Once working to find solutions in computer science, Laura Bradshaw now works to support the care needs and comfort for people facing advanced or chronic illnesses and their families.
Bradshaw joined as an advance practice registered nurse (APRN) at Empath Health last February. In recognition of Nurse Practitioner Week November 11 to 17, we salute all of our APRNs who provide specialized care to our community.
Originally from Illinois, Bradshaw earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Illinois State University. She worked in the computer science and the financial leasing industries and had three children. She moved to Florida in 1997 just prior to the birth of her youngest daughter who has a medical condition. Then she made the change to health care.
“I love science, which is what attracted me to computer science because it’s kind of like problem-solving. My youngest daughter was born with Down Syndrome. She had three major heart operations and spent about six months of her first year in the hospital. It sparked my interest in the sciences again and influenced me to go back to school and get my nursing degree,” Bradshaw shared.
After earning her RN degree at St. Petersburg College, she went to work at BayCare Alliant Hospital while earning her master’s degree at University of Tampa (UT). After graduating from UT, she worked in the clinical research field and then moved on to Empath Health.
“At the hospital, we had a lot of people who were critically ill or nearing the end of their life. I became really familiar with the palliative side of care and with families adjusting to the loss of a loved one. I came to really have a passion for that. Somebody told me about the nurse practitioner job at Suncoast Hospice and that’s how I started on the journey here,” she said.
She has made visits with our patients and families in their homes or in hospitals or other facilities. Her care includes evaluating patients’ health status and well-being, identifying their needs for care and collaborating with our care teams to meet those needs.
“I started out doing both palliative and hospice consults as needed and then moved to the hospice side full time. When I go on face-to-face visits with patients, I’m looking at their prognosis and disease process and communicating that to the teams at their meetings. When you are in a home situation you deal with the family more one-on-one. When you are in a facility you are also an ambassador of Empath Health working with the nurses and staff,” Bradshaw explained.
Another part of her job involves providing on-call support for participants of Suncoast PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly).
She noted, “When we are responsible for on-call for PACE, we each take a week during the month and take calls covering needs and writing scripts during after-hours. For an interim period, I also worked at the PACE clinic providing primary care, scheduling assessments and providing treatments for participants who came in with acute needs.”
Every case involves treating the whole person and the family.
“My background in nursing, and what the nurse practitioner role is all about, is that we see and treat the whole person and their family. People come from many different backgrounds and family dynamics and handle things differently. I let them lead and try to get a sense for where they are at and go from there,” she said.
Many types of services can help ease and comfort patients and families.
Bradshaw added, “You may deal with psychosocial issues that look at treating the patient personally and spiritually. Empath Health is able to provide counseling, acupuncture, Reiki (energy work) and other services. You can see how people light up when they have those services (Reiki, etc.). I want to help give families and patients a sense of peace and comfort with their transitions that they are going through. I want to be a supportive presence and somebody they feel safe with. It’s great to make that difference.”
The care, staff and teamwork bring her job satisfaction.
“I have to say the people here are amazing. Everybody is nice. They all have really good hearts. We have a great team of physicians to work with if we ever need anything. The communication is there. I haven’t come across a patient situation when I haven’t had someone say, ‘I don’t know what I would do without you guys’,” she shared.
She enjoys staying active when not working.
“I work out to release stress. I do Orange Theory (workout). It’s fun. I have a dog and three cats who keep me busy. I love to travel, be outdoors and get out on the water and on the boat when I can,” she said.
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