Omorowa Obanor recalled a moment in her life that resonated with her long after her family moved to the United States from Nigeria when she was in high school.

“I did have an experience growing up in Nigeria where I had to be in the health care system. What was really a scary time, a time where I felt alone, it became better because of a nurse I encountered there,” Obanor said in a news release.

Experiencing qualities from that nurse, such as compassion and being fully present, impacted her future career path.

“At that moment I felt like I want to do this for other people,” she said.

Fast forward many years later and Obanor has fulfilled that goal as a doctor of nursing practice at Houston's Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Baylor St. Luke’s is part of CommonSpirit Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic health care systems, according to the organization’s website.

Obanor led a research project in 2021 that resulted in a 9.5% reduction in readmission to her hospital from surgical site infections. She said she believes in empowering patients with the knowledge to take care of themselves when they leave the hospital.

For Nurses Week, May 8-12, Obanor spoke with Community Impact to discuss her experience as a frontline nurse and how her research is impacting patient health care. Responses may have been edited for length and clarity.

What was your experience like during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Initially it was overwhelming as we geared into practices that we needed to do and practices that were in place to care for our patients. We just took that in and jumped right into action, as nurses would do. After that initial concern was gone, I think communication, especially here, was very strong. We gain our confidence with each day. We’re resilient. That’s what I think about nurses stepping in to care for our patients.

What has kept you motivated?

We sort of have to practice what we preach—making sure we have a balance of taking time off for our mental health and our physical health so we’re able to provide the best care for our patients.

Based on your experience in helping lower the readmission rate at your hospital, what’s something you would want patients to know in general about taking care of themselves following a surgery?

Patients should be able to fully understand the condition that they came in with and understand the plan of care for them to get better. You should be involved. You should leave a facility understanding the plan of care. I think every patient should say they feel empowered knowing exactly what’s going on.

Tell us a little bit more about the research aspect of nursing.

At CommonSpirit, nurse researchers have access to an ethics board, evidence-based counsel and mentors to guide you as you go through your research. I continue to monitor quality metrics and make sure we’re on the right track.

Is there something you wish people who are not nurses knew about the field?

I think the diversity of nursing is something to be aware of. Nurses also do research. They’re everywhere—in schools, at workplaces. There’s now virtual nurses that utilize telemedicine where you can talk to a nurse at the comfort of your home. They are critical thinkers who do more than just be there to provide your medication. They’re advocates for patients.