This is both a nomination for the DAISY Award and a "fan letter" for Mary Ellen Armstrong. A few weeks ago, while she was staying late after her shift to help me care for a dementia patient who needed a lot of help, I realized she needed to be recognized for being an outstanding nurse who serves as an example to us all in the Emergency Department.
When I started working in the ED, I remember meeting this tall, soft-spoken woman in charge most mornings. Right away, it was very clear she was unlike the other nurses I've worked with over the years. Mary Ellen has an unflagging belief in the goodness of people, and that even the most difficult of patients can be reached through kindness. In the ED, we often deal with people who arrive to us because there is nowhere else for them to go. Many of us grow annoyed by these patients, but rest assured, if she is on duty, one can always find Mary Ellen talking to them. Her style of therapeutic communication serves as an example to me, every day, in how to find the good in everybody I take care of. This is one of the reasons she is such an outstanding leader.
Many of our patients arrive in the ED in the midst of some type of crisis. Mary Ellen has served as a beacon of hope and warmth to them as they adjust to it. This is especially the case when a patient dies. The first one to comfort the family is always Mary Ellen. It's sometimes hard for us to talk to someone who is experiencing seemingly bottomless despair, but Mary Ellen is never afraid to reach out to them, talk to them about their loved one, and help them understand what is happening. She brings comfort not only to them, but also to a beleaguered staff.
A few weeks ago, when Mary Ellen stayed late to help me take care of a woman with dementia, with whom I have an arrangement to take care of whenever she presents to the ED, she did so not because we were busy, not because she was going to get paid extra for staying late; she did so because she believes in helping those who cannot help themselves. Even though this particular woman's dementia has left her aggressive and combative, Mary Ellen sees the good in her, and has found a way to reach her through music, of all things. Even though what we often must do for this woman causes her discomfort and confusion, Mary Ellen calms her better than any sedative ever could. Singing with her as I perform procedures, Mary Ellen breaks through this woman's dementia and touches something joyful and comforting for everyone in the room.
I believe that nursing is not just a job, but rather that it is an art. Mary Ellen's medium is her outstanding compassion for her patients. She has had years of experience to perfect her craft, and I think her masterpiece is the wonderful experience she has given us in the ED. The DAISY Award would be a great way for this to be recognized, and to inspire others to strive to find good in all of the patients we encounter - even those whom others have found challenging.