Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
Mary Conti started out as a licensed nurse practitioner in long-term care in 1976. After five years, she returned to school to become a registered nurse, working in critical care at County Hospital.
In addition to being a registered nurse, she serves as the clinical resource management coordinator at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, a role in which she is responsible for finding ways to improve the hospital’s quality of care while lowering costs.
Her job involves dissecting data from various physician groups and documenting areas for improved performance.
“Physicians are just like anyone else, so when you’re the bearer of bad news that this is what the numbers show, the physicians don’t often receive it well,” Conti says. “You’re telling them they’re not doing a good job here, compared to other people.”
Conti says honesty is the best policy for her job.
“I talk to providers and help them make sense of why things might look like they’re not the best it can be,” Conti says. “That’s pretty rewarding for me, because it’s making a difference in patient outcomes, which is really what I care about.”
When she’s not fixing the system, Conti likes working with cardiac patients.
“I really like the fast pace. I like the technology,” she says. “I was challenged to use my brain to pick up signals of what was happening with patients that could make a difference in their final outcome.”
After a staff meeting in the morning, Conti performs head-to-toe assessments of her patients.
“Usually, a lot of things are going on,” she says. “IV drips controlling the heart rate and blood pressure, daily cares like oral meds, ventilators. We look at all the things that are vital to maintain their body systems.”
Sometimes, Conti’s patients tell her they know that something is about to happen. “People know that it’s happening, and believe it or not, they tell you,” Conti says. “They say they have this strange feeling they’re going to die.”
Remarkably, almost all of the patients that Conti has resuscitated from death have similar stories.
“Sometimes, people, because you’re close and intimately involved in their survival, for some reason, they feel this ability to tell you this spiritual experience they’ve had,” Conti says. “I’ve had a number of patients say they’ve had this bright light at the end of the tunnel they’re going towards. When they do come back, they hear this loud snap sound. They can’t really see anything in our world but this dark tunnel and bright light they’re floating toward. When they hear that snap, they believe they’re back in this world. I’ve had a number of patients tell the same story.”
Listening to patients is imperative, Conti says, because they know a lot about their bodies.
Conti says her most remarkable patient was an 86-year-old woman who was resuscitated 20 times.
“You’d be looking at her monitors, and she’s telling me this is going to happen,” Conti says. “We trusted her. We’d call the team together, and sure enough we’d have to resuscitate her. Those are the kind of days I work in critical care. Never a dull moment.”
Karl Raaum, executive director of the Heart & Vascular Institute at Froedtert, who nominated Conti for a Health Care Heroes Award, says, “She deals with a wide variety of issues, ranging from cost-effectiveness, safety, leadership and education to proving a business benefit of a new service. What makes her so special is her people skills. Under her leadership, the various groups are able to take ownership of a problem and work toward solutions in a non-threatening environment.”