Theresa Bryant was searching for a place where patients always take center stage when she left her nursing job with another system after 35 years. She found that place two years ago at Hughes Spalding’s Asthma Center. As a licensed practical nurse (LPN), Theresa is part of the multidisciplinary team that works to rally the community around each child who comes to the clinic struggling with asthma or allergies. And as the mother of a daughter with severe asthma, she knows the value of coordinated care.
7:00 a.m. Theresa wakes up at 7 to spend time with her animals before work. Right now, she and her husband have two dogs and a bird, although they’ve been known to house cats and lizards, as well. “I can’t imagine my house without animals,” she says.
8:45 a.m. Theresa’s commute from Douglasville can take her anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour, but it’s short compared to that of some of her patients, who come from as far as Savannah for appointments at the Hughes Spalding Asthma Center.
9:30 a.m. The day begins with a visit from a young patient with her mother. Theresa’s first task is assessing the girl’s asthma management since her last visit.
She checks in on the patient’s asthma action plan—a blueprint for managing care and medication—and helps the girl set goals for the visit.
9:50 a.m. The center has a new patient, so Theresa goes through a full medical and environmental history. This patient is a teenager, so Theresa makes sure he feels involved and in charge of his own health. What are his symptoms? Has he been diagnosed with any allergies? Does he live in a house or an apartment?
10:45 a.m. Theresa walks through an asthma action plan with a dad and his daughter, stressing the importance of taking control medication even when the child isn’t showing any symptoms— always, every day, no matter what. “Our goal is that with well- controlled asthma, a patient won’t need a rescue inhaler.”
11:15 a.m. It’s time for allergy testing on a child with severe asthma. The clinic is special in that it houses a multidisciplinary team. Rather than coordinating appointments across town with different offices and doctors, parents have a one-stop shop for their child’s needs. Theresa’s own daughter struggled with severe asthma, and she says, “If I’d had a clinic like this back when my daughter was growing up, I can’t even express how relieved I would have been.”
12:30 p.m. Theresa’s co-worker is still in a room with a patient, so she takes the opportunity to grab a quick bite. One of the best parts of this clinic, for Theresa, is the patient-centered mentality. “We’re really a team. We work together well, and our patients are family. More times than not, kids are going to come up and hug you when they visit.”
1:00 p.m. A patient comes in for her second appointment of the week for allergy shots. Immunotherapy is tough; it’s next to impossible for parents to take off work twice a week, and schools have cut down on allowed medical absences. So the clinic instituted special hours on Tuesdays, 3-6:45 p.m., to work around schedules. Responding to the community’s need has made it easier for parents and kids to stay on track with treatment. On these days, Theresa leaves at 8 p.m.
1:45 p.m. A boy who is part of the high-risk program arrives for his monthly appointment. Parents and the clinic sign an agreement to partner for the best care. Theresa has seen a jump in compliance with medications since the high-risk program started in July 2013. “When a parent says, ‘We haven’t had to go to the ED once, not one time,’ I know that relief. I feel it.”
3:00 p.m. The last patient of the day arrives and Theresa works on closing charts and printing the schedule for tomorrow. On average, the clinic sees 20-25 patients each day, but staff members take time to make sure patients and their families never feel rushed.
6:30 p.m. Time to go face traffic and go home. “Good music always helps,” says Theresa. She loves the blues.
6:55 p.m. Her husband of 32 years has dinner waiting. “Before he retired, his specialty was pigs in a blanket,” she says. “But now, he makes the best pork chops you’ve ever tried. And peach cobbler from scratch. He’s even looking on Pinterest for recipes!” He may be retired, but Theresa’s husband does have one temporary job. He works as Santa at a mall in Michigan from mid-November to Christmas Eve. “I’m married to Santa Claus!” she laughs. “And he rides a Harley.” On weekends, they go for rides in the North Georgia mountains.
7:30 p.m. Theresa, her husband, her son and her daughter-in-law chat on the deck while Theresa’s husband plays the guitar. She makes a quick call to her daughter, who’s due with Theresa’s third grandson shortly.
9:00 p.m. Theresa heads to bed. Reflecting on her day, she says, “After nearly 40 years in nursing, I still find myself smiling on the way to work and saying, ‘Thank you, God.’ And that’s the truth.”