HCA was founded in 1968 and Susan Conn could boast that her nursing career is nearly as historic—but she’s not one to boast. But there’s no need to boast, for the story of Susan’s nursing experience is amazing any way one looks at it.
Susan Conn has been with Denton Regional Medical Center (DRMC), Denton, Texas, since 1970, her entire career. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she is part of the foundation of DRMC, because she actually helped lay bricks for the Emergency Department (ED) when the hospital moved from its original to its second physical location. (The current facility is DRMC’s third.) A former paramedic, Susan Conn began her nursing career in the Intensive Care Unit at the original hospital that ultimately became DRMC. She is well known in the Denton Emergency Medical Services (EMS) community and integral to the hospital’s strong relationships with the seven EMS agencies for which it provides medical control.
Following service as a paramedic, Susan subsequently became a registered nurse (RN) and later earned a Master of Science in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University. This very valuable member of DRMC’s ED, trauma, STEMI, and stroke initiatives currently serves as Director of EMS Relations, a role she’s held since 2012. “Susan has played an integral role in improving relationships and driving EMS volume, providing invaluable feedback to the EMS agencies on STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction), stroke, and trauma patients. With her leadership contributions, EMS patient volume has steadily increased nearly 33% over the past three years,” said DRMC Chief Nursing Officer Nicki Roderman.
Considered an iconic member of Denton County’s ER and EMS community, it seems that virtually every EMS staff person knows Susan Conn, which befits a “living legend.” And it seems there are some legendary stories within her career.
Susan drove the first Advance Life Support (ALS) ambulance for the hospital-based ambulance service in Denton County, Texas, one of a handful of women “allowed” to do this at the time. Upon receiving a call from the local jail requesting transport of a psychiatric patient to Dallas, the jail specified “NO GIRLS.” Susan viewed this as disrespectful and enlisted two other women to join her in answering the call and subsequently transporting the patient, despite the sexist prohibition
The veteran nurse has recalled that during the 1970s, nurses were not taught how to read electrocardiograms (EKGs), so she and a few others made flash cards of rhythm strips. When they would call the cardiologist to tell him what was going on, she took notes from what he was asking (e.g., How many P waves to QRS complex?) and wrote this on the flash cards to learn the rhythms.
Susan Conn’s leadership extends way beyond the walls of DRMC to advance the practice of emergency medicine and foster teamwork across organizations. Examples include her work at the original hospital with Bob Schloss, a current DRMC House Supervisor, to streamline emergency kits/trays so that during Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, (CPR) any physician arriving in the ER and joining the protocol could easily ascertain exactly “what” was “where.”
With Susan’s guidance, DRMC partnered with the Denton Fire Department (DFD) create the department’s Emergency Medical Services unit. This involved creating protocols, teaching, and helping DFD employees with courses to become medics, embedded within the department for two months to ensure a successful effort. She also lobbied to send DRMC staff through the EMT program at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, which allowed the service to staff each ambulance with a driver and two EMTs. In addition, Susan and her team worked with the ER manager at another local hospital to build polices and protocols to streamline both hospitals being in unison, an effort that was cited by The Joint Commission as a best practice, according to CNO Roderman.
Lest one get any ideas that Susan Conn’s educational and efficiency-gaining learning techniques are mostly about processes or group meetings, Roderman provides a story she says is emblematic of the kind of person Frist Award recipient Susan Conn really is, and how closely her core values are aligned with HCA’s mission.
“Once, when a staff member from a local ‘competing’ hospital’s Emergency Room passed away, staff members from ‘Susan’s’ ER were deployed to provide staff for ‘the competition’s’ ER so everyone there would have the opportunity to attend the funeral service. Wow!” wrote Roderman. Wow, indeed.