"Helping people is my calling," says Gloria K. Martin-Smith, a nurse specialist and nurse case manager in the Orthopedic Podiatry Clinic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
"Even as a young child, I was a very caring person," Martin-Smith adds. "I was the first one to assist in every task at home. I have always been very sympathetic and attentive to people's needs, especially since I had an older brother with special needs. I was very protective when it came to his care."
The native Washingtonian explained growing up, she also enjoyed watching television shows with medical themes, which in all likelihood helped fueled her passion to become a nurse. "I loved watching shows such as 'General Hospital' and 'Julia,'" she says.
Her passion led her to attend Georgetown University School of Nursing, and she has worked as a nurse at Walter Reed Bethesda since 2001.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity to work in a military setting," Martin-Smith continues, explaining it gives her a feeling of satisfaction to work with the wounded warriors and train others to follow in her footpath. "I enjoy the interaction with my co-workers and the feeling of being part of a military team. I feel I've made a difference, specifically when I've had the opportunity to mentor enlisted who have become officers."
As a nurse specialist and nurse case manager, Martin-Smith coordinates preoperative and postoperative appointments for active duty, wounded warriors and dependent surgical patients to include their physical therapy and any need they may have for assistive devices for rehabilitation. She is also responsible for educating patients and ensuring they understand their discharge instructions.
Even though patient flow has increased with the integration of National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to form WRNMMC, Martin-Smith says she makes it a point to acknowledge calls she receives from patients regarding their care, which can be as many as 20 calls a day.
"Sometimes I'm returning calls late into the evenings, and I work weekends when the clinic is busy," she explains. "But I find patients are very appreciative and some are surprised to receive an acknowledgement." One such patient expressed that appreciation on a patient feedback card, stating, "I [was] very nervous about my upcoming surgery; Nurse Martin-Smith's professionalism put it all to rest. Her calm personable concern really put me at ease. It is a pleasure to work with [her] to ensure that my surgery is a success. Thank you and keep up the great work with our wounded warriors and active duty [service members]."
Martin-Smith says she draws inspiration not only from the wounded warriors and other patients at WRNMMC, but also from the eldest of her two sons, who is disabled.
"He inspires me to be the best mother and person with his unconditional love, and service members have sacrificed so much for country to make our lives better," she explains.
Martin-Smith's colleagues agree patients are her first priority.
"She was the Orthopedic Clinic customer advocate for two years and resolved a number of patient issues," said Lt. Cmdr. John B. McGlorthan, Orthopedic Division Officer at WRNMMC. "She works well with her co-workers and external customers to the clinic, and goes out of her way to assist both internal and external customers. She has gotten many written and verbal accolades for her efforts. She is willing to go above and beyond to assist our patients."
Head nurse and office manager of Orthopedic Surgery Service, Bonnie L. Dwyer calls Martin-Smith "a dedicated, selfless, caring nurse with a gentle giving professional manner. I am pleased to work with her."
According to the American Nursing Association, "nursing is a profession that embraces dedicated people with varied interests, strengths and passion," and Martin-Smith embodies these qualities, says her patients and co-workers. National Nurses Week, celebrated annually May 6-12, salutes the dedication of nurses such as Martin-Smith. This year's theme for the observance is "Nurses: Advocating, Leading, Caring." Martin-Smith advocates for patients; leads in ensuring they receive the world-class care available at WRNMMC; and cares for not only the patients, but also for those with whom she works. "She has coordinated many Orthopedic Service luncheons for departing individuals, which assisted in facilitating camaraderie with our staff members," McGlorthan explains.
Martin-Smith says although there aren't enough hours in the day to complete all her tasks, she always tries to present a positive attitude and a smile. "I sit down to talk to patients to offer them options." She says she wants patients to know they are the Number One priority at WRNMMC.
"I would just like to be remembered as a compassionate person who's always present with a smile."