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Return to Nursing is Rewarding For Matheny's 'Transitional' Alternate

Judy Hahn, RN, with adult medical day
patient John Edwards.

In June 2005 Judy Hahn, RN, returned to nursing after a hiatus of 12 years, working as a per diem nurse at Matheny.  At first, the Long Valley, NJ, resident admits that, “I didn’t know if I could do it.”  Her previous nursing experience had been as a pediatric nurse in a Bridgewater, NJ, doctor’s office before she pursued careers as a personal trainer and partner in a New York City-based multimedia company.

But, about three weeks into the new job, she realized, “how much this population has to offer.  I came to feel a certain responsibility toward this population.”  As she became more comfortable at Matheny, “it would ‘make my day’ to know that I could get through to the patients and students here.”  For about six years, in her per diem role, Hahn worked in whatever part of the hospital she was needed.  Then, in April 2011, the adult medical day nurse retired, and Hahn moved into that role.  Along the way she also received certification as a substitute school nurse, so she sometimes fills that role in the Matheny School.  And recently she agreed to be the alternate for Matheny’s transitional nurse, Jeanne Lavelle, RN, who accompanies Matheny patients when it is necessary to transport them to an acute care hospital.

Last year, Matheny received a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its New Jersey Health Initiatives program to develop, implement and test a model for improving the quality of transitional care for persons with chronic health issues and medical complexities associated with developmental disabilities.  The transitional nurse position, made possible by this grant, also involves following patients throughout their hospitalization to facilitate discharge planning and to foster development of resources needed for appropriate inpatient care and effective post-hospital transition.  Matheny’s partners in this project are Morristown Medical Center in Morristown and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

“While it’s always hard to get your points across in an emergency room setting,” Hahn says, “once a patient is admitted, the hospital staffs are very appreciative of our presence.  They thank us over and over because they don’t know our population.  We’re seeing more continuity of care.  It’s not just a current situation; it’s the patient’s whole history that has to be dealt with.”

Since joining the nursing staff at Matheny, Hahn has never looked back.  “I’m constantly amazed at what we are able to do as a team here,” she says, “and all the love that is given to this population.  All the employees here pull together for each other.”