You Make a Difference: DSHS celebrates Nurses Month — Behavioral Health Administration


Stock photo of people in nurses scrubs, text “May is Nurses Month #ThankANurse”

In honor of Nurses Month, we’ve been sharing stories from nurses throughout the Department of Social and Health Services. Please consider taking time to #ThankANurse this month.

A couple of nurses from our Behavioral Health Administration were gracious enough with their time to answer a few questions we had about being nurses and how we can #ThankANurse.

We talked with Susan Morgan, a nurse at Eastern State Hospital, and Andrew Jones and Rebekah M. Littleton, nurses at Western State Hospital.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Susan Morgan, nurse at Eastern State Hospital
Susan Morgan, nurse at Eastern State Hospital

Susan Morgan: I have been a registered nurse for 39 years. I received my BSN in 1983 from Washington State University College of Nursing and my MSN in Leadership and Management from Western Governors University in 2017.

My background before working at Eastern State Hospital includes acute inpatient medical/rehabilitation, pediatric intensive care, pediatric and adult in-home care, school nursing, pediatric allergy nursing, working as an office nurse for a psychiatric nurse practitioner and jail nursing.

Andrew Jones, nurse at Western State Hospital
Andrew Jones, nurse at Western State Hospital

Andrew Jones: My father was in the Air Force and my mother was an LPN. I lived my formative years in Great Britain and Germany. I have lived in Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation. I graduated from Bethel High School in Spanaway, Washington. I have earned an Associate of Arts degree, Bachelor of Nursing degree, and Master of Nursing degree. I was married to my wife for 18 years and I am a father of one offspring.

Rebekah M. Littleton, nurse at Western State Hospital
Rebekah M. Littleton, nurse at Western State Hospital

Rebekah M. Littleton: I am honored to talk about my experiences as a nurse for Washington state. I started at the age of 18 in 1985 as a Hospital Attendant at Western. I worked for several years on the admissions ward. This job is always challenging and no two days are alike. I went to school and earned my Practical Nursing degree in 1995. I have worked as an LPN since.

In 2006, I received an opportunity to work for the Department of Corrections in Aberdeen, Washington. I loved working there and it, too, was challenging with no two days alike. I worked with minimum- to maximum-security offenders. I was able to use my nursing skills beyond what I had ever imagined. I responded to medical emergencies and helped run their mental health medication project. I also assisted with their hypertension clinics. I worked in the infirmary dealing with complicated medical diagnoses. We did end-of-life care and provided lifesaving services. The work was rewarding.

What other jobs have you worked at Eastern/Western or throughout DSHS or BHA?

SM: Three years ago, I was hired as an RN2 to work 1N1. Last August I started working on 2N3 as an RN3. I hope to finish out the remainder of my nursing career at ESH.

AJ: I started working at WSH as a mental health technician in 1990. After 12 years of working as a MHT1, I earned a BSN and became a RN. I then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and worked as a neuroscience nurse. I later transferred to McNeil Island Correctional Center and worked as a correctional nurse before transferring back to WSH. At WSH I have been a MHT1, RN2, RN3, RN4 and CNS.

RL: I returned to WSH in 2016 after my grandmother fell ill. She wanted me closer to her. I accepted a job in nursing administration as a Mental Health Technician 5. I continued to be challenged every day. I was teaching new nurses medication administration though our current MediMAR and Pyxis systems. I was on committees that promoted safe medication practices. I enjoyed our Safe Medication Committees in particular. We met with all three shifts of Super User Nurses to discuss any issues that may have arisen regarding medication administration. We were able to bring those issues forward to upper management for resolutions. Our Safe Medication Committees frequently identified issues as well as practical solutions.

What do you enjoy most about being a nurse?

SM: I enjoy most the hands-on caring aspect of nursing. I also love leadership and problem solving to help the ward function well. All these interests combined is what I love most about my job as an RN3 on 2N3 evening shift!

AJ: Having unlimited opportunities available throughout the world with prospects for advancement.

RL: I think being able to work on issues with the experience of working with patients made me a better MHT5. I hope to return to that kind of nursing in the future. I enjoy educating new nurses. It is good to see the point when they get it. I like to be the person that helps the new nurse see it.

Today? I work on a ward with 25 patients. They all have different challenges and issues that keep them at WSH. I like seeing progress and having conversations with them about recovery. These patients are brave and hopeful. They continue to get up everyday to see what is happening. They look forward to discharge but at the same time are a bit scared. The world is full of challenges we face every day. Doing that and coping with mental illness can be overwhelming. I work for the patients these days. My job is challenging and rewarding.

What is a simple way someone can show gratitude or thank a nurse?

SM: Simple ways to thank a nurse is to recognize the job they do by writing a little note, telling us thank you or even just a smile will do!

AJ: Just by saying “thank you.”

RL: I know people are wondering how to thank a nurse. I know telling a nurse how what they did was positive helps. Nurses appreciate gifts suggestions are: gift certificates, coffee mugs with lids and water bottles, Starbucks, surprise parties, nurses like to potluck, snacks, the list goes on and on. How would you thank a friend? Thank a nurse the same way.

Anything else you would like to add?

AJ: If I can become a nurse, anyone can!

RL: I know working at Western State Hospital can have its challenges and it is not for everyone. I was scared when I walked through the doors in 1985. I feel confident every morning. I think about what keeps me here. Why I chose to return after 10 years. It boils down to the patients. They need care. They have been taken out of society and don’t have “normal.” We try to provide normal for them. We work with them to get them ready for discharge. I have talked with a couple of nurses that have over 30 years of state service themselves. They agree with me. We are here for the patients. Our work matters.

It doesn’t matter the kind of work you are doing if you are working with excellent people. You can do anything if you have the right team.