Honored Nurse: No Plans to Retire After 37 Years on Midnight Shift

by U.S. Medicine

November 12, 2016

By Steve Spotswood

Drema Bratton, RN

Drema Bratton, RN

HUNTINGTON, WV—Drema Bratton, RN, has made it very clear that she has no plans to retire. “They’re going to have to pry me out of here,” declared Huntington VAMC’s Nurse of the Year. “I don’t see why anyone would retire from a job they love doing.”

She said this having just finished her midnight shift on an inpatient unit at the VAMC. It’s the same shift she’s had since coming to work at the hospital 37 years ago—a job that she worked hard to get.

“My husband is an Air Force veteran and he kept prodding and prodding me. ‘You need to go to the VA; you need to go to the VA.’ And that’s exactly what I did,’” she said. “It took a long time. I think I worked at it for about a year. At that time, they had quite a list of people who wanted to work at the VA. But I called and called and called, and finally I got it.”

Even though the job at the VA meant a pay cut from the community hospital where she’d been working since graduating from Marshall University seven years before, she never regretted it. “The hospital provides so much care for veterans—so much that I don’t think they’re aware of everything they have entitled to them.”

The midnight shift on an inpatient clinic can be both much quieter than the day shift yet more fraught with crisis. This is especially true when dealing with older patients. “You see more confused patients,” Bratton explained. “We have sundowners—they get real confused after it gets dark. The chance of a person falling also increases during the nighttime, and sudden death increases during the nighttime.”

Nurses on the midnight shift are required to be both keenly observant and very self-reliant. “You have to be a strong person, because you’re basically on your own,” Bratton recounted. “You have to identify problems prior to them happening. Pick up on little, subtle things. You don’t have all the staff and support that the day shift has.”

The midnight shift also had a lot of practical appeal for Bratton. It allowed her to go home during the day and help her husband with his privately-owned company—a business they still operate and for which she still spends her daytime hours doing taxing and billing.

In July 2015, it became even more important that her morning hours stay free. Her husband, Gary Bratton, fell ill, spending two weeks on a ventilator and a month as an inpatient. When he was finally able to return home, he required dialysis—so his wife received training to provide it to him. These days, when her shift at Huntington is over at 8 a.m., she hurries so she can begin her husband’s dialysis—a process that takes about four hours from start to finish.

Bratton was awarded the VAMC’s Nurse of the Year award in May, although she missed the ceremony because she was caring for her husband.

Asked what advice she would give to a nurse starting work at the VA today, Bratton said, “I appreciate the years I had at the community hospital. I learned a lot, and it was a good starting point for me. Working at the VA has been very different, but if they just come in and be open-minded and follow-up and learn, they won’t have any problem at all.”


Comments are closed here.

Related Articles

Efficiency at Expense of Effectiveness? Legislators Blast VBA Management

Recent problems with initiatives implemented by the Veterans Benefits Administration point to much larger, systemic issues in how the agency rolls out new programs, according to the VA Office of the Inspector General.

Senate VA Committee Chair Vows to Pass ‘Blue Water’ Navy Benefits

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) vowed that addressing benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans “is no longer going to be a question,” but that “how we do it is the only question.”

U.S. Medicine Recommends

More From department of veterans affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Senate VA Committee Chair Vows to Pass 'Blue Water' Navy Benefits

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) vowed that addressing benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans “is no longer going to be a question,” but that “how we do it is the only question.”

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VHA Makes Progress in Improving Safety of Opioid Prescribing

VHA medical facilities should ensure that its providers are following three key opioid risk mitigation strategies, including conducting urine drug screening, a recent report recommended.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA faces healthcare staffing shortages, barriers to hiring facility leaders

A facility-specific survey found that 138 of 140 VA facilities reported shortages of medical officers, with psychiatry and primary care positions being the most frequently listed.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veteran nephrologist labors to improve ESRD treatment at VA

When Terrence O’Neil, MD, retired as chief of nephrology at the James H. Quillen VAMC in Johnson City in December 2016, he left in his wake decades of work treating kidney disease—nearly 35 years in the Air Force and DoD, plus 11 more at VA.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Committee approves bill to provide agent orange benefits to ‘blue water’ vets

A long sought-after bill that would make it easier for Blue Water Navy veterans to receive Agent Orange benefits has been passed by a key House of Representatives committee.

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up