Charlie Norwood care coordinator earns national recognition

With the kind of boundless energy Tishon Creswell displays, it is difficult to see how she stays behind a desk at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. So she doesn’t, filling in for one of the clinic nurses when they are out and making the rounds in the morning.

 

“I’m the early person,” Creswell said. “I still grab patients and draw their labs and put them on the stretcher.”

But it is her work at that desk as the coordinator of care for more than 1,400 patients from across four states being treated at the Spinal Cord Injury Unit in the Augusta VA that recently earned her national honors from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. Creswell will be the nurse honoree for an Excellence Award at the national convention later this month in Maryland. A fellow nurse nominated her over her objections that there were others more deserving so it was more than a surprise when she was notified she had won.

“I was kind of honored and shocked at the same time,” Creswell said. “There is one RN selected so I said, ‘Me? Out of everybody nationally?’^”

Her co-workers told her she was more than deserving.

“Tishon has done amazing things for our veterans in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit,” said Michelle Cox-Henley, associate director for patient care and nursing service at the Augusta VA. “Her work with them in close concert with our partners from the Paralyzed Veterans of America is one of the many reasons she earned this award. I could not be more proud of her.”

Creswell downplayed her accomplishments..

“You always underestimate what you do,” Creswell said. “That’s just something you do every day and you don’t think about it as to getting rewarded for it.”

What she does is to try and move patients in and out of the unit while working with hospitals stretching from Alabama to Georgia and South Carolina and up into western North Carolina. On any given day, three or four patients are moving in a carefully choreographed flow but Cresswell is working with about 20 patients daily to answer questions or requests for care. And there are requests in person.

“It’s not a surprise if someone stops by my office and says, ‘Listen, I have a spinal cord injury. I’m trying to get into this clinic. How do I get in here?’^” she said. Rather than sending the veteran off knocking on different doors seeking the right documentation, Cresswell will reach out to the patient’s primary care coordinator herself. As the only unit for this area of the Southeast, there are a lot of requests, she said.

“They know about Augusta,” Creswell said. “We have a pretty good reputation. Anything complex, any surgeries, anything major that has to be done with spinal cord patients this is where they go through. That’s why we are considered the hub.”

But that often means coordinating travel, with a wheelchair-accessible van or ambulance, and making sure other needs that might arise in house are met, she said. The unit has a “great team” of different providers meshing to meet those needs and “we’re all working together,” Creswell said.

In addition to her duties at the VA, she is also working part-time as a clinical instructor at the University of South Carolina-Aiken and is working toward a doctorate with an eye on nursing education, which she loves. Wherever she is needed on the unit as a nurse, Creswell said she is ready to pitch in.

“I can do everything my (registered nurses) can do because I feel like that is what I am supposed to do as a manager and as a leader,” she said. “If I can’t role model that behavior, I can’t expect that from them so I can jump in there. There are days when I wear my scrubs.”

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213

or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

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