Lucille is often described by patients as "the nurse with the beautiful smile" or " the one with a great heart". We recently had a patient who reminded us of the incredible power of the connection between nurse and their patient and family. Mr. G was an 86 year old man admitted for surgery to remove colon cancer. His wife was worried and anxious about his surgery and postoperative care. Lucille admitted the patient from the recovery room and as she settled him in, assessing and monitoring his vital signs, astutely observing his pain with positioning, and noting his respiratory needs she also was keenly aware of his wife's worry. Lucille narrated her care, smiling and describing each step. Mrs. G began to relax and sat at his bedside. Lucille then took care of both of them, radiating compassion as she asked about their lives and helped them feel confident with our team. Lucille was off the weekend and when she returned to work she was not assigned to Mr. G but to his roommate. That did not stop her from checking on both Mr. and Mrs. G each time she went in the room. Whether providing reassurance that his diet was advancing as anticipated or stopping to hear about the beautiful weather, Lucille made time to intensely listen and care about their responses. On the day of discharge, Lucille was not assigned to Mr. G. She knew he was going home because she had stopped in to check on his progress. When Mr. and Mrs. G had the discharge wheelchair ready to go they both hugged Lucille like a daughter and thanked her for taking care of both of them. Lucille inspires our whole team with her compassion and dedication to getting to know our patients and their families.
An example of Lucille's extraordinary care comes from the impact she made on a long-term patient and UVA nursing student. A young man with severe GI disease has been an inpatient for over a month, moving from our unit to ICU and back several times. Lucille was working with one of the nursing students who identified that this young man had not had a shower during his hospital stay. She was tentative and explored the idea with Lucille. The patient has complicated drains and IVs but Lucille worked with the student to consider all the safety implications and how they might support this man's goal. You should have heard the patient sigh with pleasure as he finally felt hot water on his back and washed his hair, after 30 days! Lucille's expertise gave this patient the boost of self-confidence and empowerment he needed. Her knowledge made a huge impact on the patient as well as a future healthcare provider.
Yesterday I was discharging a patient with his wife after a hemicolectomy for colon cancer. He and she were concerned that he was being discharged with a foley after several failed attempts to void. They were anxious about preparations for postoperative care at home. Amidst this, Lucille walked by and asked if he was leaving us. He and his wife saw her and both melted into a comfortable position, big hugs, a kiss on the cheek from the patient. It was as if they were meeting for the hundredth time. They chatted, she wished them well and moved on. I later asked and it turned out she had been his nurse for a few hours one afternoon when we were short a nurse. Within that short time frame, she had established a professional and therapeutic relationship that went beyond his care within her shift.
This is not an isolated event for Lucille. Every day she focuses on supporting patients to make active advances in their care plan. When I oriented with her five years ago, she used the analogy that we should tune up our patients like a car. Except she does it with a compassion and wisdom in which she truly meets each person where he or she is in life, no judgment.
We had one patient recently who was here for over a month, with recurrent ileus after surgery. He was nauseous, at risk for infection, malnourished, in pain, deconditioned. His wife worked in health care and stood at his side day and night, wearing her own scrubs from work. She followed us into the hallway, on high alert for his well being. With Lucille as his nurse though, the dynamic was a little different. She supported the patient and his wife. Because of her expertise and comfort, the wife trusted her to care for him; sometimes she would go home with Lucille focusing care, to take a nap or wash clothes. When Lucille wasn't there, she would not budge from his bedside or door side. When the wife did follow us in the hallway Lucille would pull her into our discussion, treating her as extended family, meeting for a meal together.
Her care isn't limited to patients and their spouses and families. As long as I've been a nurse, she always checks to make sure new nurses are drinking their water and having snacks. Since before we had a formal process for situational awareness, I have always known that Lucille will be the first one to respond when there is a hint of an unsafe event. She organizes impromptu celebrations for colleagues. And can often be found telling people to "come here" because she has found a treat for someone just when they need it, and set it in the day room for a moment of peace.
Her wealth of experience and seeming ease and enjoyment of providing care should not shadow the expertise she brings to the care she provides. She questions the plan of care carefully for every patient and incorporates physical assessment with lab values, vitals, and discussion with family when communicating with the interdisciplinary team. She pulls for policies and procedures and encourages group discussions when scenarios lack clarity. When there are barriers to providing care as it should be done, she voices the concern to others.
Thank you for all that you do, Lucille!