Maureen Laffey
December 2012
Memorial 17, Head & Neck, Med/Surg
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York
United States




Maureen Laffey's DAISY Award Nomination Letters: Always positive, engaging, interested, dynamic, exuberant, funny and caring, Maureen Laffey's presence transforms you. A one-of-a-kind individual that instantly spreads cheer among all that are fortunate enough to meet her, Maureen has been selected as Memorial 17's DAISY Award nominee. Maureen is the heart and soul of our unit and as the chair of our unit-based Relationship Based Care Council, she inspires all of us to simply be better! There are endless stories illustrating Maureen's special connection with patients and families fostered through caring, trust and respect. Likewise, there are abundant patients, colleagues and friends offering glowing testimonials in support of this Daisy Nomination. Here are but a few: Maureen's presence uplifts all those around herpatients, families, staff, technicians, students I am always glad to find out that she is the nurse caring for one of my patients. Her gregarious personality leaves no one behind and everyone is left with a smile after interacting with Maureen. Leave it to Maureen to get that nugget of information (whether medical or personal) from a patient and pass it along to the team, which at the time may seem inconsequential, but in the end, is like pulling money out of your pocket that you didn't know you had. by DK, MD Maureen is always giving of herself to her patients and her colleagues. There is never a time that she seems angry or even sluggish. She always has a great smile on her face and is ready to brighten everyone's day. The compassion she shows her patients comes from the deepest part of her heart. She makes patient-centered care her main priority not because it's her job but because it's her passion. by MR, RN Maureen is the nurse you go to for anythinghaving a difficult day, a question you need an answer to, or a funny story to lighten your mood. I had an elderly patient who I had cared for on numerous occasions. It was nearing the end of the shift when my patient became unresponsive. An RRT was called and Maureen was the first one in the room. She helped me figure out what to do while also helping me keep my cool. After the RRT was over, Maureen never left my side. We were the only two in the room, and she saw how I was talking to the patient. She said to me "He's special to you, isn't he?" and she stayed with us until everything was okay. I have never had another nurse notice my emotional connection to a patient. She made sure the patient was not only stable, but that emotionally I was okay as well. by CB, RN Maureen Laffey is the spiritual life force on our floor. Her arrival to M17 four years ago has changed the dynamic of the entire unit. Maureen has a way of unifying her colleagues through her selfless communication. What I love about her is that she makes every person feel that they are special. She connects with people on a much deeper level than just co-worker. You can see this just following her down the hallway. She will pass nurses, PCTs, Escorts, housekeeping employees, patients, patient's families and she has something to say to each of them. "How's the new apartment? Did your mom have that surgery? Did your dog stop biting? How is the training for your race? Are you getting discharged soon?" It is because she has taken the time with each of them to get to know the whole person. For me, Maureen has been a great support. She knows of my love of travel and regales me with her tales of worldwide travel. She has traveled to Africa numerous times on medical missions. Earlier this year, when I was going through a tough time she went home to her apartment and thought about what she could get me as a cheer me up gift. In the end, she brought me a little bag of sand from the Sahara desert that she had gotten on her last medical mission. Now, to some this might have seemed like a strange gift. But I loved it because she had thought about something that I alone would truly cherish. To be in Maureen's company is to feel special. Once I waited by the elevators after work to go out to dinner with her. After 15 minutes when she didn't come out of her patient's room, I figured our dinner plans would have to be postponed. Her young patient was dying and his wife was very anxious. Turns out Maureen talked with his wife for another hour and a half; talking about his death, but mostly, just talking. For just by talking, she touches you deeply. by CM, RN Magnanimous, compassionate, spirited, adventurous and sincere are all words that come to mind when asked to describe Maureen. Professionally she is bright, practical, and a highly skilled clinician. Maureen has a very diverse nursing background that has equipped her with expert knowledge and experience. Both junior and senior nurses consult Maureen for advice and guidance in the care of their challenging patients. I am the nurse practitioner for the Head and Neck Surgical Service which serves a population of patients with various degrees of facial deformities following extensive resections of their cancers. Many of these individuals suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety, and become socially paralyzed. I have personally witnessed the impact that Maureen has had on numerous patients that were filled with a sense of loss and hopelessness. Said simply, she makes them smile. This may seem a rather insignificant response, but for those that work with these patients understand that it is nothing less than monumental. DM, NP, states, "Personally speaking, Maureen is a ray of sunshine that brightens any room she enters. She is lighthearted and fun, someone you just really want to be around. She brings you up when you are feeling down. I can't say enough about her character and sense of morality. Amongst many others, I am clearly a fan of hers. During last year's Hurricane Irene, Maureen cared for a patient with a rare hematologic disorder and a life threatening platelet count. As part of the emergency evacuation, he had been transferred to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from New York University Medical Center. He explained to Maureen that he had not smelled fresh air in three weeks. Maureen set aside competing priorities and accompanied the patient outside where she sat with him while he enjoyed the fresh air. He exclaimed, "I can't believe this is what air smells like." The patient later called all his friends to tell the story of his wonderful adventure. This patient, an executive sous chef, was so inspired by Maureen's outstanding nursing care he created a new dessert recipe in her honor. After the storm, he also had to be persuaded to return to NYU Hospital! Recently, RB, PCT, and Maureen were caring for an agitated and confused neurology patient. The patient had yelled and flailed his arms wildly during much of the previous shift. As RB relates, "Maureen sat down next to him on the bed and put her arms around him even though he continued to yell at her. She spoke to him softly until he finally calmed down. She remained with the patient, setting aside all else, to forge a meaningful connection. Thereafter, the patient expressed that he felt she cared about him and not just for him. Later, he would refer to her as his family'. Caring for another agitated patient, Maureen demonstrated the same depth of concern. This particular patient had been rude and demanding with staff in the past, yelling and pulling at medical devices and tubing. He was thought to be homeless, psychotic, delirious or demented. He was so incoherent that staff members could not ascertain the cause of his outbursts and behavior. Maureen spoke softly, deliberately and respectfully to the patient until he began to listen to her. As they spoke, she discovered that he was an English teacher. She learned where he was born, where he grew up and all about his family. She said to him, "This is not who you are." The patient was finally able to communicate that he was afraid he was going to die and that the pain medications were clouding his mind. Maureen delved deeper into the patient's suffering and needs. She determined that he needed to be engaged in the world he was familiar with prior to this hospitalization. She arranged for access to a computer so that he could reconnect with his normal life and interests. He later often commented on how much he loved Maureen. He was affected by her genuine caring for him and would show his gratitude by kissing her hand. Not only is Maureen selfless at work, but she also uses many weeks of her own vacation time to keep active in several volunteer and community service projects. She has traveled on numerous medical missions to India, Africa and Asia. Last year, she volunteered two weeks of her time to a leper colony in Calcutta. Protected in gowns, masks, boots and caps, Maureen treated those in crisis with antibiotics, extensive wound care and general hygienic interventions. The young children, destined to live the rest of their lives in this colony became very special to her. During her travels with medical missions, Maureen explores the indigenous cultures and religious and spiritual traditions. Always thinking of the unique needs of others, Maureen seeks out items meaningful to their spiritual struggles. From Bhutan, she brought back a fertility icon for two coworkers who were having difficulty in conceiving. From India, Maureen returned with prayer beads for a colleague whose wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. From Albania, she searched for and found a religious relic to comfort a grieving friend. This coming fall, Maureen is orchestrating a trip to Haiti with ten of her co-workers on M17 to assist with relief and recovery efforts. Inspiring others to join her on this trip has generated much anticipation and excitement among staff. CG, RN states "Maureen inspires me both on a professional and personal basis. Her effortless ability to turn the toughest shift into a moment of self reflection mixed with a little humor exemplifies her uniqueness. However, what I admire about her the most, is her inherent nature to see the best in everyone and recognizing in the moment what is needed to create an environment of oneness to achieve a goal". Maureen generates enthusiasm and energy towards the challenges of nursing through initiatives within the Department of Nursing. Maureen has lent her gift of writing and creativity to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Magnet journey as a Magnet Writer. Maureen also contributes to the Departmental Nursing Newsletter and M17 Happenin's, the Memorial 17 Monthly Newsletter and is an active member of the Department of Nursing's Communication Task Force. As Chair of M17's Relationship-Based Care Council, Maureen Laffey authored this Council's mission statement which explains, "In exercising our human capacity to extend beyond ourselves, to touch the lives of others and help facilitate their healing, we become part of a privileged community of healers, and in the process we heal and enrich ourselves. When compassion and care are conveyed through touch, a kind act, through competent clinical interventions, or through listening and seeking to understand the other's experience, a healing relationship is created." As the Relationship Based Care Council chair Maureen has been responsible for launching initiatives including a holiday food and coat drive benefiting a local homeless shelter. She also spearheaded a collection campaign for a co-worker in need. Recognizing the negative impact of noise on a patient's rest and recovery she helped institute a quiet hour each day on the unit. At 3pm each day Memorial 17 is transformed into an oasis of relaxation as noise in kept to a minimum and the lights are dimed. Patients and staff are rejuvenated by the healing atmosphere pervasive on the unit. In an effort to promote patient safety and comfort, Maureen is currently leading efforts to implement Bedside Rounding. Having identified a need to address compassion fatigue among junior staff nurses, she helped develop and present two staff workshops to enhance self care nurturance and promote effective coping strategies. Based on the Relationship-Based Care Nursing Model, these programs were designed to sustain caring relationships and devise lasting solutions for deepening and strengthening relationships with self, colleagues, patients and families. Maureen later co-authored a poster presenting the details of this program for the 2010 Oncology Nursing Society annual congress. Responding to an immediate need, Maureen recently organized a bereavement breakfast for staff that had cared for an end of life pediatric patient during his lengthy admission. This breakfast, hosted by Social Work, allowed staff time to reflect on their experiences, celebrate the memory of this beloved patient and renew and refresh their caring spirit. Realizing that staff as well as patients and caregivers were in need of additional emotional support, Maureen recently advocated to develop a unit-based support group and partnered with MC, CSW to co-lead this weekly support group. Sustaining these workshops has had an extremely positive effect on our unit. Maureen is a wonderful nurse who truly cares about her patients. She has been known to frequently, sit down at length, be it a busy day, to find out about her patients before cancer became a part of their lives. She embodied Relationship-Based Care before it was officially adopted! But what I want to focus on is her relationship with the staff, with us. She has a genuine interest in every staff member: from RNs, Techs, UAs, MDs, Environmental Services, Escort staff and beyond. She has this knack, this ability, to make people feel special, to make them feel important. She learns our stories; about our lives, our struggles and our accomplishments. And that is because she is interested in people, and in us. She is a breath of fresh air. She strolls in, just off her ride across the park on her bright red Vespa, asking if her hair needs "juhzzing," and you know you will definitely laugh today, or at the very least find some hip hop tunes greeting you as you enter the medication room. She is the morale booster that is needed and always welcomed in serious work environments like ours. Maureen's personality is not one you encounter daily. And once you do have the pleasure, you'll never forget her. I am so happy that she, initially a nurse at MSKCC on a travel assignment, chose to stay on our floor with us. by KC, RN One of the most sacred roles that a nurse can play is that of caregiver to a dying patient. As nurses, this is a profound honor and responsibility. To better prepare patients and families for the emotional transition to hospice care, Maureen felt compelled to visit Calvary Hospital. Collaborating with MSKCC's Calvary liaison, CF, RN, Maureen organized a site visit with a group from M17. This experience promoted appreciation and deeper understanding of Calvary's palliative services and respect for the dignity of the dying. In caring for a dying patient, Maureen demonstrated appreciation for the critical role mind and spirit play in the dying process. Alone in his hospital room because his family were unable to travel from Florida to be at his bedside while he was dying, Maureen spoke at length with his distraught relatives. From these conversations, she learned that their distress was exacerbated by their horror at his dying alone. Though unable to communicate any longer, Maureen had learned from her discussions with the patient that during his life, he craved human companionship and enjoyed music and the hustle and bustle of daily living. Acting on this information, Maureen arranged for a classical guitarist from the music therapy department to stay at his bedside providing a constant soothing presence while she returned to spend time with him as often as possible. The guitarist played Beetles music while he peacefully passed away. While speaking with his family later, they remarked on the coincidence of the choice of music, saying, How did you know that the Beetles were his favorite group?' Of course she knew, she said. They had spent a great deal of time discussing music and everything else that was important to him in the preceding days. Maureen is such an important asset to the M17 community. When she is working, she creates a lighthearted atmosphere with her great personality and her stories. If you are having a hard day, she is able to turn it around. She is always looking out for her co-workers, either by lending a hand to someone having an especially difficult day, changing her work schedule to accommodate other's vacations, or making iced tea to refresh a wilted coworker. by CB, RN and JF, RN Maureen has such special qualities about her. Her creativeness and knowledge of all aspects of nursing greatly add a positive energy to our unit. She is one of the first nurses to lend a hand, offer advice, and listen to any concerns that arise. When I work with Maureen during an emergency situation, she emits a calming aura. I trust her opinion and nursing instinct wholeheartedly. During a cardiac emergency that happened with my patient, Maureen was with me anticipating the patient's needs and gathering supplies to have ready at the bedside. Most importantly, she kept telling me that I was doing a great job and how under control I had the situation. This comment meant a great deal to me and it allowed me to stay focused on the task at hand. CL, RN JMK, PT states "Maureen embodies the meaning of compassion and has stood out since my first interaction with her. From a physical therapy standpoint Maureen works to care for and motivate her patients to reach their medical and personal goals. Words cannot describe the level to which she has given me an understanding of life; its unknowns, its frailty, and its joy, both inside and outside of the MSKCC world. Maureen is a gift to our hospital and we are lucky to know and work with her". From the moment I stepped onto M17, it was Maureen Laffey to first welcome me. I can remember my first day at MSKCC like it was yesterday, and she was the primary influence of the experience. She was my preceptor for the day, showed me around the unit and introduced me to anyone and everyone. She made me feel comfortable in an uncomfortably new environment. Maureen is not only a diligent and compassionate nurse, but she is also a great coworker and friend. She is someone to look to for guidance both in and outside of the hospital. Everyone from nurses, PCTs, UAs, building services, transportation or any influence to the MSKCC community enjoys when her name is on the assignment board at the start of a shift. No matter a good or bad day Maureen will always brighten the mood. AG, RN Maureen Laffey is an exceptional nurse whose caring spirit leaves a lasting impression on patients, families and colleagues. Through the push of her charisma, exuberance and rejoicing in living life, and the pull of her interest in and caring for those with whom she engages, powerful exchanges of mind and spirit elevate all those who are privileged to call her nurse, colleague or friend. As her coworkers have shared, these transformations are profound, deeply etched upon our consciousness. Because Maureen embodies the extraordinary skill and compassionate care the DAISY Award celebrates, it is our honor and privilege to celebrate Maureen's unique contributions with this honor.