Creating Healthy Communities

Creating Healthy Communities

Creighton Nursing Alumna Recognized with National Honor

By Emily Rust

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to improving health care, especially for those living on the margins. A bus route that stops at the local health clinic or a health care professional encouraging a patient to participate in a smoking-cessation program.

For Creighton alumna Laure Marino, DNP, BSN’81, a community health nurse practitioner for 20 years, health care is about more than providing quality care — it’s about paying attention to the details that affect patients and their lives.

Often, that starts with access to care.  

“It’s great for me to provide this service, but if a patient can’t get to me, it doesn’t matter,” said Marino, director of outpatient primary care services at Highland Behavior Health Service in Charleston, W.Va.

In 2015, Marino was one of 10 nurses nationally to be awarded the Culture of Health Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award. Presented by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP, the prestigious award recognizes nurses who are working to create healthy communities.

For Marino’s patients at Highland, transportation was often an issue. She knew many came by bus, but Highland wasn’t on a bus line. So, Marino met with officials at the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority (KRT). After months of meetings and cajoling, KRT did a major reroute and added a stop close to Highland.

Lack of transportation is considered one of the social determinants of health, described by the World Health Association as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.”

“It’s one thing to have insurance; it’s another thing to have transportation or be able to pay for your gas,” Marino said.

Since moving to Charleston in 1995, Marino, a Des Moines, Iowa, native, has been active in working to combat one of the state’s biggest problems: smoking. In her practice alone, nearly a third of patients smoked. “It was a no-brainer to say that we need a robust program to help these people,” Marino said.

She put in place resources provided by West Virginia state programs. And she focused on discussing smoking with her patients. “Research shows that if you ask your patients every single time they come in, they’re more likely to quit,” Marino said.

So far, nearly half of smokers in her practice have quit. “That’s really good; that’s a lot of success,” Marino said.

She’s also helping to shape the future of health care in the state as an active member of the West Virginia Action Coalition.

Since receiving the Culture of Health Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing award, Marino has traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet the other national winners and attended a weeklong leadership development program.

“They invested in us as individuals,” Marino said of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP. “They knew we would be invested in our agencies, our institutions and our communities.”

With the state’s action coalition, Marino and others work to recruit new nurses and keep existing ones. Marino is also speaking out as an ambassador and consulting as part of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

“Nurses are the largest group of health care providers in the nation,” Marino said.