‘Meet patients where they are’

Portrait of Jenna Brink, Physician Assistant, APP Supervisor
Jenna Brink

APP spotlight

Jenna Brink, Physician Assistant and APP supervisor
Emergency Medicine, University Hospital and East Madison Hospital

What are you doing in your work area that is interesting and new?

Working in the Emergency Department, I like operational efficiencies. I enjoy looking at processes and figuring out what we can do to improve both patient and employee satisfaction. I recently had an opportunity to participate in a rapid improvement event for University Hospital. One of the areas I am most proud of is the partnership that formed between our medical intensive care unit (MICU), advanced practice provider (APP) teams and emergency management APPs. I can take care of a wide variety of patients from the simple ankle sprain to the most critically ill.

When an opportunity came to partner with the MICU team to help address staffing issues, I knew my teammates would be the perfect solution. We spend countless hours working through the process and recruiting APPs and I am proud to say we successfully created a cohort that also works in the MICU. This unique program is an excellent model to help with both staffing and retention as it allows people to learn a new skill set while working in their home area.

Wellness is another area of interest. One of my goals in the coming years is to spend time understanding APP wellness — what it looks like and implementing changes to help.

What do you love most about working at UW Health?

When I graduated from physician assistant school and was looking for my first job, I was very honored to be offered a position here at UW Health. I have always been impressed that UW Health provides innovative, quality patient care along with educating future providers.

What are a few words to describe your co-workers and team at UW Health?

I genuinely love and value each member of our team — they are some of the hardest working, dedicated and smart people I know. We look out for one another and help when needed. Whether personal or just a rough shift, we are there to support each other.

What have your patients taught you?

Working in the Emergency Department, I see patients and families on some of the worst days of their lives. All patients respond a little differently to stress. Some get angry, some quiet, some are anxious. My younger self could become frustrated by these variations in emotions and not know how to handle them. After lots of reflection and experience, I learned that the answer was easy: Meet patients where they are. I have learned that even though I am generally a multitasking person with hundreds of thoughts running through my head, I truly enjoy the moments where I can sit down and connect with my patients. These are the moments in my job that I cherish.

Tell us about your family.

Family is such an important part of my life. I live with my long-term partner, Bill, who is a nurse here at UW Health. It is nice to have a partner that understands some of the many daily stressors that come with working in health care. My parents still reside in my hometown of Medford, Wis. When I look back to my childhood, I see that many of the characteristics I need to be a successful physician assistant were instilled in me from a young age. Determination, hard work and dedication, to name a few. My brother and sister-in-law live in Waunakee with my nephew, Theo.

Outside of work, what did you accomplish in the past year that makes you proud?

Last fall, I sustained an injury that prevented me from long evening walks with podcasts. I was worried about my stress as a result. I decided I could either allow myself to be depressed or find new stress reduction techniques I returned to past hobbies such as reading and putting puzzles together, and taught myself paper quilling. Before I knew it, I had healed. I’ve continued these hobbies and am back to walking and podcasts. I have also found a passion for weightlifting. I always had a desire to feel physically strong so this past January, I told my personal trainer I had dreams of doing a body weight pull-up — but I didn’t think I could ever do it. I also wanted to get into barbell squats and deadlifts. I now train regularly. While I haven’t quite mastered a body weight pull-up yet, I am getting stronger and that makes me proud.