The life of a PICU nurse can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Overall, the good outcomes outnumber the bad. Unfortunately, as a PICU nurse, our bad days are also shared with some of the worst days of peoples' lives.
She was a teenager, found unresponsive by her grandfather. As healthcare professionals, we knew when she arrived that it would not be a good outcome. We go through the motions of stabilizing her and initiating the poor outcome conversations and possible options. Day one was a whirlwind of labs, medications, and procedures.
As a charge nurse, I make assignments based on unit needs but more specifically for critical and sensitive patients and situations we make it based on not only the highest skilled nurse but the best emotional connection possible with the family. I didn't think twice when I assigned Lauren.
Lauren was kind, respectful, and fastidious with her care for her. The family expressed from day one they wanted to donate her organs. Knowing that she would never get to meet and talk to her patient, Lauren made a connection through her family. She knew their names, relationship to her, knew her son’s name and asked to see pictures. The grandparents went back home for the night and requested that her hair be washed and put back up in a "top knot". That night was busy with getting the LifeGift process started so when Lauren came back on that morning, she was determined to get her hair washed before they came back. Something as small as washing her hair was a top priority to Lauren because she knew that her family wanted that so she could "look like their baby again".
Lauren helped put pictures up on her door of the patient and her son and family. She cut letters for her name and taped them under the pictures. She wanted the pictures to be just right.
When having one of the last difficult conversations with the grandparents, they broke down in tears when they spoke about Lauren. She was the nurse they connected with. I have rarely seen a family have such a strong emotional connection in such a short unfortunate time. "Lauren is just the best. She's so respectful of our baby and takes such good care of her. We can't thank her enough."
The evening of her honor walk (when most families are focused on their loved one and their friends and family there to say goodbye) they asked about Lauren. She made such an impact on them. They were so appreciative and thankful of her. We never expect to make connections during others' tragedies, but Lauren was able to establish a strong connection with the patient through the family. Lauren's encounter was sacred and the epitome of dignity and respect for not only the patient but for her family.