Why I Care: Messages from the Frontline of HCA Healthcare
In the spirit of the holiday season, we joined our partner Sharecare in highlighting our many caregivers who give back, day after day, above and beyond their normal “day jobs”. We wanted to hear the challenging, life-changing and rewarding moments of those on the front lines of healthcare, and, ultimately why they care. The “Why I Care” campaign showcases the many moments that go unacknowledged, but that healthcare providers and caregivers experience each and every day. Read on!
(The individuals who are asterisked were highlighted in the Sharecare #WhyICare social media campaign.)
I care because of the good people that I work with, and I like helping people! I don’t see the patients on their best days. So, I need to make sure that the patient is as comfortable as possible. That is why I care; I enjoy fixing things and making sure our patients have the best experience possible.
Harry Dolph, engineering tech, plant operations, TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center (Mr. Dolph has been a member of this facility since the inception.)
While working in one of one of our ERs recently, I observed a father carry his young son into the emergency room. The child had drowned. This was not a near-drowning event. The child was gray, not breathing, and did not have a pulse. While I don’t know the details of the event pre-hospital, I watched the team quickly assemble in the room to begin resuscitative efforts. CPR was started; oxygen was given via ambu-bag; lines were started; meds were administered; intubation was accomplished…and at the end of it all, the child had a pulse! He was breathing over the ventilator and responding to stimuli. During the flurry of activity, I realized that so much technology touched this event…portable, digital x-ray machines allowed the physician to view the chest x-ray in the room – no waiting for film to process in another department; ventilators are programmed to aid in the respiratory recovery process and require less manual intervention; orders entered via the computer ensured that ancillary departments had the information necessary to process the orders; phones aided in the communication between emergency department, respiratory therapy, diagnostic imaging, security, and the pharmacy; imaging exams were copied on a CD to send with the patient rather than bulky envelopes of films; the cardiac monitor monitored the child’s vital signs. I’m sure there are lots of other ways technology touched this event, and our health IT professionals should remember that what we do does help save lives. If you ever doubt it, remember this family, and recall that at the end of the day, they will get to go home and tuck their child in for another night. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to get through another day. Be healthcare inspired!
Sandy Burton, manager, clinical applications, Information Technology & Services, HCA Healthcare North Florida
I believe that nursing is not just a job. Nursing is about how you make people feel as well. It is about giving everything that you can to your patients every single day. I was caring for a patient in his last hours of life. His body was giving up on him and I knew there were only so many nursing skills I had that would benefit him. At this point, it was time for comfort care. There was no family at his bedside, and upon looking at his chart, he had no family around any longer to be with him. By the end of my shift, the patient really wasn’t talking anymore, his breathing was shallow and his eyes were all that moved. I had given my report on my patients to the oncoming shift. But all I could think about was my patient, lying in his hospital bed, taking his dying breaths, alone. No one deserves to be alone when they leave this Earth. At the end of my shift, I went into his room and pulled up a chair next to the bed and took his hand. I didn’t know much about his past or the man he was, aside from his medical history, but I said I was going to pray with him. I told him it was okay to let go whenever he was ready and that I wasn’t going to leave him alone. I sat holding his hand and talking about anything and everything as if he had been my friend for years. After a couple of hours had passed I realized he was no longer breathing. I felt my throat tighten up and tears sneak into my eyes. I thanked God for the man’s life and squeezed his hand one last time. My shift was long over at this point so I informed the day shift of his passing and headed home. Even though my heart was heavy at the loss of life, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I had been able to give that man the comfort of knowing that someone was there at his last heartbeat. He left this world knowing that someone cared and was there beside him. That is what nursing is to me, it is not something I just “do,” but it is who I am. Being a nurse and caring for others doesn’t stop because the shift ended. For me, it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s about giving patients all that you have and treating them with love and dignity- even when it is no longer your “job”. I couldn’t help the man’s body anymore at that point, but I would like to believe that I helped his soul. And honestly, he helped mine. Everyone deserves to know that there is someone who cares about them and supports them. I am so blessed and honored to get to be that person for all of my patients and every person that I encounter in life.
*Kadie Woltemath, cardiac nephrology nurse, TriStar Skyline Medical Center*
“Why I Care.” First, I feel like it is a calling, something I have known I wanted to do since 4th grade and hard to put into a tangible explanation. Second, there are so many reasons why I stay – through all the hardships, long hours, holidays away from my family, and many tears cried with and for patients. Oncology is something so profoundly special, rewarding in so many ways, and humbling every day! The lives that have touched mine, more than I have touched theirs are countless. The patients and families show me every day what it means to live, love, and find humor and joy when you don’t have the strength to go on. The will to live is awe-inspiring and something I witness daily. I am eternally grateful for the lessons I have learned from the people I have cared for and for them teaching me to have strength when you want to give up.
“Being a nurse isn’t about grades, it’s about being who we are. No book can teach you how to cry with a patient. No class can teach you how to tell their family that their parents have died or are dying. No professor can teach you how to find dignity in giving someone a bed bath. A nurse is not about the pills or charting. It’s about being able to love people when they are at their weakest moments.” – Anonymous
Kate Mimken, registered nurse, Colorado Blood Cancer Institute, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center
Why I Care. The reason why I care is because I love what I’m doing! There’s nothing more special than bringing a new life into the world! Working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), there are times things do not go as planned. I feel very special to walk alongside the family and be a part of their babies’ care while they are in the intensive care unit. Watching the baby get better and go home, is truly a blessing. Being part of that whole process every day makes me feel very honored to be a part of the this hospital family and that is why I care.
Becky Rome, nurse manager, maternity services, TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center
Humbled. That is the word to describe how a patient made me feel several months ago. We had an unexpected complication during a Cardiac Cath. The patient’s only option was to go to open heart surgery. We all knew the patient would most likely not do well or survive. The patient knew this too, there was no other viable option. We brought the patients family back to see him, with everyone, including the patient, knowing it might be the last time. His sister placed her hands on his chest and started to pray for him. Both physicians and all the staff in the room immediately stopped what they were doing and bowed their heads. No one spoke. After she finished and we were getting ready to take the patient to the OR the patient asked me to bring all the staff around him. We all gathered around him and he said… “I want each and every one of you to know that I don’t blame you for this happening to me.” He repeated it again and started to cry. Without any other words we had just received a gift. The gift of forgiveness. It was of upmost importance to him that we didn’t blame ourselves or worry about his outcome. It was an unforeseen complication, nevertheless, heartbreaking because we strive to “Do No Harm.” The patient died two days later. Those few hours with him will last a lifetime.
*Tracy Brown, registered nurse, cardiac cath lab unit supervisor, Medical Center of Trinity*
I work as a breast cancer nurse navigator, and while it is a job, for me it is also my passion. Every time a patient tells me they don’t know how they would have gotten through treatment without me is an obvious reason for why I care. However, navigation isn’t just about hand holding. I take time to really understand my patients and their situation. Last year, I had a patient who was a divorced, single mom living in a small apartment. When she was diagnosed and needed to go through chemotherapy, her work made her take FMLA leave until she could work at 100 percent. She had no savings, and no family to fall back on. Together, we filled out close to a dozen grant applications. She received enough money in grants to keep her apartment during treatment. We were also able to get her gas cards and grocery cards so she could get to her appointments and not worry about where her next meal would come from. I care because no one should have to worry about the essentials of living while they are fighting for their life. I care because cancer is scary and it’s important to have someone in your corner when you hear that diagnosis.
Stacey Gates, registered nurse and breast cancer nurse navigator, North Suburban Medical Center
As a flight nurse I often get asked what the worst call I’ve ever been on. My answer is usually that I’ve seen things I never want to see again, but the worst calls for me are usually pediatrics. No one ever likes to see a hurt or sick child teetering on the edge of life. Many of them have lived, but some have not. I was brought to a breaking point with a three-year-old who did not. I evaluated, slept on it, took time off and soul searched. I questioned myself about life, my value as a caregiver, and if it would just be easier to take some other job that didn’t put me in these situations anymore. In the end, there were two conclusions I came to. One was given to me by a wise nurse, Kyle Dahm. Here is what he said, “If it was my child, I’d want someone who cared as much as you do.” The other came to me through counseling and prayer. As awful as the outcome can be for some patients, the experience you gain through caring for them is a gift. To not continue is to ignore that gift. Use the gifts you’ve been given to bless others who may survive because of the experiences you have. In my mind, this is what being a caregiver is all about.
*Matt Swider, registered nurse, HealthONE, AirLIFE Denver*
One of the most powerful moments I had as a nurse was with a terminal patient on the medical-oncology unit. This patient was a lovely woman with a terrific family that included her husband and two adult children and her furry son, Rex, a German Shepard mix she adopted from the Dumb Friends League several years before her diagnosis. In good health, she and Rex enjoyed hiking, snuggling and sunbathing together. She had been in the hospital for weeks and frequently referenced her love for Rex, there were pictures of Rex posted all over her room, and it was visible how much she missed this animal. In what we knew were one of her final days, her husband approached me with a request; could he bring Rex to visit with his wife?
Dogs are not allowed in the hospital (unless they are certified assistance animals) and bringing Rex on to the medical oncology unit just wasn’t feasible. Instead, our nursing team rallied together to pack up her hospital bed, IV pole, plenty of blankets (it was early winter), etc. We rolled her outside… Rex was overjoyed to see her! He jumped up on the bed with her and licked her face silly. I hadn’t seen such delight in the weeks since her admission. Suffice it to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house—or outside the house, as it may be.
It wasn’t the most complicated nursing intervention, we didn’t cure her cancer, she still died several days later. But, the sense of satisfaction in facilitating and sharing this moving experience with this patient and her family was one of the most powerful moments I recall in my nursing career.
*Jessica Godoff, oncology nurse navigator, lung cancer screen program nurse practitioner, Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Rose Medical Center*
Why I care? I care because I had a sick child for the last 25 years. We’ve been in and out of hospitals in four different states. I have encountered many caring nurses, doctors, and hospital staff. I have also experienced those who do not care. I have learned to appreciate the ones that care, take the time to find out exactly what is wrong with the patient, and treat the patient as a person – not as a disease. I care because over the past 10 years, this hospital has cared for my daughter. Everybody treats her like she’s part of the family. This is why I care and take so much pride in working here.
*Hattie Martin, patient services supervisor, TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center*
Every day each of us in HCA Healthcare’s Information Technology & Services (IT&S) has the opportunity to work together to deliver technology and services that is transforming healthcare. I came from the retail industry – and although that is a very important industry – being a healthcare IT professional is so much more complex and impactful. I am humbled every day by the opportunities we have to impact patient care and to deliver technologies that better connect the patient journey and provide the best patient experience possible. That is where I get my motivation to do more, to give my all.
Danny Schunk, vice president, IT&S Service Line and Corporate Solutions
When I became 17, I wanted to become a nurse because my grandmother couldn’t. She was a home healthcare worker on the weekends. I will always remember her having on a white uniform with white stockings and white shoes. When I graduated from the certified nursing assistant program, I was wearing the white uniform, white stockings and shoes, and I was so proud because it reminded me of my inspiration – my grandmother. I like caring for people and helping others who cannot help themselves. After spending years caring for patients and their loved ones, it was paid forward when my grandmother was at a hospital in her final days. When I visited with her, she was clean, looked nice and was well cared for. I felt it was my gift for having taken care of so many patients and family members along the way. This is “Why I Care.”
LaSheryl Newsom, laboratory tech at The Joint and Spine Center at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center
I recently had a young girl who came to us to have her blood drawn. She had been stuck several times over several days unsuccessfully and her pediatrician’s office sent her to our facility to see if we could collect the blood. Needless to say, she was terrified and very upset about having to be poked with more needles. I worked with her and was able to get her blood with only one stick. She said it did not hurt like all the others. She gave me a big hug and was so happy. That was a great feeling to be able to change her view of medical staff. And to top off, a week later her younger brother and sister had to come have their blood drawn and she came with them, encouraged them and told them that: “Mrs. Candy doesn’t hurt at all.” I care because I have the opportunity to create a positive experience for our patients and that is the greatest reward for me!
Candy Capotosti Edmondson, laboratory coordinator, TriStar Spring Hill ER
Melissa has been with HCA Healthcare’s Physician Services Group (PSG) since August 2011 and with Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates since July 2014 as a case care coordinator. She became an invaluable member of the team learning about all of the heart-related procedures that were performed. She helps answer actual procedure questions that the patients have after seeing the physician as well as providing education related to post-op recovery.
She does this all in a way that the patients feel they are speaking to a friend and not a clinician. No patient has ever left the office feeling as though they are wandering alone in the process. She takes all the time the patient needs without rushing them. She always has a smile on her face and treats every patient as though they were family.
Melissa has always said that she loves her job. Patients who see us are at the point in their diagnosis that they need to face some important realities. It can be tough for a patient to decide that the only way to extend their quality of life is to have heart surgery. It is scary. Melissa reassures the patient that the choice is always theirs and gives them the information they need to weigh the risks and benefits without making the patient feel inferior.
If she is having a bad day, the patient never knows. Sometimes, neither does the staff. A friendly face for every interaction is what everyone deserves. There isn’t a higher compliment than a healthcare provider acknowledging that you are simply awesome, and that is Melissa.
Submitted by Angela Bleeker, practice manager, on behalf of Melissa Poulsen, case care coordinator, Cardiothoracic Surgery Associates, Physician Services Group
After my father was diagnosed with an illness, I found myself in places that I had been fortunate enough to never have visited before and heard more medical jargon than I ever wanted to hear. There are no words to describe the day that your life, as well as your loved ones’ are changed forever. Through his fight, I found myself watching him make relationships with nurses that would help him to look forward to his visits. Although he was having long, dreaded treatments that would cause him to become sick, he would manage to find some light in the fact that he knew his nurses would save him his favorite chair and have his favorite magazines and papers to read. I quickly became so grateful to those nurses and knew that it would be a privilege to be a nurse. My father didn’t see me graduate from nursing school, but I know he would be proud. Each and every day, I care for patients to the best of my ability, and I am honored to hold their hand and listen to their stories.
Jennifer Pinckard, registered nurse, TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center
The first time I realized that second nature actions as a nurse can be viewed as life-saving or altering to a patient was while working as an ICU nurse. My patient had suffered an acute myocardial infarction, and had gone for a heart catheter three days prior. While assessing lung sounds at the beginning of the shift, I heard some very fine crackles in his lung bases. I asked the patient how he was feeling, to which he stated, “Very well, no problems”. So I asked about his breathing and energy level, to which he replied,” I am a little winded when I get up, but I’m sure that’s normal.” I told the patient I heard a little fluid in his lungs and would notify the physician. I received an order and gave the patient an IV diuretic. Within an hour, his output increased and his lungs cleared.
After that episode, this patient told his doctor, and all visitors that I had saved his life. He knew if I had not acted, his condition could have worsened. I saw him several times after discharge, both while he was at the hospital attending Cardiac Rehab and at community events. Every time I would see him he would thank me for giving him extra years with his family.
All I did was what every nurse does. Assess the patient, and act when needed. That’s what we do. That’s not at all how this patient viewed what happened. That event drove home to me: never underestimate the impact one person can have.
Lisa Gann, chief nursing officer, TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center
When I was a first-year undergraduate student, living away from home, I became sick and my friend took me to the nearest emergency room (a huge level 1 Trauma Center). It turned out to be “the flu” but my friend was concerned enough that he brought me there. I can’t remember anything about that experience—except the nurse who was assigned to me. She did her job (IVs, medication, etc.) but wasted no time in lecturing me about how I was wasting their resources because I was not a “true emergency” patient. I was humiliated. This experience has stayed with me and I’ve made it my personal mission to never treat any emergency patient like I had been treated. While we do see some patients in the emergency room who do not require true emergency care and could be treated in an urgent care facility or physician’s office, I make sure to treat everyone with care and compassion. In fact, I often say, “I’m glad you came and that we can tell you that it’s not a heart attack, etc. and you can go home. We’re the experts—let us determine what’s wrong with you.” It’s because of my personal experience that whenever I hire nurses for an emergency department, I focus on their clinical skills but very importantly on their caring skills as well. Both are equally important.
Lynne Grief PhD, vice president, Trauma and Burns Services, Blake Medical Center
And so, to those who shared your stories with us and to all of our employees on the frontlines of healthcare, thank you for your commitment to care, your dedication to our patients and making a difference in your communities and across the country. This is why we care!
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About HCA Healthcare
HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.
As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.