Anna Shreves has seen many changes in the nursing profession in the more than three decades she has devoted to her job, but said despite all of the technology and reforms, one thing has remained constant.
"We care for the dying patient, the ill child and the families who are emotionally impacted by the illness of a patient," Shreves said. "Care is still very much patient-driven. You're the patient's No. 1 advocate. That patient still needs that verbal interaction, that human touch that no machine or diploma can ever provide. That's never changed."
Shreves has been the vice president of Patient Care Services at St. Joseph's Hospital in Buckhannon for the past two years. She has also served as the director of case management at the hospital, coming over to the job after working in various capacities at United Hospital Center in Clarksburg for 31 years.
Anna Shreves, the vice president of Patient Care Services, goes over a chart as part of her duties at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon. (The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline)
During a nursing career which started after graduating from Salem College, she has worked in a pain clinic, an emergency room and operating rooms before going down the administrative path.
"That's the fun part of nursing," Shreves said. "You can be so diverse and learn so much. It makes it fun. You're never bored. You can grow to whatever level you want."
She urges those considering a career in nursing to study the job from all sides. She said there are many avenues within the field that a person could pursue.
"It's a great profession because of the diversity and the ability to have a lot of jobs within the same profession," Shreves said. "It takes all of us to make the world go around. I always liked the challenge and the change. You have to embrace change in the health care profession if you want to be successful."
Since that first day on the floor, she has seen the rise of advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners, even seeing some nurses who have obtained a doctorate's degree. She said the current demand for nurses has brought about the need for nursing educators.
The pay and benefits can be rewarding, she said, but those do not come without a cost. She urged those thinking about becoming a nurse to think of the profession as more of a calling rather than as a job.
"Money is important, and that's what they look at first without realizing all of the other things that come into play," Shreves said. "The ones who have a passion for the profession, who want to make a difference in people's lives will enjoy nursing."
In her role as an administrator, she is often asked to coordinate patient care and obtain insurance authorizations for medical procedures. She said the financial aspect of health care is more apparent today that it was when she first started.
"Care is still very much patient-driven," Shreves said. "Before, it was doing whatever it takes at whatever the cost. Today, we have to be cognizant of the cost without altering the quality and safety of care. That's the creative part of nursing: How can we do this and be able to afford it?"
That's also one of the frustrations Shreves sees in the health care profession.
"People often don't get the care they need or the services are not available for whatever reason," she said. "It's disheartening to believe that the money they have or don't have affects the care they receive."