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A passion for care

Injured nurse becomes an advocate for patients with diabetes

Cathy Beyea, nurse with Salem HospitalCathy Beyea worked with new mothers and babies in her job as a nurse with Salem Hospital.

"I loved my job," she says. "I was an admitting nurse; I admitted babies into the world."

An accident in May 2005 put an end to that career. Walking to her car at the end of her shift, around 11 p.m., she stepped on a metal drain in the hospital's parking structure and fell.

"It was raining hard, and I slipped," she says. "I was worried about breaking my hip or a leg, so I put out my arm."

The impact rammed her arm back into her shoulder and tore her rotator cuff. Two surgeries later, she still had limits on what she was able to do. One thing she could not do any longer was work as a nurse in the mother-baby unit.

"I kept trying to have a positive outlook," she says, "and the claims adjusters at SAIF helped so much. I would call and ask, 'What do I do now?' and they would always give me hope."

Beyea was finally able to return to modified work, teaching new mothers how to take care of their babies once they went home. She was often asked to work with the "sweet moms," mothers with gestational diabetes, because of her special interest in that disease. Beyea's 16-year-old daughter, Amanda, has Type I diabetes.

"Everyone knew my connection to diabetes through my daughter," she said, "and I loved working with those moms."

When the hospital began its new In-patient Diabetes Education Department in 2007, Beyea thought the job of lead in-patient diabetes educator would be a perfect fit for her. In addition to her nursing degree, she has a bachelor's degree in education, and the shoulder injury wouldn't be a problem.

"Usually our Human Resource recruiters have to work very hard to find just the right position when someone can't return to his or her regular job," says Janet Jennings, Salem Hospital's workers' compensation coordinator, "but fortunately Cathy was able to find a position on her own. Our only problem was the office furniture."

Beyea's new office was furnished with a heavy metal desk and chair. Just opening the desk drawers put stress on Beyea's shoulder, so Jennings contacted the Preferred Worker Program for help.

"They came in and measured everything," Jennings says, "and provided a new desk and other furnishings for the office to make it more ergonomic for Cathy."

"Janet was wonderful," says Beyea. "She works hard for anyone who gets injured. She makes sure we are cared for and doing well."

Now Beyea works with patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes. She teaches them how to give insulin and recognize the symptoms of high or low blood sugar, and tells them about assistance programs. She also works with doctors to help low-income patients find the least expensive insulin. In addition, Beyea orients newly hired nurses to the needs of patients with diabetes.

Her dedication to nursing has been an inspiration to her own family. Her daughter Kimberly is an RN who works with babies at Salem Hospital, and Amanda plans to become a registered nurse/registered dietician when she finishes high school, then go on for a master's degree in Social Services so she can work with children.

Susan Christensen, nursing director at Salem Hospital, said that Beyea recently received a Service Excellence Award from the hospital.

"It's a very prestigious award," said Christensen, "and she really deserved it. She was an excellent nurse, but in this new position, she has just blossomed. Her dedication to teaching patients and staff about diabetes care has been inspirational."