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Editor's Page: Changing of the Guard
When it's time to retire, will you train your replacement the right way?
Dan O'Connor
Publish Date: June 2, 2016   |  Tags:   Editors Page
Beth Pickford, RN, BSN, and Connie Sinnk, RN STAND BY ME Beth Pickford, RN, BSN, and Connie Sinnk, RN, walked the ASCA exhibit hall together.

They say nurses eat their young, but then you see a retiring director of nursing walking her replacement around the trade show floor, a mama tiger showing her cub the ropes, and your faith in the profession is restored.

Connie Sinnk, RN, is retiring next month, a few weeks shy of her 65th birthday, from the Main Line Spine Surgery Center, the 6,000 patient-a-year suburban Philadelphia facility she helped launch 10 years ago, her "baby." The physician-owners let her hand-pick her successor as director of nursing, and she headed straight for Beth Pickford, RN, BSN, a longtime part-time staff nurse who remembers the offer going something like this: "When Connie approached me and asked me if I wanted it, she said, 'That's my baby. And don't say no.'"

But she did say no. With 3 active kids, including a gymnast, the timing wasn't right for Ms. Pickford to jump into a full-time role. But she reconsidered once things quieted down at home. There was something else, too. She didn't like the idea of an outsider taking over. "I wasn't really sure I wanted to be in a director's role, but I was worried that someone new would change the culture," she says. "So I thought, Why not give it a try?"

Why not, indeed. So at age 49, Ms. Pickford is about to step into a director's role that both scares and excites her. "There's so many things to learn that I haven't been exposed to, so many unknowns," she says. "I know the whole clinical part. But the administrative part, all the quality control and the paperwork, is new to me."

This should be a smooth segue, not sink or swim. Ms. Pickford, well-liked by staff and surgeons, is a willing student with a mother hen, den mother and grandmother to lean on and learn from in Ms. Sinnk, famous for her pithy sayings known around the surgery center as Connie-isms. A few we can print:

  • "Good OR nurses are like hen's teeth: hard to find."
  • "They're not my rules. I'm the keeper of the rules."
  • "I was born at night, but not last night."
  • "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark, and it ain't the cheese."

As part of her ongoing orientation, Ms. Pickford went to her first surgical conference last month, taking in all she could in the exhibit hall and in the classrooms at the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Ms. Sinnk was there, too, not because she had to, but because she wanted to be.

"It's my baby. I want it to be a smooth transition so that it's not disruptive for our patients and doctors when I'm gone," says Ms. Sinnk. "Our responsibility is to teach the next generation because they are the future of nursing. When I leave, I want to know I did a good thing and a good job."

Not a bad way to be remembered. Will that be your legacy when you resign your post?

"I have to live up to her, and I'm looking forward to it," says Ms. Pickford. "You have no idea how much we're going to miss her." OSM

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