By Twyla James
My name is Twyla James, MSN, RN, CNS and I have been working at Ascension St. Joseph’s Hospital for 32 years. My career allows me to provide for my family, while also giving back and treating people who may not return to the comfort of their own home.
Attending Alverno College of Nursing program was an amazing opportunity for me to further my education and career while simultaneously working a full-time job. I was overjoyed when I heard that Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s and Alverno College’s JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing were exploring alliance opportunities. Due to this alliance my hope is that non-traditional students like myself will consider returning to further their education.
Once finalized, this partnership would provide a north side presence for Alverno’s current south-side campus; opening the door for more flexible options for students to attend class. With the north side presence, I would love to see a more diverse graduating class and workforce. This is a great opportunity for traditional and non-traditional students who are committed to providing compassionate, personalized care to our community.
I am the youngest of three children born to Phil Elderson and Edna Corean Banks. My father was born on April 19, 1918 in the Mississippi Delta region, where his parents were farmers. At that time, he and his six brothers helped to farm the land while attending school. He completed eighth grade, which at the time was the highest level of schooling in that area for Blacks. As an adult, my father enlisted in the Army and served in World War II.
After completing his service for this country, he wanted to move to the North where he felt educational opportunities would be better for his future children. He settled in Milwaukee where he met and married my mother. She was born in Mississippi and her parents moved to Milwaukee when she was 13 years old.
After marrying my father and having three children, my mother returned to college earning an Associate Degree in Social Services and Mortuary Science. She eventually went into the funeral business and opened Banks Funeral Home. Although my father did not have the opportunity to further his education, both of my parents were big proponents for getting an education and it was an expectation to attend college after graduating high school. My older siblings also graduated from college.
I attended the University of Oshkosh, but after my freshman year I returned to Milwaukee and enrolled into Milwaukee Area Technical College Nursing Program. In 1985, I was awarded an Associate Degree in Nursing. I began working at Wheaton Franciscan Health Care in 1987, married in 1989 and with the assistance of my then husband, tuition reimbursement from Wheaton Franciscan Health Care, I enrolled in Marian College’s BSN completion program. In 1991 I was awarded a Baccalaureate degree in Nursing.
In 2006, my father passed away and my mother began living with my family. My mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and received treatment in 2012. Fast forward to 2014, I’m now 52 years old, divorced with one adult daughter attending Alverno and I decide to return to graduate school. I enrolled in Alverno College Master of Nursing program in the Clinical Nurse Specialist track. I chose Alverno because they offered a weekend program for their non-traditional students.
In spring 2015, my mother’s cancer returned. During this difficult time, I continued to work full-time and managed to graduate school while I assisted in the care of our mother. Unfortunately, our matriarch passed on Nov. 3, 2015. By the grace of God and the support of my family I was successful in completing my Master’s in Nursing, graduating as a Clinical Nurse Specialist on Dec. 15, 2018.
Death, discrimination, divorce, debt, cancer and everyday life would make anyone want to give up on life completely. I’ve learned many lessons throughout my life and one that speaks true to my story in my latter years is that it’s never too late to attend college. B.B. King once said, Education is the one thing that no one can take from you.
Q & A with Ascension St. Joseph’s Hospital Registered Nurse Twyla James
• Can you provide a timeline of your roles & departments since you started at St. Joseph Hospital in 1987?
St Joseph Hospital
1987-1989 7-West Medical Unit as a staff nurse
1989-2013- Operating Room nurse, promoted to patient care supervisor in 2005, responsible for
the service lines of cardiac, vascular, neurological, and orthopedic surgery.
2013-present- Patient Care Supervisor in Ambulatory Services for (SJH & EMH Outpatient Departments, Pain Management Clinic, and SJH radiology nurses)
• Why did you choose to go into healthcare?
This is going to sound cliché…but I wanted to be a nurse ever since I was a little girl. I liked the idea of helping people.
• What do you enjoy most about your work at St. Joseph?
What I enjoy most about working at St Joseph Hospital is the sense of family, community and diversity.
• Trust and listening is important to patients – how do you build trust with your patients?
In order to build trust with a patient I must be genuine and not judgmental. I try to meet patients where they are with their health needs. I never want my patient to feel like I don’t have time for them or dismiss what they’re trying to convey.
• Patient Success Stories are inspirational and give people hope. Is there a past/recent patient success story you can share?
I don’t have one specific success story, however, when I was an operating room, I would visit some of the post-op open heart surgery patients. It was gratifying to see their progress.
• What activities/interests do you enjoy outside of work? (Hobbies/sports/family/etc.)
I enjoy the performing arts, bike riding, gardening and entertaining family and friends.
I am the proud mother of one adult daughter…one of my greatest accomplishments. I also serve as the parish nurse and a Sunday school teacher at my local church, Triad Ministries. I am active within my neighborhood association and with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
• Favorite season?
I enjoy all the seasons, but summer and fall are my favorite…Wisconsin winters are way too long.
• Favorite reality tv show?
The Biggest Loser, but I don’t think that the show comes on anymore.
• Summerfest or State Fair?
I attend both and some of the other ethnic festivals.
• Michael Jackson or Prince?
I saw Prince in concert during his Purple Rain tour in Chicago!!!
• iPhone or Android?
• Packers or Bears?