There’s a photo in Bethany Sarosiek’s office that recalls a lesson from her nursing school days.

Titled “If I think I can,” it pictures a harsh, rocky cliff, barren of vegetation save a single tree, its leaves lush and green. For Sarosiek, the visual metaphor is a reminder that even when things feel most impossible, there’s hope to be had.

“My preceptor’s lessons live on each time I glance up,” says Sarosiek. “’One day at a time. Small simple steps. You, too, will bloom.’” 

It’s an ethos that has served Sarosiek well in her role as development coordinator in the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program at UVA Medical Center, hired in 2014 in the hospital’s first-ever nursing position requiring a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) degree. Initially drawn to the field of medicine—even taking the MCATs at one point—Sarosiek says the CNL program proved the perfect fit.

Nurses “see the bigger picture in creating and standardizing patient care. A nurse identifies and pulls all of those pieces together, then brings all disciplines to the table for the discussion.”

Bethany Sarosiek (CNL `12)

Today, with teams of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, pharmacists, and informaticists, Sarosiek creates evidence-based standardized care pathways around surgery to augment patients’ comfort, optimize their physiological function, and speed up their recovery time while also reducing patient and family stress. The job requires a high level of comfort interacting with a range of interprofessional colleagues, a keen understanding of each clinician’s role, as well as a painstaking approach to detail—work, she says, she was well-prepared for during her nursing education.

And ERAS’ data-driven approach to patient recovery is working, already yielding dramatic reductions in patients’ length of stay, opioid use, post-operative complications, and significant cost-savings. To Sarosiek, there’s no better person for the job than a nurse.

Nurses “see the bigger picture in creating and standardizing patient care,” she explains. “A nurse identifies and pulls all of those pieces together, then brings all disciplines to the table for the discussion.”

Being a nurse gives Sarosiek credibility and clout, too.

“You can’t just talk the talk,” she says. “You have to walk the walk, too.”

Sarosiek’s CNL stride has also gotten her acclaim. One of just 11 recipients of the 2018 Leonard Sandridge Outstanding Contribution Award, having been nominated by her team—both “humbling and overwhelming,” she says—it’s the proudest moment of her career to date.

Still, she saves the biggest kudos for her team.

“I think it speaks to the dedication of my ERAS colleagues,” says Sarosiek, “and what we can accomplish together when we work toward a single goal.”

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