Chief Nurse Reflects on 34 Years of Dedicated Service to Coney Island Patients
||Terry Mancher, RN, Chief Nurse,
Coney Island Hospital
Terry Mancher is filled with memories of the elderly patients at Coney Island Hospital who always brightened up when she came by their rooms as a young nurse, smiles creeping onto their wrinkled faces as she listened eagerly to stories of their families and accomplishments. She was particularly touched by the older female patients who had taken care of their families most of their lives and now were dependent on her for the first time.
"They had always been the ones making sure everything was in order. Now, all of a sudden, they were totally dependent on me. And they were embarrassed," Mancher recalls in a voice flavored by her Brooklyn roots. "I put myself in their shoes. I wanted to make them feel special, because all their lives, they were the caregivers."
Softly, she adds, "Serving the elderly population is what made me love this place."
That love has given Mancher a long and happy career at the hospital by the sea, where she has been a Registered Nurse for 34 years, the past 15 years as Chief Nurse. Coney Island Hospital serves a diverse population that includes large numbers of seniors and new immigrants, including a large Russian-speaking population.
Arriving at Coney Island Hospital fresh from nursing school, Mancher rose steadily through the ranks. "Every nursing position that there was, I was in it," she says.
The result is a thorough knowledge of the hospital and its patient population, and a special top-to-bottom empathy for the staff. "I understand each nurse, because I've been in their position."
As Chief Nurse, Mancher supervises the nursing team, establishes the hospital's nursing standards and procedures, and ensures that nurses are trained to competently deliver care. She is a member of the senior executive leadership team and is a vital voice ensuring that the nurse experience is considered and reflected in every new initiative and major reform the hospital embarks on.
Mancher's problem-solving approach is evident at 9:30 each morning. That's when you'll find her meeting with her nursing directors, each responsible for a different specialty. "We go over what happened in the previous 24 hours. Are there any problems? How can we correct them? We work together." Says Marie Alverio, Associate Director of Nursing at the hospital and a longtime colleague and friend of Mancher: "She listens to her people. If you want to move on an initiative, she'll lean forward and ask you, 'How will this help our patients?' If you can articulate it, she gives you her blessing. That's unique."
The voice of this outwardly tough nursing veteran trembles with emotion as she describes her pride in the staff's response to Hurricane Sandy last October.
"When all the lights went out, we were totally alone – like on an island," she says. When a car short-circuited and caught fire in the parking lot, the staff and patients could smell the smoke inside the hospital.
"Instead of running out when they smelled smoke and were wading ankle-deep in water, the staff ran to the patients. They held their hands. They told them, 'We know what we're doing. You'll be fine.' In all my 34 years here, nothing has made me more proud."
Flooding from the storm damaged the hospital, which is about a mile from the ocean, and forced a full evacuation of patients the next day, a process the staff carried out with calmness and precision, Mancher says. "We never lost sight of our main concern, the health and safety of our patients," she says.
Mancher, 57, earned a Bachelor of Science from Brooklyn College and her nursing degree from Kingsborough Community College. Once at Coney Island Hospital, she pursued more education – a Masters in Administration; a post-MA Nursing Certificate; a fellowship in Management for Nurse Executives from the prestigious Wharton School; and a National Association of Public Hospitals fellowship.
Mancher, who is married and has two grown sons, lives in the Coney Island community, just 15 minutes from the hospital. When friends mention retirement, she shoos away the idea. "If I retire, all I'll be thinking about is the hospital!"
Yet, after a lifetime habit of reading textbooks for fun, Mancher admits, "I'm starting to enjoy love stories!"
Clearly, Mancher herself is living out a love story. "I love this hospital just like it's mine. This is my place."