A young woman was admitted with abdominal pain and within a few days was diagnosed with cancer. It became apparent to our nursing staff that this patient and her family were struggling financially. This family really touched us because they didn’t ask for anything even though they needed so much.
Easter was approaching and we knew we wanted to do something to help them. We put our minds together and decided to gather donations of food and clothing. Word spread beyond our unit about this family and many staff – including surgical physician assistants, housekeeping and interpreter services – pitched in to help.
Within just a few days, a mountain of dried foods, canned foods, snacks and clothes were collected. One of our nursing assistants also created two beautiful Easter baskets. The family was thrilled and we were elated. Even though we knew we couldn’t help them financially, seeing our hospital community come together to support them with this kind act was truly rewarding.
Donna Davis, Unit Coordinator and Amy Duffy, Nurse, Good Samaritan Medical Center
Recently, I oversaw an elderly patient who was in the beginning stages of dementia and, unfortunately, in the end stages of cancer. The woman knew who she was, where she was and kept talking about her dog at home whom she clearly adored.
After talking with her for some time, I discovered that she didn’t have any relatives who could take the pet and the dog was home alone. I knew I had to do something to help put her mind at ease. So, I called animal control and they went to the house and picked up the dog. In the meantime, I had to talk to her about relinquishing the dog so that they could find the dog a new home, which was a very hard conversation.
Eventually, she was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home. Keeping in mind the attachment she had with her pet, I coordinated with the nursing home to have her dog come visit her when she arrived. Everything worked as planned and the dog came for a visit. Two days later, the patient passed away. Fortunately, before she died we were able to tell her that animal control found a family to adopt her dog. She was so thankful to know her best friend was going to be taken care of, looked after and loved.
Stephanie Power, Social Worker, Norwood Hospital
As nurses, we see many situations during a typical day on the job – sometimes good and sometimes very bad. Oftentimes, we have to compartmentalize these experiences and put our emotions aside so we can be present for the patient and perform our job.
I’ve worked as a nurse for 38 years and have found that to make me a better, more compassionate nurse, I needed to find ways to let these emotions out. One way I’ve discovered is through debriefing. When I debrief, be it through writing, poetry, jogging, yoga, meditation or other forms, I’ll reflect on situations, try to make sense of them and even grieve on occasion if needed.
Because I’ve found debriefing to be so helpful, I encourage my colleagues to find their own ways to debrief. I truly believe debriefing helps heal and keep us healthy, allowing us to be better healers.
Mary Majkut, Nursing Supervisor, Nashoba Valley Medical Center
A few years ago, I had my first experience with taking care of a homeless woman in her 30s. I didn’t understand why someone so young, physically healthy appearing, and no history of drug or alcohol abuse could have nowhere to live, let alone a job.
During her hospital stay, the providers made sure she was set up with outpatient resources in the community as well as counseling. Before her discharge, I thought I would take it upon myself to wash her clothes. I didn’t want to offend her in any way, so I approached her and stated that I realized her resources were limited, but it would make me very happy if she allowed me to help her one last time by washing the clothes. She had a surprised look on her face, though happy, and accepted. She couldn’t stop expressing her thanks. I finished my shift that night feeling like I had made a difference, even if it was temporary, and it felt great!
Ana Hernandez, RN, Saint Anne's Hospital
As health care workers we all know how hard it is to work our Christmas shift and leave our families. But there is one Christmas that will always stand out to those who worked in the ICU that day.
A young male patient was brought into the ER on December 24 and was unresponsive. He was placed on a ventilator and sent to the ICU. His wife was notified and she came to the hospital early Christmas morning with their three young children. Our shift started at 7 a.m. and as you walked by the waiting room you could see the innocent and frightened faces of these children who were still in their PJs. They were trying to be so quiet and almost inconspicuous. The oldest was caring for the younger siblings. Mary Fournier, the nursing assistant, and I were taking care of patients when she told me that she thought the children may be hungry. So, Mary brought cookies to them and we gave them some milk. Doris Pereira then got involved and was instrumental in arranging lunch to be delivered to them from the hospital cafeteria while their mom stood vigil in the patient’s room. The entire staff was so impressed that these three children were so good and never once asked for anything. At the same time, we were all aware that while other children were opening up presents from Santa, they were in the midst of a tragic family situation that even an adult would find hard to bear. The unit coordinator made periodic visits, the respiratory therapist would stop and talk and all of the other nursing staff on that day went out of their way to offer juice, pencils, conversation and find cartoons on the television for them to watch.
At the end of my shift as I walked past the waiting area, they were still there. It was going on almost 24 hours! My ride home was filled of thoughts of the three children. These children did not cry, whine, or even seem to care it was Christmas. They never uttered a word that they were missing out on opening presents and they never complained – even when they were hungry.
As I drove in my driveway to my decorated house and my husband waiting for me, I felt we must do something. I told my husband the story and we decided that if Santa did not go to their house this year then Santa would drop gifts for them at the hospital. I had several children’s presents in the house from years past and I began to wrap, divide and sort. The Santa suit we had for our grandchildren was brought out of storage and my husband got dressed without hesitation. We called the nurse taking care of the patient to ask the mom for permission to make a visit and we got the okay! Everyone was waiting. Some staff even stayed at the end of their shift until Santa arrived.
Santa entered the room and said, “I went to your house and no one was home, but an elf told me you were here. There are presents for you because you have been good boys and girls."
The caring spirit in the ICU was passed from one person to another like a magical spell.