Nurse an Active Advocate for Diabetes Sufferers

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Mary Wright, RN, is recognized for her work advocating for her patients — with a special affinity for those living with Type 1 diabetes.

Mary Wright is a pediatric nurse endocrinologist at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center whose primary commitment is to her patients; she promotes, advocates, and strives to protect their health, safety, and their rights.

As an example of how Wright has gone above and beyond for her patients, she voluntarily extended her hours into the evening to accommodate her young patients’ and their families’ school and work schedules.

As a Type 1 diabetic herself, Wright understands the hardships her patients, their families, and their support teams face every day, and she uses her unique perspective to help them in their journey.

Wright was one of two Northern California employees who recently earned a Kaiser Permanente Extraordinary Nurse Award. Read on to learn about her nursing journey.

When did you know you wanted to be a nurse?

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 10. As a kid, I went to diabetes camp, which is essentially a traditional summer camp with hiking, swimming, and all that, but we had medically trained counselors who checked our blood sugars, calculated how many carbohydrates we were going to eat for each meal, and administered our insulin. When I got older, I continued attending as a counselor.

At the same time, I’ve always had an interest in math, management, and business. In college, I went back to diabetes camp as a volunteer, and realized I wanted to be a nurse. And because diabetes management involves a lot of number-crunching and math, it was the perfect fit for me.

What do you love about being a nurse?

It’s such a great opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives. When you’re in pediatrics, it’s not just the patient you’re impacting, but often the entire family and support team. When we get a newly diagnosed patient, it’s a big, life-changing event for the family. I feel fortunate to be in a unique position to hopefully make a hard day better for them.

It truly takes a village to manage Type 1 diabetes. In my role, I’m connected to so many aspects of my patients’ lives — the clinic, their families, their schools — and it feels really nice to be a part of a team of people who really care about each child.

Nursing is a demanding job. What keeps you going?

Knowing I can make a difference means a lot to me. The hardest part of my job is the emotional drain of working with families who are going through hard times, managing this chronic illness.

On a personal level, I try to prioritize my health. I have to exercise every day. I love to swim, and I run on my lunch hour at work.

Tell us about a project you’ve led and of which you’re very proud.

When I started in 2006, there had been recent changes in the standard of care for Type 1 diabetic children, and there was a disconnect between health care providers and school nurses. So I spent some time shadowing several school nurses to understand their processes, and see where I could help and what resources they needed.

As a result of the work, we identified some discrepancies in how children’s diabetes was being managed during school hours. The nurses have been very receptive to the education we’re providing.

Read about the region’s other award winner, Rena Perez, RN.

 

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