A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Courtney Speers, RN, BSN, loved the fast pace of being a floor nurse.
Since high school, Courtney dreamed of being a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital. It was worth coming home every weekend to work there as an aide during her program at Niagara University. “I wanted to have my foot in the door before I graduated,” she said.
Her strategy paid off, and she was hired at SMH right after graduation. Through her experience working on several different units through a Flex Program, she realized how much she loved the cardiology unit.
“We worked together really well as a team, and I loved the intensity and quick pace of that environment handling codes and acute issues,” she said. She loved it so much, she wanted to spend her entire career as a bedside nurse in cardiology.
But life has a way of presenting detours.
She suffered a shoulder injury at a time when her children were young. Surgery was out of the question, because as a single parent, she couldn’t afford to be out of work, nor be able to lift her kids into car seats during recovery.
She was transferred to a position working in Cardiology’s Quality Assurance Department looking at case reviews and analyzing data, a role that grew to increased responsibilities. Later, she worked as an administrator in the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Orthopaedics Quality Assurance Department.
As her skill set and experience broadened, she was recruited away from URMC and accepted a position as the director of Nursing for ARC in Ontario County, which provided clinical services, residential and day programs as well as counseling and behavioral services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I loved the position because I was able to combine my love of nursing with my love of taking care of people with special needs,” said Courtney, who has a son with autism, and tenaciously navigated and secured services he needed growing up.
Four years later, she came upon yet another detour, but one that led her back home at URMC. A former colleague in Cardiology told her about an open position at Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s Quality Assurance Department.
“While dentistry is completely different than any of the fields I’ve worked, this position is the culmination of all my skills and experience I’ve gained throughout my entire career,” she said. Courtney accepted the Associate Quality and Compliance officer position in late 2017.
After working with people with disabilities, she knew their access to dental care is very limited. “When I heard about Eastman’s leadership in this area and the new Specialty Care clinic for patients with medically complex conditions and special needs, it’s been very exciting for me to be a part of it,” she explained.
No two days are alike for Courtney and her team at Eastman, which has 180,000 patient visits a year at its five locations and three SMILEmobiles. Together they manage complex patient situations and work closely with URMC colleagues as appropriate to collaborate on care, compliance, medical emergencies and quality measures.
“We are also in charge of risk management, infection control, emergency preparedness, patient and staff safety, patient concerns, fire safety, staff health assessments, as well as students and visitors who want to shadow clinicians,” she added.
Courtney is quick to credit Dr. David Levy, Eastman Dental’s medical director and head of its Office of Quality Assurance. “He’s the most knowledgeable and supportive supervisor I could ever ask for,” she said. “He inspires me and teaches me something new every day.”
One of her favorite parts of the job is to provide education and training.
“I get to put different measures in place and try to make things better – not because they’re bad, but because we always want to be better,” explained Courtney, who embraces teamwork and leads by example. “I enjoy teaching providers and our patients how to work better together, and how understanding the bigger picture can be beneficial for everyone.”
While dentistry doesn’t offer the fast pace environment she enjoyed years ago, you can be sure Courtney is one of the first to respond to a MET call, helping patients however she can.
“I have always wanted to make a positive difference,” she added. “At Eastman, I get to do that every day.”