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Nursing excellence: Profile of Robin Nikolopulos

Southwest Medical

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Southwest Medical, part of Optum Care, is one of Nevada’s largest multi-specialty medical groups. We’ve been caring for southern Nevadans since 1972. We have decades of experience and a drive to better our patients' lives.

By combining technology and information, we give our patients the right care in the right setting. We provide primary, specialty, urgent, senior, OB-GYN, pediatric and convenient care.

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SAGES award winner and Southwest Medical (SWM) 29-year nursing veteran Robin Nikolopulos has plenty of knowledge to share when it comes to leading a successful team.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Nurse Director of the East Division of Adult Medicine, Neighborhood and Southwest Medical Care For Me, is taken aback with the amount of appreciation her supervisors, staff and Optum leadership has shown for her accomplishments.

She considers her work, “All just common-sense things, doing my job to the best of my ability and treating people right.”

However, one of the many great things about Robin is that she is often the first to recognize and acknowledge excellence in a colleague.

Her devotion to treating people right underpins SWM’s positive, cohesive and supportive work culture. She maintains that rare environment where every team member feels valued and keeps a staff engaged, allowing for the best possible patient care.

She might make it look simple but the reality is anything but.

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Expert assessment

It is common for experienced nurses to be able to do a near-complete head-to-toe assessment of their patient in just a minute of talking to them.

Using all of their senses, the patient can be observed cognitively intact. Questions arise, including:

  • Are they making sense?
  • Are they upset, calm, happy or in pain? 
  • How is their breathing?
  • How is their posture?
  • How are their eyes and pupils?
  • Is their hearing and comprehension okay?
  • How is their skin and wounds?

This mental checklist combined with deep understanding of humans in their many presentations allows the nurse to form a picture and focus on problem areas with great speed and accuracy.

It takes skill and a commitment to staying sharp to succeed.

Robin is an experienced nurse who assesses her staff and clinic with this ingrained mental checklist, finding problems and getting to solutions, using her assessment skill to acknowledge jobs well done and offer support and education in problem areas.

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Scanning each room with this 6th sense she’ll note sharps boxes nearing the fill line, an employee in open toe shoes, missing bottles of wipes, dispatching solutions before the problem arises.

In assessing her staff, she notices the hard work and great rapport with patients of a new clinician and the flat effect of an overwhelmed new employee in need of help.

Days on the move

Each morning Robin starts on the move and keeps her feet, fingers and brain rolling at pace all day.

A walk through of the waiting and exam rooms to check that they are stocked and clean, followed by check in's for urgent issues on email, then the daily 8:30 a.m. huddle to check staffing and ensure that the clinic and it’s people have all the tools they need for a successful day.

Robin’s leadership thinking is heavily influenced by another aspect of nursing: she thinks ahead to foresee future needs.

Next, she verifies she has all the needed staff and supplies before beginning. Meetings to prepare for clinic needs in terms of staff and supplies are an everyday staple.

Noticing and teaching

Noting that medical assistants (MAs), charged with documenting vitals, weren’t wearing wristwatches, Robin asked how they were counting pulse and respirations. She made the correction.

Perhaps more importantly, she used the opportunity to talk to MAs about the value of the work they do with patients. That the warmth patients were received on their greeting sets the tone for the entire encounter.

Their opportunity to create a connection by focusing on each patient and using the simplest of tools: a wristwatch and two fingers over the radial artery, was a unique chance to give therapeutic touch.

These small moments of “treating people right,” in this case making sure the patient gets quality, therapeutic care and the MA is recognized for the impact their work has on the clinic, add up.

Gratitude and mentorship

Robin gives appreciation to the leadership she encountered when she began work at Southwest Medical 29 years ago. In this environment she found that her supervisors were willing to give her a chance.

Now, as she finds herself leading and inspiring so many, she works to do the same.

“I am so blessed to have received opportunities from leadership. I am devoted to giving the same opportunities: I think of our people, our greatest resource, like seedlings—give them support to help grow into those established trees, that then offer more support to others.”

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This publication is informational and for educational purposes for practitioners only. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Optum Care. The views and opinions expressed may change without notice. 

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