Instead, 20 years ago — one year after she married her husband, Bob, ex-Navy — she walked into what is now Christus Spohn Hospital as a certified nursing assistant — bottom of the proverbial rung.
Today, she is a registered nurse, holds a master’s in leadership nursing, is a weekend charge nurse and has just been elected Christus Spohn’s shared governance chair for the local region.
Nursing wasn’t going to be her profession.
“I grew up working on my parents’ ranch near Pawnee,” she recalls. “I wanted to be a veterinarian.”
But Marty, who is the youngest of three children, found that time and circumstances intervened.
“I was born late, so when my parents’ health started to deteriorate, I found I was having to care for them more.” Her interest in caring for humans, instead of animals, started then.
Two months after being hired, she was promoted to unit clerk — transcribing doctors’ orders, answering telephones, organizing medical records. But along with the title was employment full time.
With the goal of becoming a registered nurse, Marty started classes that year at what now is Coastal Bend College.
“My manager kept encouraging me to stay in school,” Marty says.
In the fall of 1998, she entered the RN program at Victoria College.
A year later, to gain some practical experience, she was accepted in VC’s Licensed Vocational Nursing program for the summer semester.
It was professionally advantageous, she says,
She was graduated with an RN associate degree in 2000.
Three years later, Christus Spohn named her a unit manager for medical/surgical, radiation and the telemetry unit.
With her eyes planted firmly on the educational prize, in 2005 she took part-time classes at CBC — courses Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi required to complete a bachelor’s degree.
She was graduated in 2009; one month later, she entered the university’s master’s degree program in nursing leadership, which she earned two years later.
Marty immediately applied to enter the university’s nurse education program — four classes, one each semester.
She should receive her certificate next year. The hospital has paid for most of her educational journey.
That the tuition reimbursement program was a good investment is indicated by a program Marty began at Christus Spohn Hospital-Shoreline in Corpus Christi to prevent patients falling. The number of falling incidents fell dramatically.
Is a Ph.D. next?
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she says. “But my husband says I might as well keep going.”
She may not have the time.
Currently, she works weekends at Christus Spohn as a charge nurse, and spends one day each week in Corpus Christi as the shared governance chair for the local region — which includes Spohn hospitals in Beeville, Alice, Kingsville and three in Corpus Christi.
“I work with frontline nurses, those by the bedside,” she explains. “I’m helping to empower them to have a voice to improve patient outcomes.” It allows them to extend their influence into administrative areas previously controlled by managers.
“I also work to retrain nurses in this time of a nursing shortage,” she says. To that end, she says she works to get flexible hours for nurses and a competitive salary.
And, looking back over her own career, she stresses, “I want to make sure nurses have the education that they need.”
“Nursing shared governance is an important way for nurses to have a voice in their professional practice,” says Jim Cato, the hospital system’s chief nursing executive.
Still, that idea of working with animals lingers, sort of.
“I miss the animals, but I don’t miss the work.”
But, at home, she and Bob relax with two lambs, two dogs and three cats.
She also continues to look forward. “My long-term goal, maybe in five years or so, is to be an educator at a university.”
Maybe that Ph.D. already is a goal, if silent.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.