RIFLE — Susan Clark had always thought of herself as just a small-town nurse doing what she loves to do.
She never expected to be one of six recipients from around Colorado to recently receive the Nightingale Award from the Colorado Nurses Foundation.
Clark, a Rifle resident who comes from a longtime ranching family on Divide Creek, has worked for Grand River Health’s E. Dene Moore Nursing Home for the past 10 years and now is assistant director of nursing. Her duties include taking care of geriatric patients’ needs, physically, medically and mentally.
“I’ve always been the type of person who likes to take care of people,” Clark said. “It’s very rewarding. A lot of people come here and they just want someone to take care of them and to love them. The downside, for me, is that eventually they pass away. But their biggest needs and what we can give them are love, human contact, personal touch and interaction.”
In practicing her philosophy, Clark has been a leader in promoting the reduction of off-label use of antipsychotic medications in geriatric patients.
“Antipsychotic drugs are meds that are used when patients have severe psychotic or mental problems, such as dementia or certain problem behaviors,” Clark explained. “But a lot of those drugs have severe side effects.”
Some patients have been on the drugs, which can be expensive, for a long period of time and they are no longer effective, Clark said.
“And as we get older, we don’t metabolize medicines as well. Some research has found that for some elderly residents, [the antipsychotic drugs] are not even necessary,” she added.
Instead, a more holistic approach to replace the drugs is being used that includes getting the patients involved in activities such as exercise, art, music and pet therapies.
Clark was nominated for the Nightingale award by E. Dene Moore’s director of nursing, Angie Densley.
She was named one of 41 Nightingale Luminaries, recognized for leadership, advocacy and innovation, and headed to Denver for a gala May 10.
Of the 41 Colorado luminaries, representing the best of more than 60,000 registered nurses in Colorado, six would win the higher Nightingale Award.
“There were all these people there that were published authors or who had gone to Africa,” Clark said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m not going to get it, I’m just a little nurse from little Rifle.’”
Now she is a little nurse with a big bronze statue of Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing.
“This just goes to show that Susan’s contribution to the field of health care is significant,” said Dusty Dodson, administrative director of E. Dene Moore Care Center. “The things she’s doing are being repeated throughout Colorado. We’re thrilled that she received this award and that she’s part of Grand River Health and the care we give to the residents of Garfield County and beyond.”