Terry Schumaker, RN
“For me, nursing has always been about the journey rather than the destination. I have never seen it strictly as a job. I've never seen it as just one thing,” says Terry Schumaker, who's currently living the life of a rural nurse in southwestern Colorado. Her philosophical view of her profession, no doubt, goes a long way to explain her longevity in a career that can have its ups and downs.
For more than 30 years, Terry has been a nurse. She readily admits that she loves her work. It's much more than a paycheck for her. It's actually more like a growth experience. In the last few years, her career has grown in ways she previously wouldn't have imagined. She has also experienced two major life changes. She moved from Denver to Durango and she went back to school to get her master’s (and eventually doctorate) in nursing.
As a new resident of Durango, initially, she wasn't sure what to expect, but like so many other nurses who have found themselves in rural America, she quickly found a need for her critical thinking and case management skills.
Today, she works two part-time jobs, and far from being an inconvenience, the part-time hours are perfect for her. The nontraditional workdays give her lots of flexibility to study and ample opportunity to stretch herself in new and interesting directions.
One of her jobs is at the Durango VA Medical Clinic. The clinic is an outpatient facility that serves four counties. It is common for patients to drive more than 100 miles to get there.
In this setting, Terry does a lot of telephone triage and patient education. She really enjoys her job and the opportunities that come her way. For example, her boss recently asked her, “Hey, Terry, do you think you could set up a diabetic program for us?” Now, working with other team members, she's putting together a diabetic educational support program. The veterans are excited about it and so is she.
She also works at the Hospice of Montezuma in Cortez. Cortez is about 50 miles west of Durango, which is a common drive for a rural nurse.
At the Hospice, she feels at home. Her years of experience in hospice and deep respect for the geriatric population make her an excellent fit. However, she's doesn't work as a nurse at the hospice. Instead, she serves the facility's patients as a certified music practitioner.
In this role, she meets with patients to access what types of music would be most helpful and supportive for them. “Music is really life-giving in the face of death,” she explains. Terry happens to be a talented harpist and pianist so this role was a natural fit for her. “It's important for nurses to think about the things they can bring to nursing that are not necessarily just focused on the physical needs of the patient, and music is something that, frankly, I just love to do.”
Terry's nursing work has grown and changed as she has learned who she is and what she wants out of life. Today, as a rural nurse, she is constantly stretching herself and trying new things to better support the diverse needs of her patients. “This is a very unique opportunity,” she says. “It's one of the many reasons nursing is special.”