Meet Julie Davis, ED and Med/Surg Manager

By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Alpine Mountaineer, Editor

Registered nurse Julie Davis may be the manager of the emergency department (ED) at Mountains Community Hospital but that doesn’t mean patients won’t see her out on the floor. “I don’t think I can be a good manag­er without being on the front lines,” Davis said. “Without working on the floor, I can’t make improvements. I wouldn’t know what’s broken. I wouldn’t know what the nurses are saying unless I’m on the floor. “I would never ask the other nurses to do something I’m not willing to do. Last winter I jumped on a few ambulances for critical transport.”

Davis became the ED manager a year ago. And then, last July, she was also made manager of the medical/surgical depart­ment at the hospital. She and her husband, Matt Justini­ano, moved to Lake Arrowhead from Scotland, S.D., where Davis had gone on a three-year scholarship to work at a rural hospital. Because their daughter, Rian, was born there, the couple ended up staying for five years.

Both Davis and Justiniano are California natives. Their goal was to move back to the state to be closer to family. “We always had it in our minds to come back but didn’t know exactly where,” Davis said. She started looking for jobs. “I didn’t know MCH existed,” Davis said, adding her family had vacationed on the mountain when she was growing up but, fortunately, had no need for a hospital when they were here. Davis flew out and interviewed for the ED manager position, which she was offered.

While in South Dakota, Davis kept getting promoted. After getting her MBA at the University of South Dakota, she became the director of finance at the Landmann Jungman Memorial Hospital. “I went from being the director of nursing to the director of finance,” she said. And while she preferred the nursing side of her career, the finance side gave her insight into how the hospital functioned as a whole.

“It made me a better nurse and patient advocate knowing the finance side. It made me fiscally responsible and helped me with budgeting.” While in the finance position, Davis said, she went through two audits and several state surveys. “I can bring those skills to MCH to make sure we’re state compliant,” she said. Davis sees serving her nurses as her main goal. “I have never led a more competent team in my life. I would trust them with my child – and that’s saying something,” she said.

“We all work together. The nurses here understand the necessity of teamwork. We value that and each other. You get very close with one another when you’re working in the trenches.” As for taking on the second manage­rial position, Davis said the hospital was seeking a new medical/surgical department manager without success. “When I was the director of nursing in South Dakota, I had managed both the ED and med/surg so I am familiar with the med/surg department and the rules and regulations that go along with it.”

In both managerial positions, Davis leads the nurses, does the scheduling, provides educational opportunities, orders new equipment. “They have had a lot of turnover in management so I have been working to gain their trust,” Davis said. She is helped by two clinical coordi­nators she calls amazing. Lainie Hilleary has 15 years experience in the ED and just became the ED clinical coordinator in July. “She is instrumental in doing day-to-day things,” Davis said. Cindy Skowron was already in place as the med/surg clinical coordinator. “Cindy has been wonderful in welcoming me to the team,” Davis said. “She has been instrumental in helping pave the way so I can make positive changes. “They are both amazing women. I tell them all the time their work is noticed and appreciated.”

Davis’ first career was not in nursing but as an elementary school teacher. She spent time teaching at juvenile hall in Orange County. “I always wanted to work with underserved populations,” she said. “Everyone in my family was in medicine so I said I’d do something different.” She found working with the incar­cerated youth interesting but difficult. “It was disheartening to see my students come back. They needed someone to believe in them. Some were third-generation gang members. It was a very difficult job. I wanted to take them all home and show them a different way.” She moved to London, where she taught for a year, then taught for 18 months in New Zealand.

But then Davis felt called to nursing, went to school and got her bachelor’s degree in nursing and took a job in Boise, Idaho, at a Level 2 trauma center. “They really made me a trauma and ED nurse,” she said. “I went into nursing because I wanted to do more on the front lines,” Davis said. Her teaching background has given her patience, Davis said. There are, she noted, similarities between teaching and nursing. “We educate patients every day. My teaching style allows me to educate patients better. Now I’m teaching people how to care for themselves.” When a patient doesn’t hear you, Davis said, you have to try a different approach. “That’s why it takes a team. We all connect differently.”

What does Davis like best about being a nurse? “I like being able to be part of people’s lives when they’re most scared. I can provide care and reassurance.” Outside of work, Davis enjoys riding her bike and hiking. “That’s what drew us to Lake Arrowhead,” she said. She and Justiniano recently bought a home in Lake Arrowhead. When she asked her husband if they were moving again, his answer was, “We’ve found our home.”