... While any type of surgery is unnerving, those addressing cancer are a bit more daunting. This case involved ureteral cancer and, like many patients who are transitioning from the PACU to the floor, pain management is a challenge. It was even trickier because in addition to the surgery, the patient also had a history of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and several issues with the discs in her lumbar spine area. So, the picture I am trying to paint is a woman in a ton of pain, being cared for by Alyssa Herweck, a Nurse with a ton of compassion and clinical expertise. Often times, nurses hesitate to aggressively treat pain because they are concerned about the side effects of the medication, especially with fresh post-ops.
What struck me about Alyssa was her commitment to ensuring that her patient was comfortable. Of course, she did the "usual" of medicating then following up to see if her pain was relieved. What was extraordinary was the compassion she exhibited in understanding that the orders were not addressing the pain, and her commitment; engaging the family in pain management solutions, and assuring us that she would do whatever it took to make her comfortable. In addition to these acts, Alyssa got her pain under control, she made sure that as soon as the order time permitted, she again received medication. This combination of clinical expertise and compassion made a huge difference and I was in awe of how committed Alyssa was to "staying ahead of the pain".
Not only did Alyssa's actions substantially decrease her pain, but they allowed the family to relax and have the confidence that she would not be in excruciating pain (something that had happened with her prior surgeries). There is no way to convey the "peace of mind impact" on her family. Alyssa's kindness and compassion, combined with her listening skills, sensitivity to her medical history, and clinical expertise made a miserable situation tolerable. Because of Alyssa's commitment to ensuring her pain was controlled, she was able to leave the hospital 48 hours post surgery. I am confident that what Alyssa did made a huge difference in her ability to ambulate the next day and expedited her recovery.
I am confident that Alyssa's actions rate right alongside the other thousands of DAISY Honorees. Her extraordinary ability to mesh clinical knowledge with the art of nursing is a great example of how and why nurses make a difference. Alyssa demonstrated that pain management is not just about giving someone a shot or a pill. Instead, Alyssa demonstrated that pain management entails engaging the patient and family in the care so they understand what is happening and why; demonstrating compassion which conveys that the nurse cares and is right there with the patient committed to diminishing the pain; having a contagious positive attitude that sends the message that the family and patient are heard; and possessing the grit to let the physicians know when something else is needed. These behaviors are why Alyssa Herweck is indeed an extraordinary nurse.