Clifford C. Pyne, MSN, ACNP-BC

Clifford C. Payne

Bachelor of Science in Nursing '93

Like many young men shortly after graduating from high school, Clifford C. Pyne, Daemen Class of 1993, joined the Navy to see the world and perhaps build a lifetime career.

Selecting the Navy’s Hospital Corps because of his latent interest in medicine, Pyne built a military career in nursing spanning more than 21 years before retiring last summer as a lieutenant commander.

Along the way he has earned three academic degrees in nursing, initiated and coordinated a heart failure clinic, served in military hospitals in Spain and Sicily as well as the huge Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia; prowled the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Persian Gulf theaters on a guided missile cruiser, and worked as a staff nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Buffalo General Hospital.

He also was deployed on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, providing medical assistance to residents of that devastated city.

Pyne holds two Naval Commendation Medals, the latter for his service as a cardiology nurse practitioner at the Heart Failure Clinic at Portsmouth, which he developed. It now serves more than 600 patients, many of them retired military personnel from all service branches.

The Daemen/Rosary Hill Alumni Association selected Pyne as one of its Distinguished Alumni for 2008.

His degrees include a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Daemen, a Master of Science degree from the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore, and an associate’s degree in nursing from the Delaware Technical and Community College. Pyne’s Master’s concentration was acute care nurse practitioner. He is board-certified in the field and is entitled to use the designation, ACNP-BC, after his name.

Currently Pyne is a nurse practitioner at the Peninsula Center Institute in Newport News, Virginia, where he is responsible for the evaluation, referral and management of oncology patients. He also teaches nurse practitioner and advanced cardiac life support courses at Old Dominion College and volunteers several hours a week at the Chesapeake Free Clinic, seeing uninsured cardiology patients.

Pyne’s journey began in North Buffalo’s Parker Avenue neighborhood. Then his parents, James and Elaine Pyne, migrated to the Armor-Duells section of Hamburg when he was a young boy. He attended Hamburg public schools, graduating in from Hamburg Senior High School in 1981. Pyne’s early schooling was especially important because that’s when his future wife, Susan, entered his life.

Using the informal, easy-going conversational manner that’s his style, Pyne recalls:
“Actually, we’ve known each other since middle school, but when we got to high school, we knew each other better through the band. She played the clarinet and came to our house to take lessons from my father, who was a clarinetist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in those days. We dated some in our junior and senior years but really didn’t get together until after college.”

Today they have two children. A son, Robert Andrew, is 21 and studying criminal justice at James Madison University, while their daughter, Jessica Lynn, is a high school junior hoping to study medicine at the University of Virginia.

Pyne and Susan went to separate Pennsylvania colleges. “For me, it just didn’t work out so I decided to join the Navy in October, 1983. I’m not exactly sure why I chose the Navy, but my father’s brother was in the Navy and he died very young in a boating accident. Somehow, the Navy always intrigued me, much more than the other services,” he candidly related. “I picked the Hospital Corps because I was in pre-med when I went to college, and I’ve always enjoyed working with people,” Pyne added.

Boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois followed, along with Hospital Corps and Field Medical School before his first posting, to the naval hospital in Groton, Connecticut.

Two years of sea duty on the U.S.S. Kidd, a guided missile destroyer, followed. “We were in the company of the U.S.S. Iowa and carried 350 seamen and 30 officers,” Pyne said. Part of that duty included escorting oil tankers through the Persian Gulf during the Persian Gulf crisis of the 1980s.

After four years of active duty as an enlisted man, Pyne transferred to the active reserves, earned his associate’s degree in nursing and returned to Buffalo, where he became a staff nurse in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Buffalo General Hospital in May, 1990.

“The General was a little hesitant to hire me because I only had an associate degree, but they took a chance on me and knew I wanted to earn my Bachelor’s degree,” Pyne recalled.

According to Pyne’s wife, Susan, “his work at BGH, and a sincere desire to return to active duty military service prompted him to explore schooling options so he could earn his Bachelor’s degree in nursing. After acceptance at Daemen, and into the Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program sponsored by the Navy, Cliff completed his degree summa cum laude.” And, it was done while he continued working at the hospital.

“The associate’s degree helped me get through the door, and the Daemen experience solidified my career. It and BGH served me very well. I learned so much about medical research and the nursing process at Daemen, and the level of professionalism among the faculty and staff had a great impact on my life,” Pyne related.

He noted, too, that because Daemen was “a smaller-sized school, you had much more personal interaction with the instructional faculty. At Daemen, too, you always felt a sense of purpose in being there; I just can’t say enough good things about it.”

Pyne singled out three current staff members for their help— Nursing Department Chair Dr. Mary Lou Rusin; and Assistant Professors of Nursing Linda Cessario, and Cheryl Nosek. “They always stuck in my mind because of their level of professionalism and willingness to work with students. Those three were always available,” he said.

Pyne also credited BGH with facilitating his education and subsequent career. “When I approached them about returning to college, I was amazed at how supportive everyone was. They were enthusiastic about Daemen and the Navy and were willing to work with me on scheduling. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude and it helped me later in the military.”

He also credits the Daemen/BGH experience with paving the way for his later Master’s degree in acute care nursing. “Maryland was the icing on the cake,” he laughed.

At his 1993 graduation Pyne was commissioned a Navy Nurse Corps officer, with the rank of ensign. Officer Indoctrination School at Newport, Rhode Island followed.

Then it was on to Rota, Spain for the young family, where he worked as a staff nurse at the U.S. Naval Hospital’s multi-service ward and Emergency Medicine Department. There, Pyne also continued his education, studying Deming’s principles of total quality leadership.

“Spain was quite a bit different from Buffalo General, where the big thing in surgical intensive care was open heart surgery, transplants and bypass surgery. In Spain the hospital was multi-service, from infants to the elderly—from obstetrics to intensive care,” he related. That’s because the Navy maintains a strong presence there and the hospital serves all active duty military personnel, plus dependents. It is also home for many retired military personnel.

The Pyne Family was relocated to the Navy’s huge medical center at Portsmouth, Virginia, in September 1996, where he worked in various areas associated with cardiac care. That began with service as assistant nurse manager/Clinical Educator Cardiac Care Unit, Staff Nurse Emergency Medical Department. From that jaw-breaker title came a major career highlight.

The Portsmouth naval base is the duty station of thousands of Naval personnel, their dependents, and military retirees, all of whom are eligible for medical care.

“I worked in the heart failure and internal medicine area and noticed that readmissions for heart failure patients were becoming more prominent. We needed to focus on significantly reducing them,” Pyne noted.

The result was creation of an innovative Heart Failure Clinic to provide intensive outpatient care for patients with congestive heart disease. Pyne initiated and managed the clinic, and was responsible for “case management, scheduling and triage for 15-20 heart failure patients weekly.”

“With physician support we were able to keep costs down, and after a year we were able to reduce emergency room visits by 10-15 percent and admission rates by 50 percent. The program reduced in-patient costs by $500,000 annually, since many heart patients require ICU care,” Pyne explained. Later, he was named nurse manager of the clinic.

During his Portsmouth years, Pyne completed his Master’s degree as an acute care nurse
practitioner at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Rather than uproot the family again, Pyne commuted weekly to campus—a four-hour drive each way. While there, he voluntarily taught courses in advanced cardiac life support and other types of cardiac care, as well as instructing undergraduate nursing students in cardiac care. He also provided critical care lectures at Portsmouth.

After completing his degree, Pyne returned to Portsmouth and was assigned as the nurse practitioner in the Cardiology Division, serving as associate director and nurse manager for the Heart Failure Clinic he created. There, he was responsible for evaluating, monitoring and providing direct care for over 250 patients. Overall, the clinic had a 600-plus cardiovascular patient caseload when Pyne retired last July.

Pyne was presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at retirement for his work with the Clinic. The citation credits Pyne’s clinic with “saving the command $760,000 in inpatient costs by reducing the frequency of admissions and need for heart failure beds.”

“Empanelled with more than 600 cardiology patients, his commitment to primary preventive care improved patient outcome and services,” it continued. The citation also credits him with deferring over $150,000 in educational costs by voluntarily providing support for advanced cardiac life support classes.

“Lieutenant Commander Pyne’s superb professionalism, personal initiative, and impressive devotion to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” the citation added. It was signed by Rear Admiral M.L. Nathan, commander of the Medical Corps.

Pyne’s new, civilian position as nurse practitioner caring for oncology patients at the Peninsula Cancer Institute represents a career turn for him—switching from cardiology to oncology—was as much happenstance as planned.

“It was kind of the luck of the draw. I’ve always had an interest in oncology and interviewed multiple practices before settling on this one. After the interview I loved the practice even though it was difficult to leave cardiology,” Pyne said.

The practice not only involves those with tumors, but people suffering from blood disorders. Some may be on chemotherapy.

“I’m also involved in direct patient care and see 15 or so people a day and plus emergencies and walk-ins,” he explained.

In addition to his regular work, Pyne has authored or co-authored several technical articles in the field and done various invited presentations. He was, for example, scheduled to address the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners in Williamsburg in March.

His memberships include the American Assn. of Critical Care Nurses, Sigma Theta Tau International—Honor Society of Nursing, American College of Nurse Practitioners, and the American College of Cardiology—Cardiac Care Associate.

Pyne is a registered nurse and acute care nurse practitioner in both New York and Virginia and holds teaching certifications in acute care, trauma nursing core course instructor, basic and advanced cardiac life support, and in fundamentals of total quality management.

Residents of Suffolk, Virginia, the Pyne’s return to Buffalo for the holidays and enjoys spending time in the Adirondacks. And, he does find time for recreation.

“I’m a fly fisherman. I love it and would do it seven days a week if I could,” he laughed.

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