Back in March of this year, Danbury Hospital received the first COVID positive patient in our critical care units, the first in Connecticut. This was uncharted territory for all involved as the virus did not come with directions and pandemics were something we only learned about "theoretically" in nursing or medical school. Everyone pulled together quickly and efficiently, provided top-quality care and the team was amazing! There is one nurse whose story I would like to share that exemplified the values represented by The DAISY Award, she rose above the challenges to show incredible compassion and human connection.
Nursing provides not only clinical care but also supportive care to patients and their loved ones and our team did an amazing job. Our ICU educator and assistant nurse managers seemed to work 24/7 and were always on top of the most current recommendations. The team provided knowledge and as we all know, knowledge is power. They helped us know that together, we can do this, this is why we are here, this is our calling, and this is what matters. While the outside world changed so drastically, everything in the hospital changed at an even faster pace. What was the process in the morning was changed by the afternoon; sometimes it changed within the hour. The team was walking the units every day trying to make sure that everyone knows the most current information. We had help from so many different units in the hospital that jumped in with both feet. Some worked in critical care in years past (some 20+ years past!) and some had minimal clinical exposure but just wanted to help.
Nursing often offers support simply in the way of providing comfort, a hand to hold, listening to someone's story, or even sharing our knowledge of what to expect with a patient's disease process or diagnosis. Everything changed with COVID. We had limited knowledge of how the disease process would go, what we learned changed each day and the support we often give was changed entirely. Nurses became the families of patients as families could not visit. We held the hands of the patients breathing their last breath, families struggled to learn the new technology along with us as people were "Zooming" from around the world telling our patients to "keep fighting". We cried with families as we held the patient's hand and told them how much they were loved. With so many unknowns about COVID and not being able to visit, the scary experience of having a loved one in the ICU now became intolerable for families. Nurses were struggling to provide clinical care to a much larger population and the time it took to Zoom was sometimes not even possible. Our Assistant Manager, Shelby Newkirk, saw the need and immediately stepped in. Shelby made it her personal mission to make sure she completed as many Zoom calls as she could with families every day! Shelby worked non-stop to keep families informed and coordinate the staff to make sure that everyone who wanted to help was in a place that they could help. When I say non-stop, I mean she was texting, emailing, and calling day and night, weekends, holidays....all with a newborn and young child at home! She got to know every patient's family and made connections that she still keeps going to this day. Shelby had families send her pictures and since she is a photographer in her spare time, she created beautiful photo collages, laminated them, and put them right within the patient's line of vision so when they opened their eyes, they saw loving faces. She still gives the staff updates on the patients who ask her to share their status. Shelby is truly an angel!
In August we celebrated Critical Care Awareness Month, which is normally celebrated during the month of May but due to COVID, we delayed celebrating. Shelby reached out to many of our patients with COVID who had extended stays and asked them to share short video clips thanking the staff for their care and providing an update on where they are with their lives and their families. The video is AMAZING! It is hard to watch it without crying! She also incorporated pictures of the staff, mostly covered in PPE, and often surrounded by food as our surrounding communities were so generous. One particular story shows the enduring connection that Shelby created with families and patients during this time. We had a COVID positive patient who was in our critical care units for many weeks. Shelby was the main point of contact for the family, facilitated communication throughout the stay, and created strong bonds with the family and patient. Even after the patient was discharged, Shelby continued to send videos of encouragement to the patient and family. When the patient received the news that he would require a lung transplant because of complications from COVID, Shelby created a video of encouragement with some of this patient's "favorite" nurses to keep up his spirits. The family in return has created videos for Shelby because they want to share progress and success moments. The videos that Shelby sends to the patient have been so meaningful that he shows them to his entire healthcare team while he awaits a transplant to let them know "this is the standard you are being held against." Our gratitude for Shelby's personal contributions to the staff, patients, and families can never be expressed in words, she gave of herself when there was nothing left to give, somehow continued day after day and she is one of the most wonderful people you could ever hope to know.
Shelby is a true DAISY Nurse.