Christine Wade joined UTMB in 2012 and has spent the majority of her career managing high-volume trauma centers. In addition to support services, she oversees two emergency departments (Galveston and League City campuses), including a level 1 trauma center, level 1 burn center, two medical-surgical units, nursing house supervisors and the designated emerging infectious disease biocontainment unit and program—which she spearheaded. She also recently served as interim vice president of hospital operations while the Health System completed a national search.
Wade holds a master’s degree in nursing from Columbia University in New York and is considered an expert in the field of emergency nursing. She is actively involved in extensive domestic and international health care volunteerism and emergency relief. Most recently, she became involved with the American Heart Association, serving as co-chair for the Bay Area and Galveston region annual fundraising events.
We recently celebrated UTMB’s tremendous success with Best Care. What are your thoughts on how UTMB can maintain its five-star performance?
We need to continue supporting our staff and give them the tools they need to continue providing top-notch care to our patients. Our staff is the heart and soul of UTMB and they are our most valuable asset.
You oversee UTMB’s Trauma Center in Galveston, which sees more than 45,000 patients annually. What do you find to be the most difficult and rewarding parts of your job?
Running a level 1 trauma center, we see patients and visitors during some of the worst events of their lives—the majority of them totally unexpected. While the staff is trained to handle these types of situations, you never get used to it. However, caring for patients and their families is certainly rewarding. I also get great satisfaction as I see my staff grow, return to school and progress in their own careers. One of the most important job responsibilities I have is to mentor my staff—at times providing little nudges and encouragement to help them reach their full potential.
What is the largest misconception you think patients have about coming to the ER?
That you are going to have to wait. That you are going to be there all day. At the UTMB Galveston ED, we pride ourselves on an empty lobby—that’s because no one returns to the lobby once you check into the ED. We have an average of six minutes from when the patient arrives to when they are in the treatment area. This is one of the lowest times in the country. Not too long ago, we ranked No. 3 for ED throughput when compared to other academic medical centers. We will keep working until we reach No. 1.
What inspired you to go into trauma medicine?
I am a third-generation nurse. My mother and both of my grandmothers were nurses. Most of my aunts are nurses, as well. I was raised to believe that nurses are amazing. As a family, we never really all sat at a holiday dinner at one time because people were always coming and going from various shifts at the hospital. I have always been drawn to the controlled but chaotic nature of emergency rooms—I like the frenetic pace and always working through different challenging situations. I finally gave up saying I have “seen it all” years ago—because honestly, I see something new every week and still get surprised.
How do you stay calm and level-headed in the Emergency Department work environment?
A true emergency room nurse becomes calmer as things get more hectic. We are trained to handle a crisis and not to panic. We live for the messy, crazy, loud, chaotic day.
You’ve gone on multiple medical missions. How have these trips impacted you as an employee and as a person?
I have traveled all over the world from China to Haiti doing volunteer medical missions and emergency relief. If I ever win the lottery, that is what I would do full-time. It has made me grateful to live in the United States, where we not only have the most basic of resources such as clean water, food and sanitation, but also access to the best medical care in the world. When I’m on a mission trip, patients and their families are so grateful you are there to help them.
What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Career-wise, the best advice a past mentor ever gave me was, “Make it easy for the staff to do the right thing.”
Where are you most likely to be found outside of work?
Outside of work, I am with my family, who are my top priority always. I love to golf, read, watch the Philadelphia Eagles (go Birds!), and recently, as a family, we began volunteering at our local animal shelter.
I also live to travel. Traveling and seeing the world outside our own community is a true educational experience. My husband and I have dragged our two kids from Thailand to Italy to the jungle of Panama. One of my greatest travel accomplishments was traveling to Tanzania, Africa and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro with my husband. At over 19,300 feet and one of the seven summits (the highest mountains of the world’s seven continents), it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The feeling after reaching the summit was so rewarding, I began to think “What else can I accomplish?”