It is not just Marlene Bedrich’s patients who love her, but also her professional colleagues at the Diabetes Teaching Center – so much so that they nominated her for ambulatory care nurse of the year award, an honor she received during Nurses’ Week in May. Marlene, in turn, thinks the world of her colleagues, including her half-time assistant who is also a licensed vocational nurse, and the endocrinologists she finds at once brilliant, and humble.
“I came here to learn,” she says. “People here enjoy sharing their knowledge – there’s something about working in the environment of a teaching hospital.” In fact, her award carries an educational allowance. “I like to go to conferences and learn new things,” she says with a smile. Shortly after organizing the teaching center’s annual Adult Diabetes Symposium, she and fellow teaching center educator Gloria Yee attended the International Diabetes Federation conference on pre-diabetes and metabolic syndromes. The information directly applied to her work.
“We see more and more of it,” Bedrich said. “It’s wonderful to see patients with pre-diabetes. It’s a great opportunity because research shows that making lifestyle changes can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.”
Bedrich had been an acute care nurse in hospital settings for 22 years before entering diabetes education. She realized many of her patients had diabetes and she wanted to be able to help them more. Those years in the hospital influence her approach with her current team. “You learn to help each other out,” she explains. “When we all work together everybody shines.”
For the patients, she’s noticed that the educators become “kind of a positive force in their everyday struggles– they like to come back and talk to someone who’s interested, to get rejuvenated. I tell them how important the decisions they make every day are and try to help them fit healthy lifestyles into their busy lives.” As everyone with diabetes knows, unlike the case in some chronic illnesses, the disease management is far from passive in diabetes.
Bedrich didn’t foresee where her path would take her when she entered nursing 30 years ago. Coming to the Teaching Center in 2000, she found the outpatient environment refreshing after 13 years on the night shift. Rather than attending to patients focused on trying to survive, she is rewarded by working with patients who are well. “In an outpatient setting,” she explains, “they are there to learn – they are much more receptive. They can bring their family member or support person. We help them get to know what’s going to work for them.”
Although Bedrich was eager to enter the workforce right away as a young woman, she earned a few degrees along the way – an R.N., a bachelor’s in professional sciences, a master’s in health administration with an emphasis on wellness, a medical-surgical nurse certification and, in the last couple of years, an ambulatory care nurse certification.
She also keeps the clinic up-to-date by applying every three years for American Diabetes Association recognition, which allows most insurance companies to provide reimbursement for the unique, and widely recognized, teaching center services.
It was a can-do attitude such as this that was reflected in the nomination that resulted in her recent honor. But Bedrich is as energized by the task at hand and enthusiastic about her colleagues as she is humble herself. “I work with some really good people,” she points out, “really talented ones... the question isn’t so much why someone went into nursing – it’s what keeps you there, it’s got to be something you enjoy doing.”