Member Highlight: Mary Barton stresses the importance of self-care
Mary Barton, APRN, CNS, CNP, knew she wanted to be a nurse at a young age. Barton's parents had other plans in mind and, hoping to deter her from the idea, sent her to work in a nursing center down the street. However, their plan backfired, and she became more confident than ever that nursing was her calling. "There were things I witnessed, like nurses putting potassium in IVs and running them fast—which burns like you wouldn't believe—bedsores, and just a lack of caring. I was horrified by what I saw and knew I could make a difference."
Working in hospitals for years, Barton always felt drawn to her senior patients and decided to pursue a Master's in Geriatric Nursing. She went on to work in various levels of care facilities before returning for her Adult NP post-graduate education so she could take care of a wider age range of patients. Barton has now worked at DuPage Medical Group for 20 years in internal medicine, where she was the practice's first nurse practitioner. As such, Barton had to think outside the box to create a unique role that provided her with job security and allowed her to follow patients in their homes as they age, providing support for both the patient and their families, who are often caregivers. She recalls a situation where an elder could not walk well at home, putting her at risk of falls. She put her advanced training in joint injection to work and relieved the patient's pain, recounting the joyful experience of seeing the patient's face beaming because it no longer hurt to walk. "Caring for patients in the home calls one to evaluate all capabilities, resources, and motivation. It is truly an art!"
Self-care is critical
Barton finds the office can feel especially hectic and emotionally draining since the pandemic began, often leaving her exhausted. "People are struggling with multiple issues concerning Covid; social isolation, depression, loved ones who have died, and, of course, a fear of their own mortality." No matter how stressful the workday gets, Barton remains vigilant in addressing self-care. "People can drain you if you let them, but you have to reinforce yourself for the next day. That's where self-care comes into play. I make sure to do things like exercise, hydrate, eat well, and get plenty of sleep. I take care of myself because it's like being on an airplane; you have to give oxygen to yourself before giving it to someone else. You're no good to anybody if you're exhausted or sick yourself."
Barton suggests removing any possibility of distraction for a little bit each day. "I am learning how to shut off all communications for at least two hours in the evening so I can spend time doing something I enjoy that fills me back up. Because I think if you're tired and haven't eaten, fear and anxiety can take over. When you start feeling that, you need to stop dead in your tracks and focus on yourself."
Barton stresses the importance of scheduling time for self-care to ensure it doesn't fall by the wayside. "Avoid hitting empty because it's harder to fill back up when you're on empty than if you never let it get that low in the first place. Schedule time to go for that massage, spend 30 minutes a day reading, whatever it is that brings you joy. Set time aside for friends, family, or whoever fills you up. Some people can take energy away from you, and others can fill you up, so schedule a time and be mindful of that. Have visual reminders, so you don't forget, whether it's a small sign that says 'Be Mindful,' or 'Have Gratitude,' anything to have a visual."
Serving her fellow APRN's
Barton was a charter member of ISAPN, served as Region 2 Chairperson, and served two terms as its President. She describes the experience of becoming more involved in government relations and advocacy as both exciting and incredibly fulfilling. "Hearing the struggles and the issues that nurse practitioners across the state were facing really made me more aware of the importance that ISAPN places on advocacy and legislation. In my last term, we achieved full practice authority. It was truly amazing to know that all these efforts—all the trips to Springfield, the meetings with legislators—paid off."
Barton is exceptionally thankful to have gained life-long friends through the process, "I didn't singlehandedly do anything. We had an amazing team of women who were super dedicated to the cause, and out of that came long-lasting friendships. We worked hard at something really tough together, and we'll forever have that bond."
ISAPN is the voice for nurse practitioners in Illinois
Barton believes ISAPN provides APRNs of Illinois the tools and resources they need to thrive. "ISAPN helps keep you informed on laws, the practice act, and legislation—all areas of utmost importance—but areas we don't always have time to keep up with. Thankfully, we have lobbyists to be our eyes and ears in Springfield. Additionally, ISAPN offers many ways to meet license renewal requirements for continuing education hours. And of course, there is the networking, which lets you know there are other people out there with the same concerns, priorities, and frustrations as you. There is nothing like meeting with colleagues at the end of a long day—sharing stories, knowing there is a kinship there—you leave feeling supported and renewed."
"ISAPN is the voice for nurse practitioners in Illinois. No one else protects our license and our practice the way ISAPN does."