Brayton finds her path through Sisters of Mercy examples
story and photo by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer
Sasha Brayton’s career has been an ever-evolving cycle – from her days as an assistant and full-time nurse to advocating for those who are now doing that job.
“We go into nursing because we want to help people, we want to be there when they’re at a point where they need someone to stand there for them,” Brayton said. “Now I advocate for bedside nurses, the frontline staff.”
That advocacy came after a lot of hard work and a change of career, perhaps as interesting a professional shift as a young woman could accomplish. Brayton made that shift after working for several years in the restaurant industry, in large restaurant management and as a corporate trainer.
“I was doing really well, I was really moving up quickly, but I was missing something,” Brayton said. “I liked what I was doing, I enjoyed it and had lots of great coworkers, but it just wasn’t accomplishing what I wanted – I wasn’t making the kind of difference in peoples’ lives I knew I really needed to do.”
With that mindset, Brayton said she decided to follow a path she knew well, following her mother’s footsteps and enrolling in nursing school at University of Central Oklahoma. She was 26 year’s old.
“I was a little different than some nurses because I was a little older when I got into it,” Brayton said. “But, I knew the moment I started that it was exactly what I was meant to do.”
Graduating at 30, Brayton started as a nursing assistant at Mercy Hospital, never knowing that almost a decade later, she would still be working at the facility where she got her first practical training.
“The Sisters of Mercy – I really loved the stories of the Sisters, of their faith and their dedication to healing and to helping others – it was like they were calling to me,” Brayton said. “I just felt really drawn to that, and it was clear from the start that I found my mission here.”
Brayton’s first assignment as a Mercy nursing assistant was in the intensive care unit. It was there the new healthcare worker saw how integral the department was to the hospital, caring for some of the hospital’s most seriously ill and injured patients. The intensity of that care meant ICU nursing poses some unique challenges, as families and the patients themselves must deal with not only what could be critical physical issues, but also that emotions that went along with them.
“Working in ICU is one of my greatest passions,” Brayton said. “It really is an education in itself, and the nurses working in ICU really deal with such a wide range of conditions, situations and emotions.”
Working part-time at Mercy, Brayton for four years worked as a nurse at Mustang Public Schools. While working in her hometown and at the district where her three kids – now 11, 13 and 15 – attended school was a great position at the time, Mercy again called her back to a full-time position, a move she said was one of the smartest of her professional life.
“I just wanted more of a challenge than I found as a school nurse – as important as that job was, I missed the more intense interactions you find at a place like here,” Brayton said.
That wish for something more became a reality, when a friend working full-time at Mercy told Brayton about a house supervisor position, “probably the most fun job I’ve ever had.”
That led to Brayton’s most recent position, as manager of the hospital’s medical surgical services unit, a role she took on in October 2016.
“Since I came back full-time I’ve had amazing opportunities – one of them was having the opportunity to help in the foundation of our Learning Center,” she said. “It’s a way the hospital works to help fill the gap between nursing school and a nurse entering professional practices, and it’s a wonderful program.”
As a manager of 65 nurses in a 37-bed unit that deals primarily with patients recovering from surgery, Brayton looks at those she oversees in an unusual way. Brayton doesn’t call her nurses “staff” or “employees,” but rather co-workers – and that’s exactly how she sees them, she said.
“We have such a great group, such a diverse blend of nurses and personalities,” Brayton said. “I have co-workers who are really shy to very outgoing, some with strong personalities and others who like to perform their service without a light shining on them.”
No matter the personality, Brayton said she and her team’s most important missions are to provide support to patients, while also being the eyes and ears for physicians, making sure to catch things a doctor might not see in the limited time he or she has to visit a particular individual.
“You know you are in good company when you are able to celebrate two co-workers, nurses who have worked 40 years at Mercy,” Brayton said. “At that time, I was honored to celebrate 125 years of combined service with my co-workers.
“There are things like that, things like knowing you’ve made a patient’s life better or easier, or you’ve been there for a nurse who’s had a bad day or has been through an emotional situation,” she said. “It confirms for me every day what I knew in my heart, that this was what I was meant to do and where I was meant to be.”