In the Ambulatory Gastroenterology Department, the most acutely sick patients are by far the Irritable Bowel Disease population. Throughout 2016 at The University of Kansas Health System, these patients were cared for by Kathy Byrnes along with Dr. B. There have been other nurses that worked with Dr. B in the past, and while they were all great at what they did, Kathy was unique. She was always the most dedicated nurse to her patients.
Kathy was the first to arrive and the last to leave every day. Even on days when I felt I was arriving early, somehow she would already be there on the phone with a patient, documenting on the computer, listening to voicemails, and responding to emails while surrounded by piles and piles of paper. Her desk didn’t look like it had any organization, but ask Kathy for a patient’s records, a medication assistance form, prep instructions for a procedure, infusion referral information, even spare batteries, and she could produce it in minutes.
All of that was possible with Kathy’s infamous roller bag. The GI nurses travel to different locations so we often carry backpacks with our necessary items for the day. A backpack couldn’t quite contain Kathy’s needs as she wanted to have everything with her at all times so she could assist any patient no matter where she was. She could always be seen enthusiastically zipping around the hospital with her bag in tow ready for the next task at hand. She never seemed to slow down or lose her drive to help her patients.
Patients loved and depended on Kathy. She would fight tooth and nail in order to get their infusions authorized with insurance and spend hours coordinating care for patients who live far away.
Kathy had a background in Social Work before she decided to go back to school to become a registered nurse. Her social work background was evident in the way she was able to carefully navigate any system and deal with patients who were in financial and social distress. She took it upon herself to know the ins and outs of all the medication assistance programs as well as everything to do with infusions. She met with drug representatives, outside infusion departments, and internal departments so she always knew who to call. IBD patients are extremely dependent on their medications, and Kathy knew the best way to get them approved as efficiently as possible.
Kathy truly cared about all her patients. Even when patients were challenging, she would never lose her temper and always kept her usual calm tone of voice. When she spoke, you listened. She had a way of speaking that brought you into her world. You knew she was speaking from her heart.
Unfortunately, this nomination is written in the past tense as Kathy has passed away. She deserves to be honored for the amazing nurse she was in life. With her, we lost a friend, confidant, coworker, sibling, mother, grandmother, and exceptional nurse. Kathy’s upbeat attitude and unwavering kindness will be missed by the entire GI department and beyond.