Member Highlight: Christine Somberg on new models of healthcare to meet a rising need
Christine Somberg, MSN, APRN-CNS, ACNS-BC, NE-BC, was inspired by her grandmother to become a nurse. Somberg’s grandmother, a former visiting nurse passionate about geriatrics and the elderly, "won many awards and got very close to her patients, but it was never about her. It was always about the patient. And that's what I could see; her passion for helping others. And it made me want to be a nurse so I could do the same."
Somberg received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Iowa before working as a bedside nurse for nearly twenty years. After deciding to return for her APRN, she graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing from Purdue University Northwest in 2011, where she discovered her passion for clinical nurse specialist care. "That was when I realized the influence I could make on the three spheres of CNS care, which are the patients, nursing, and the system. There are so many doors that open up, and the opportunities are endless as long as you want to serve."
Somberg currently serves as Director of Operations and Professional Practice and Development at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, where she also leads the Wood Prince Stroke Program and serves as Magnet Program Director. Leading a team of about ten writers, Somberg explains, "It's not only writing about the wonderful things that nurses do, but it also holds you to a very high standard, meaning that we must influence improved patient outcomes. So in that regard, Magnet is a gold standard for nursing excellence internationally because you have to walk the walk and talk the talk."
Serving on the ISAPN Board
Somberg was recently named CNS Representative on the ISAPN board and is looking forward to collaborating with all types of APRNs and advancing CNS practice issues in Illinois. "ISAPN allows nurses to join a professional organization that helps them own their practice, which is so important because as an APRN, you're at a different level of leadership. It's seeing what the public needs so that we can best serve and making sure we have a voice so, whether it be new models of care or new legislation that needs to be put into the practice act, it reflects how we need to take care of patients and leaves us well poised for the future."
Somberg recognizes the importance of getting involved politically and believes ISAPN can help members better understand how to do that. "ISAPN gives us a way to practice our influence at the political level, and we need to understand that environment just as much as we understand the healthcare environment. We need to get out there, get out of our comfort zone a little bit, and get into the political action."
Leveraging APRNs and school partnerships
An advocate for evidence-based, innovative care models, Somberg believes in leveraging APRNs and school partnerships to improve patient care. Partnered with Rosalind Franklin University and Lake Forest College, Somberg's institution allows employees to serve as faculty and give back to the school of nursing while still maintaining their jobs in the hospital. "There are similar innovative models of care in the ICU that utilize around the clock APRNs to work alongside physicians to give a high level of care. For instance, we've found that leveraging APRNs as the individuals who speak with the families works well because they're so well poised at connecting with the public. They're great at patient education, talking to the patient, and nursing education. And this is where an interprofessional team approach makes a difference -- not only can they communicate with nurses the way only a nurse could, they can act as mentors and build a bridge between medicine and nursing, ultimately contributing to high patient outcomes."
Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other
In August 2020, Somberg was named Advisor for Stroke Survivors Empowering Each Other (SSEEO), a grassroots foundation originating from the northern suburbs. In addition to educational seminars, podcasts, and other resources, SSEEO provides something arguably more important. "They partner with the patient in the hospital to match them with a mentor, a fellow stroke survivor, who can walk them through recovery. It's one of the best things for the patient because we find that stroke patients really want to recover with their peers and someone who can understand them."
SSEEO is also partnering with the American Heart Association to perform studies, another shining example of an interprofessional approach at work. "It is quite a diverse board, and I'm excited to be serving as its advisor because I truly feel that SSEEO is going to be a national support group for stroke patients in the future."
Nursing is a lifelong learning
"I like to tell anyone interested in going into nursing, it is so much more than a job; it is a career where you will truly find your passion. As long as you always keep that patients-first mentality, whatever you put your efforts towards will work out." Somberg is currently on track to receive her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Purdue University later this year, which hasn't been an easy feat during the pandemic. She adds, "Medicine needs to change so much right now because of Covid -- between telehealth innovations and everything else -- doors may open that you wouldn't have thought possible. So follow your heart, serve with all of your heart and mind, and nursing will be very rewarding."