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The Nurse For Nurses - Cristy Cobb by Kim Phagen Hansel

One of the best pieces of advice Cristy Cobb received as she began her college career was to get a job to support herself. Initially, Cobb wasn't sure what she wanted to do, but she knew she wanted to help people in some way, and life led her down the path of nursing.

While that bit of advice was an encouragement to begin, it was a less than positive encounter with a nurse that pushed Cobb to want to impact change in the field of nursing.

"She told me I would never make it and I would fail," Cobb said. "When someone says to me, 'you can't do that,' it's ammo for 'bring it on."

Cobb completed her nursing degree at Casper College and started at Wyoming Regional Medical Center as a CNA on the surgical floor. From there, she moved into various aspects of nursing, spending time in different departments from telemetry to radiology, and finally the intensive care unit. During that time, Cobb became a mom and finished two more degrees. For five years she managed the intensive care unit and then after earning a master's degree, managed the emergency room.

"I am who I am because I'm a nurse," Cobb said. "It's just who I am. I've learned how to be compassionate and how to be present with people."

Throughout her 18 years at Wyoming Regional Medical Center, Cobb grew both as a nurse and as a person. In 2012, Cobb decided it was time for a change. She wanted to match her personal philosophies in caring for patients with upper hospital management. In the search, she landed at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, hoping to impact patient care from all levels. She was hired as the Director of Quality before eventually moving into the Chief Nursing Officer position.

"The thing I love here is we have the great responsibility to assure the right things happen for patients," Cobb said. "My expectation is that every patient here will have a wow experience."

In creating that positive experience, Cobb and the team are analyzing processes to ensure that procedures are followed, quality care is given and patients have the best outcomes and experiences while at Memorial Hospital of Converse County. With about 62 nurses on staff at the hospital, Cobb is in the constant process of helping to hardwiring excellence in the managers and nurses she works with daily.

"I make sure we're meeting all the quality standards," Cobb said. "My job is to help people have things in place so we're meeting quality all of the time. My job is to never stop pushing."

A year ago, MHCC started taking ICU patients – a process Cobb has helped guide. Previously, patients in need of that intensive treatment had to be moved to Casper or elsewhere, now, those patients are being treated in the community.

"We're having tough conversations when we're not being patient-centered," Cobb said. "We have to ask ourselves, 'how do we make sure we're focused on the patient?'"

Outcomes for patients come down to everyone on staff following the hospital philosophies and being mindful of patient experience constantly, Cobb said. Through her years of experience, Cobb said she has realized that it also means making sure that the helpers, such as doctors and nurses are also in a healthy place in their own lives.

"I'm equipping nurses with education and tools to have change in their own lives," Cobb said. "We're helping them be advanced in their education."

Something as simple as providing financial counseling to nurses and other staff members, helps employees become stronger, more capable individuals who are then ready to put patients first when they walk through the door for work every day.

"I can have a part in making it better," Cobb said. "It's fun helping people be more than they thought they could be."

Even as she's moved into management, Cobb said she's taken on a new nursing role. Today, she utilizes those same nursing skills she's used through the years with patients to guide nurses as they help patients.

"It's knowing how to help people," Cobb said. "I try to grow people. I coach people now.It's our job as caregivers to give in an unjudging way. It's really humbling and what has motivated me to be different."

That trickles into every facet of Cobb's life today – as mom to six children, seeing to the needs of patients, facilitating protocols and just offering support from a position of grace to others she comes into contact with. And when balancing all of those different areas of life, Cobb said it isn't always easy, but she's learned along the way.

"My biggest challenge is to take care of myself," Cobb said. "I finally accepted that I needed to learn how to give, but not give so much that I didn't have anything left to give. I've learned how to give people grace and lend grace to myself."