NeShana Bilbrew, RN, was a simulations engineer, developing algorithms for a missile systems company in Arizona when her mom was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
Her mom had surgery to remove the tumor at Our Lady of the Lake Health.
“I was so moved by the way her doctors, nurses and staff on the oncology unit cared for her, and our whole family really, during her stay,” says Bilbrew, who knew she wanted to be closer to home and that it would require an industry change.
“Battling cancer is such a scary and uncertain time for patients and families; they comforted and supported us the same as family would,” she says. “That experience helped me realize that nursing was how I wanted to make an impact in the lives of others.”
Becoming a Nurse
Bilbrew moved back to Baton Rouge, enrolled in the nursing program at Our Lady of the Lake College, now Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (FranU), and became a registered nurse.
“My first job as an RN was with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center oncology, on the very unit that cared for my mom and inspired me to become a nurse,” Bilbrew says. She has been part of our ministry for 10 years so far.
Another Career Shift
After working three years as a nurse, Bilbrew’s career took another turn when she became an Epic application analyst for our health system’s shared services team. Epic powers MyChart, our electronic medical record system.
“I help build the apps that our physicians and providers use when caring for patients during a hospital stay,” she says. “I work with an amazing team of clinicians who partner with our providers on everything from what they order and see in the patient’s chart all the way to making sure their patients get the right instructions at the time of discharge.”
The work she does now blends her technology skills and healthcare training to improve patient care.
“Not everyone gets their dream job, but for me this really is the best of both worlds!” she says. “I love that I get to work for an organization where I don’t have to separate from my values and beliefs to fit in. Being able to lead with compassion and in service to others is important for me, and the work I do here aligns with that.”
Bilbrew is passionate about helping others grow.
“I participate on committees and special projects such as the Shared Services DEI Council and leading the development of the IS ReBOOT program,” Bilbrew says.
Focusing on improving and refining her skills is important too.
“I like to keep a list of areas I want to strengthen, think of someone who does that well and find an opportunity to connect with them,” Bilbrew says. “I also look for ways to share my strengths with them so that relationship becomes a shared growth experience.”
Bilbrew has a bachelor of science in physics from Southern University and credits her physics professor Dr. Diola Bagayoko as a major influence in her career path.
“He drilled into us the Power Law of Human Performance: the mathematical expression that ‘practice makes perfect,’” she says. It establishes that nothing is perfect but with diligence and skill development proficiency can be achieved.
“Dr. Bagayoko taught us to adapt to change, to remain open and curious for the lessons and to always seek solutions over just answers,” Bilbrew says. “It was this foundation in math and science that has allowed me to have a rewarding career that has spanned missile systems, to nursing to, now, application build.”
Valuing Workplace Diversity
“Diverse representation matters in healthcare because it can ease patients’ anxieties and improve compliance to see people that look like them. Diversity goes beyond what patients see front facing, to having diversity in thought, considering the range of life experiences, accounting for unique cultural perspectives and removing socioeconomic barriers,” Bilbrew says. “Diversity is critical to informing the systems and tools we use to deliver care to our most vulnerable populations.”
This year in recognition of Black History Month, our health system is reflecting on The King Center’s 2023 theme to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and life: It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset.
“I cultivate my community by assuming positive intent and leading with service,” Bilbrew says. “Whatever skills or talents I have, I believe, were given to benefit others. When you help others get what they need, you will get what you need.”
When asked about a favorite quote from a Black American thought leader, Bilbrew mentions one from Dr. King: “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
Black History Month is More Than a Month
“The contributions, challenges and accomplishments of Black people is not a separate history; they exist all year, all the time,” Bilbrew says. “Black History Month represents a time of intentional reflection and acknowledgement. It nudges us to dedicate time to not only connect to that history but to find meaningful ways to contribute to that history for the benefit of future generations.”
Our DEI Commitment
Our ministry’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion supports culturally competent care education for our team members all year long, including during Black History Month each February.