Kara Unger
May 2020
Cardiac Surgery Stepdown
University of Maryland Medical Center
United States




Early in her shift one day, Kara's patient mentioned to her that his wife had been admitted to the Shock Trauma Center (STC) for the past month after breaking her neck from a fall. The patient explained to Kara that the couple had never spent a day apart and were quite close, as he was her primary caregiver at home. Attuned to her patient's feelings and circumstances, Kara explained to others that she was struck by the way her patient spoke of his wife. Kara understood that although it may be a routine day for her and the other nurses on her unit, this experience was life-altering for the patient and she began to think of how she could connect her patient with his wife.
Kara asked the patient's nurse practitioner if she would approve of him going to the STC to see his wife. The nurse practitioner spoke to the patient and his family before deciding that if Kara could make it work, visiting his wife would be perfect. Kara then called the STC unit the patient's wife was on and spoke to the nurse to see if it would be possible for them to accommodate an inpatient visitor. The nurse was extremely willing to collaborate and said she would see if the visit could be approved.
Kara's patient had a busy day of testing ahead; however, Kara worked tirelessly to ensure the carotid duplex and echocardiogram were completed expeditiously. She assured her patient that she would do everything she could to ensure the testing would be done early, and she followed through. On the phone with the Echo Lab, Kara was told there were a few others in front of her patient on the schedule. Kara persisted in advocating for her patient, explaining the situation, and what she was attempting. The Echo Lab was willing to help, and within ten minutes, a portable echo technician was on the unit to complete the scan.
After the echo was complete, Kara checked again with the nurse practitioner and she was assured that he was able to go and take his time visiting his wife. Once more, Kara called the STC nurse caring for the patient's wife, and it was confirmed that they had approved the visit. Kara transported her patient from G6 to the STC in the afternoon. This allowed the patient to speak with his wife's providers because she was preparing to go to rehab soon. Throughout the visit, Kara maintained communication with the STC nurse using Doc Halo. When her patient's dinner tray arrived on G6, Kara took the tray to her patient so that he and his wife could enjoy a meal together. While checking in on her patient, Kara assessed him to ensure there were no changes. Ultimately, Kara picked her patient up before the change of shift. The patient, his wife, and their family were extremely grateful for the visit.
Throughout this situation, Kara exemplified the sensitivity and compassion that are inseparable from The DAISY Award. The authentic connection she makes with her patients sets a high bar for those around her. Not only did Kara understand her patients' circumstances, but she gave her time and support to make a positive impact on an otherwise somber situation. Kara is a remarkable nurse, which is further illustrated by her humility and denial of doing anything extraordinary. When asked about the series of events that day, Kara concluded: "I feel like anyone in my situation would have done the same if they were able."