Zena Atkinson

Zena Atkinson

Zena Atkinson, RN

International Heart Institute
Providence St. Patrick Hospital
Missoula, Montana
United States
The calmness in her voice, her understanding of my anxiety issues, medical history, and the impact worry was having on me immediately put me at ease and my anxiety level dropped.

I had a procedure for an abdominal aortic blockage. After my procedure, which already had me quite anxious, I overheard an attending nurse say that my lungs weren't "sounding good" and sounding "weak". It wasn't until the next day that I fully realized what had been said and I became extremely anxious and concerned. I am a long-time smoker and my mother passed away after complications from treatment for lung cancer. These things significantly compounded my anxiety and I was left worrying over the weekend, unable to sleep, eat, or concentrate on anything at home or work.

On Monday, my regular physician was on vacation and I wasn't able to see the on-call physician. I was still quite upset, so I called the IHI. I was referred to Nurse Zena who returned my call within half an hour. I explained to her what I had heard and that I was very frightened. I was close to tears when speaking with her. In a calm, quiet voice, Zena explained the possible reasons for the comments and invited me to come in to see her first thing the next morning so she could listen to my lungs and we could talk. The calmness in her voice, her understanding of my anxiety issues, medical history, and the impact worry was having on me immediately put me at ease and my anxiety level dropped.

The following morning, I met with Zena. The moment she walked into the room I felt reassured that everything was going to be okay. She understood my struggle with smoking and did not chastise or belittle me for that; nor did she make me feel "silly" for being so upset. She listened to my lungs and heart and there are no words to describe the immense relief that I felt when she told me everything sounded fine.

Zena's act of making time to see me, her patience, kindness, and compassion for my situation and reassurance deeply impacted me. In my opinion, Zena truly went above and beyond in her duties, she made time for me when she knew how frightened I was. She truly listened to me and took the time to address my concerns so I could go back to my life without the shadow of worry. The healing process is more than just stitches and band-aids; it is treating the mind as well as the body and that's what Zena did for me. I feel that you are very fortunate to have someone like Zena working for your institution.