse manager is to take care of the staff so they can provide great care to patients and families. If the nurses and unlicensed staff have what they need, then our patients will be served well. My days went from managing tasks to managing chaos.”

Protecting staff and patients became Bowmaker’s constant focus.

“Changes were being made daily,” she says. “It was not unusual to work one day, come back the next and have multiple processes changed. We were all learning, making mistakes and rebounding together. I always made myself available to encourage staff, listen to their concerns and inspire them to be strong, innovative and courageous. I also made it a priority to acknowledge what they were doing.”

Because elective surgeries were canceled when COVID first hit, many CoxHealth nurses were displaced. To keep those employees working, Bowmaker helped develop COVID Team 19, ICU-trained nurses who can work where needed based on CoxHealth’s patient volume.

“We worked with education, nursing administration, human resources and multiple nursing departments to ensure this team would be not only ready to provide the best care to our patients, but they would be ready quickly,” she says.

With hospital visits restricted, Bowmaker recognizes the stress this causes ill patients and their families.

“I personally call patients’ families to ensure they are receiving updates from the nurses on their loved ones’ condition and will facilitate FaceTime or telephone calls with the family and physicians to ease their concerns and allow them to focus on healing,” she says.

Even with management responsibilities, Bowmaker stays engaged with staff, says Chastidy Parke, CoxHealth’s administrative director of nursing.

“Tessie is one of those leaders that every director would love to have on their team,” Parke says. “Not only does she manage her very busy and distinctly different ICUs well, she is also always looking for ways to get involved to help our organization grow and improve.”

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