Letter from the Director of Infectious Disease, Dr. George Alsonso:
Thirteen years ago, a critical care nurse joined the staff of the Infectious Disease clinic. Accustomed to caring for the acutely ill, she endeavored to care for those afflicted with a chronic disease that exceeds physical discomfort, as it is often accompanied by the regret of past or current lapse in judgement or chance misfortune. Sensing opportunity, I asked the neophyte to help me create a new clinic, viral hepatitis, another complex medical therapy that would tax her nursing skills of patience, compassion and patient education. Little did I know, much less realize, how my perception of the nursing profession would be enhanced.
In my humble estimation, Judith Garcia is the standard to which nurses should aspire. Not unlike a gemstone, she is multifaceted in quality and shines from any vantage points. First as a nursing professional, she exhibits through gentle persuasion and vernacular discussion the importance of the treatment plant, along with the attendant recognition that the individual before her may have to suffer ingestion of a cornucopia of pills and tablets. To those accustomed to the pharmaceutical cuisine, she listens attentively to the tales of treatment related untoward effects and the process by which the medications are obtained. As the patient concludes the discourse, she knows that she must re-emphasize through ginger and compassionate dialogue, a return to the life preserving cocktail that is viewed more like hemlock than a Shirley Temple beverage.
Turning to another facet, we would see the empathy that is emblematic of the nursing profession. In this setting, Judith absorbs the details of a distressed life, whereby the patient unloads the psychological and emotional burden of being afflicted with a chronic viral disease. The patient, often plagued with additional issues of non-medicinal addictions, absence of companionship, cohabitation with abusive or indifferent others, economic concerns and mental illness of which they have little insight, pour out the blackness into a sympathetic vessel that we know as Nurse Garcia. The patient is rewarded with understanding and encouragement amid practical suggestions to navigate the undulations of a difficult life. At times, the cathartic exchange is punctuated with a piece of fruit or a sweet, manna to a hungry and tired patient, unaware that the generosity is often Judith's only nutrition for the day. Genuine concern is not limited to the physical clinic, it continues on through visits to patients who may receive a welcome visit to their homes when least expected, a simple "hello, how are you?" translates into "you're not alone, someone cares".
Another turn and we see professional colleague that shares in the treatment plan and often guides the prescriber to a plan that may be better tolerated. For more than a decade, I have found that my medical knowledge and prescription finds greater success when filtered by Judith's 'nurses intuition'. Judith and I approach treatment as a team, conflicting opinions are discussed, and eventually synthesized into a uniform, mutually agreeable, plan that we present to our patient.
Neither least nor last, the qualities possessed and modeled by Judith Garcia include the basic qualities to which all of us should aspire, understanding, honesty, reliability, compassion for others, striving to do our best in all endeavors and loyalty to the tenets of our profession.
The greatest compliment that I could give to any colleague is my williness, my gratitude and utmost desire that should I find myself in the role of a patient, I hope to be fortunate enough to gaze upon the face, feel the touch of the hand, speak into the ear and feel the compassion and concern that I have seen in Judith Garcia.
We cannot think of a person that better embodies the qualities of a DAISY Honoree than Judith Garcia. She has worked in the ID Clinic for over ten years. She came to us with a wealth of nursing experience and knowledge from the Intensive Care Units - RICU and CCU. It was truly our gain that she chose to continue her nursing career with us.
Judith works full-time, five days a week in ID Clinic and still found time to pursue further education. Since starting in the ID Clinic she worked hard to obtain two master degrees, one in nursing and the other in Public Health. She has put both of the degrees to good use. Through the ID Clinic, Judith has traveled numerous times to Russia and Ethiopia. She has used her clinical knowledge and teaching skills to educate nursing colleagues regarding HIV and general nursing care in the aforementioned countries.
There are many patients situations that highlight not only the wonderful nursing care that is extended to all the patients but also the extra special touches. She forges a bond with each of her patients. One such instance is the account of a patient with HIV who was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. Judith was very supportive and was readily available listen to the patient's concerns and allay her fears. When the patient was hospitalized, Judith would visit her every day to see how she was doing. She would bend to her special requests no matter how trivial. Since Judith knew the patient well (both medical and social issues) she was able to collaborate with the MD, HN and social worker regarding the patient's discharge needs and the patient's inability to care for herself. The patient was transferred to a nursing home and Judith continued her visits to the patient. A few weeks after the transfer the patient passed away and Judith attended the funeral. Judith gave the patient support and comfort from the beginning of the cancer diagnosis to the end of the patient's life.
The above is similar to another patient who too had HIV and cancer and was tended to by Judith. The patient would come to her after all her appointments and confide her concerns to Judith and seek support. The patient spent her final days in hospice and was visited regularly by Judith. The patient's family also came to know Judith very well and would constantly seek her out for support and direction.
Judith goes out of her way for all patients. She touches many lives on a daily basis. There have been numerous times when a patient who is waiting to be admitted has been hungry and she has bought the patient food from her own money.
Judith is a nurse who enjoys her profession and shows tremendous love for the population she serves. She treats every patient with such dignity that each one feels that they are "special". Her knowledge and skills blended with human kindness make patients want to stay connected to care, which is essential with those that are living with an HIV diagnosis. We unequivocally nominate for the DAISY Award.
Nominated by: Vasanthi Arumugam, MD., Jirzia Blackman, MSW, Carol Cardenas, PHE, Myrna Diptee, MSW, Gerald Field, NP, Pamela Gibbons, RN, Ranjna Kutwal-Sharma, RPh, Monique Philantrope-Etienne, RN, Yvonne Thomas, Case Worker
Letter from Patient:
... I wish to express to you my gratitude, Nurse Judith, and appreciation to the many members of the Elmhurst Hospital Center. I am a 49 year old, well-educated man who has lived with HIV for the past 22 years. I've been to so many doctors and hospitals and the care compassion and hope that has been given to me by the Infectious Disease Clinic has been simply life-saving. Judith Garcia, a Clinical Nurse Specialist, has given me hope for a life I no longer wished to live. I gave up on life four years ago after my position at NYUCD was eliminated. I stopped taking care of myself, and after all I have experienced since 1990, when I was just 27, was just enough. I am a man who loves to help people, yet don't ask for help for myself. Judith gave me hope back. The treatment by all for my heart condition, AIDS and other maladies has been wonderful. My gratitude exceeds my ability to express it.