10/31/19

ACO nurse’s experience positions her perfectly to help patients

While on the clock, Courtney Lawson, BSN, RN, considers care and support for the aging population her special niche. Off the clock, she turns her attention to the myriad dogs and cats that come in and out of her life.

She didn’t always imagine the split that way.

Lawson’s mother has been a geriatric nurse for 40 years. After high school, Lawson considered that path “petrifying” because it required incredible time management. So she considered veterinary medicine, but then shifted gears to assisted living, memory care and hospice administration. In her late 20s, she went to nursing school, making animal care and concerns her full-time hobby.

Now a population health nurse, Lawson (pictured center) serves Carle patients on Medicare who aren’t on benefit-rich Medicare Advantage plans. Carle and Christie Clinic recently became part of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), one of many population health initiatives that target certain groups of patients and closely measure outcomes to ensure the best possible care. To learn about related careers at Carle, please visit carle.org/careers and search ACO or “population health.”

“Courtney adds just the right mix of compassion and experience to help patients who might have had somewhat disjointed care in the past. The ACO team pulls together both the healthcare and the additional resources our patients need,” said Kristin Ford, MSN, RN, ACO clinical improvement director.

Lawson and Ford experienced an instant connection.

“Everything Kristin said as far as enhanced care was exactly what I was thinking,” Lawson said. “The gaps in care she talked about were what I had been seeing for years.”

Working at skilled nursing and other facilities, Lawson often helped people who were overwhelmed by trying to keep track of their medication and other healthcare needs.

“Our staff was often the extra set of eyes and ears for residents, patients and their family members,” Lawson said.

As part of the ACO, Carle contacts patients on traditional Medicare ahead of their already scheduled appointments to learn or update their medical history.

“That way everyone makes the most of their Annual Wellness Visit,” Ford said.

Lawson asks patients to bring in their medications to make sure none conflict. She conducts a depression screening in the office and assesses each person’s risk of falling, a large cause of injury in the aging population.

She and ACO team members use motivational interviewing to identify manageable changes people can make to improve their health.

Patients in most Carle Primary Care locations are already seeing the added layers of personal attention.

“When patients see their doctor or physician assistant, they know that person is well informed because of the time we spend before that part of the visit,” Lawson said.

Although her work is just getting started – she joined the Carle team in early August – Lawson see its bright future.

“I foresee the interpersonal relationships we’re building skyrocketing as we provide care to this and other populations above and beyond what they expect,” she said. “More and more we’re making sure we see patients as people, not tasks. And the outcomes will show that truly makes a difference.”

Aside from the impact she’s already making on patients and top-decile patient care for them, Lawson appreciates having the work-life balance she longed for most of her career.

“Right now my family has 10 cats and dogs, so it takes a lot to care for them, especially when rescue animals are new to the bunch,” she said. “But I’m able to spend time with family, especially my grandparents. And I even get to take in Friday night football games – which was rare when I worked other places.”