Lauren Brill
June 2021
University of Virginia Health
United States




Lauren combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and put lotion on his dry skin.
When I discovered that my last clinical experience during UVA nursing school would be on the Medical ICU and Special Pathogens Unit (also known as the COVID ICU), to say I was anxious would be an understatement. However, this outstanding unit welcomed me with the support I have never experienced prior to this experience. My preceptor, Lauren Brill, was no exception.

Lauren Brill is a Clinician II Registered Nurse that has worked on the MICU before the COVID19 pandemic and the creation of the SPU. I was fortunate to see how she cares for patients in a way that only Lauren can, with a competent nursing skill set paired with a gentleness that humanizes her patients in an often dehumanizing setting.

One situation in particular echoes how Lauren goes above and beyond for her patients. One week, Lauren was caring for a critically ill COVID19 patient in the SPU. Her patient appeared small, covered by bulky machines, machines that were quite literally keeping him alive. His high ventilator settings acted as his lungs and his continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) acted as his failed kidneys. His medication-assisted his cardiovascular system and dulled his central nervous system. Medications including vasopressors to maintain his declining blood pressure, paralytics to give his tired lungs a necessary break, sedatives to ensure that he was relieved of immense pain, and considerable other medications not even mentioned. Needless to say, Lauren's patient required a great deal of care. Even though he was declining clinically, Lauren's care remained exceptional.

On the third day of having him as a patient, the family decided to switch him over to "Comfort Care". Lauren spoke with the family about coming in to say goodbye using a translator, as the patient and family were only Spanish-speaking. While waiting, Lauren took special time preparing her patient for his last day on earth. She looked through his entire chart and discovered that he liked Spanish gospel music. Immediately, she made sure that this music was playing for the patient. She combed his hair, brushed his teeth, and put lotion on his dry skin. Lauren removed all the machines that she was able to, so that her patient would look like himself to his family. She ensured that he was set up to be seen one last time with dignity, as a beloved family member that he was, without the disruption and clutter of machines.

When the family member arrived, Lauren told them to take as much time as they needed to say goodbye. Lauren ascertained from speaking with the family member that they could maybe benefit from a chaplain visit. She got on the phone right away to request a Spanish-speaking chaplain, doing everything she could to make their visit as comfortable as possible. The patient had one family member present, as most of his family was in Mexico, and they FaceTimed in to say goodbye. The iPad that we use to monitor COVID19 patients echoed wailing and "I love you's".

Eventually, the family member signaled that they were ready to withdraw care. Lauren and the respiratory therapist prepared to walk into the room, putting on PPE and the strength required to be there during a man's last breath. Before the withdrawal of care, Lauren stood by the family, placing one hand on the patient's family and the other holding onto the patient's hand. While the sounds of sobbing and pure grief wrapped around the room, Lauren stood steadfastly beside them, signaling that they were not alone. It was well past the time that Lauren's shift was supposed to be over, but she was determined to care for her patient until the very end.

After almost an hour of being in this room, his family began to sing a beautiful Spanish gospel hymn. Shortly after they started singing, the patient passed away. When this happened, Lauren looked at me and said, "It was almost like once they began to sing, he knew it was okay to finally let go." After we left the room I burst into tears, and Lauren took the time to call me and say, "Showing emotion for patients is not a weakness to be embarrassed about, but rather a strength to make you a better nurse."

One aspect that was extremely important to the family was how to get this patient's body back to Mexico to be properly buried with his loved ones. Lauren realized the importance of this request. It would have been totally appropriate for Lauren to switch out with the oncoming nurse, pass this information along, and go home from her shift that was already over. But that is not the kind of person Lauren is; she was determined to find this answer for this grief-stricken family. She spoke with multiple people who directed her to other people and finally was able to give the family the resources they needed. This is not the first time that Lauren has gone above and beyond for her patients and their families. She is a special kind of nurse. One that will search throughout her patient's chart to discover that he loves Spanish gospel hymns, spending extra time finding the perfect YouTube playlist to play in his room. One that will remain silently by her patient's side, holding his hand, until the very end, no matter if her shift already ended. One that searches tirelessly for answers for her patient's family, no matter if that is not a part of her job description. One that speaks to all her patients with kindness, letting them know that "You are safe" no matter how conscious the patient may be. University of Virginia Medical Center is lucky to have a nurse like Lauren Brill, the kind of nurse that you would want to care for your own loved one.