Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's all about relationships

In life, it’s all about relationships. Spiritually, personally and professionally we need relationships to fully embrace all that this life has to offer.

In my journey through Be the Change, I am consistently reminded of the power that a respectful relationship holds. Since I began working from home in my dual-purpose Be the Change office, I challenge myself daily to reserve a part of each day to do some reading and have some quiet time. It has truly enriched my spiritual relationships, far exceeding my limited expectations. With Be the Change, I am connected to kindred hearts that provide relationships I need to keep me focused, fueled and humbly mindful of its purpose. My relationship with the health care community is vital to the type of medical care I receive, even if it’s just for my yearly physical. The partnerships I am developing with people from the health care community are key to meeting Be the Change objectives which is centered in relationships.

All of these examples of relationships speak into my personal life and my relationships there that I hold near and dear to my heart. I believe the way I conduct myself professionally is defined by who I am personally, largely due to the relationships I had growing up.

This Memorial Day weekend, I hope you choose to take some time to reflect upon the relationships in your life. In this fast-paced world of electronic connection where professional, personal and spiritual relationships have a wide scope, it is even more important to devote quality time to developing and maintaining relationships. As we honor and remember those who have gone before us this Memorial Day, especially those currently serving our country, think about what it was about them that impacted your life. No doubt it is something that was rooted and cultivated by a nurtured relationship.

Definitely life is all about relationships.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Dad's Nurse

For a few minutes in Be the Change presentations I talk about the morning my Dad passed away. I have a couple vivid memories of him that day, one of which involves a nurse who was caring for him and the powerful way she impacted me.

Now if you knew my Dad personally you won’t be surprised to hear that when I entered
his room at Abbott Northwestern Hospital the morning of his heart surgery he said to me, “You again?” He had a somewhat gruff but honest way of letting you know what he thought. If you could disregard some of his words and instead observe his actions, he was very kind and tender. The words this simple, hard working farmer spoke were typically opposite of what he really meant deep down. Most of the time he could more accurately demonstrate his love in actions rather than words.

I had been to the hospital visiting my Dad just the day before his surgery with my husband and two children. We spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon with my Dad. It was filled with the usual teasing by a Grandpa who loved to do that and the giggling of grandchildren who loved it even more without even so much as a glimpse of what lied ahead. That memorable Sunday afternoon turned out to be the last one we would share with him.

My Dad starting have chest pain while shoveling snow a few days prior, disregarding the strict instructions we gave him not to shovel the driveway at his age. Believe it or not, he drove himself to the emergency room and there they confirmed he did have a small heart attack. He was transferred to Abbott and it was decided that a surgical procedure was necessary. The morning of my Dad's surgery as my brother and I were getting close to his room we could hear Dad's loud voice, infectious laugh and the sounds of a nurse laughing along with him echoing in the halls. As we entered his room I walked over to his bed giving him a kiss on the forehead, disregarding his “you again” comment. I couldn't resist firing back with my own quick comment of “Well I love you too Dad”.

The nurse and I started a conversation while my brother and Dad were catching up. She told me that they were laughing about Dad’s socks and that he wanted them left on during surgery because he was always cold. Apparently my Dad had been teasing her about her growing stomach since she was expecting a baby and that he was wondering if she also had trouble putting on her socks like he did because his stomach looked like hers. She also shared with me that earlier Dad had been telling her all about his eight children and that he had seen all of them in the last few days except one, my brother who just arrived with me because he was on vacation the week before. She told me how much she enjoyed my Dad and the time they had together this morning. There was such a peaceful calm which oddly seemed to usher in the unexpected heart break. Then it began, almost in slow motion. My Dad stopped talking and stared blankly ahead. Despite my pleas, he didn’t answer instantly catching the attention of his nurse. As she searched for a pulse she pressed the call button announcing, “Code blue stat, code blue stat”. A swarm of nurses and doctors promptly emerged focused and ready to do what they were trained to do. Heroic efforts were made to save him by the best cardiology team Abbott had to offer, but still my Dad died that morning following a massive heart attack.

To this day, over thirteen years later, I can still faintly hear the sounds of the laughter coming from my Dad’s room that morning. I can still remember the sense of peace all of us had right before my Dad slipped away. The nurse who nurtured the human experience while providing good quality nursing care to my Dad gave us a treasured gift that day. The peaceful memories of that morning embraced me as I grieved, giving me comfort. Those memories helped me cope with not just the reality of suddenly losing my Dad but also the flooding memories of my Mom’s death years prior to that which came rushing in at the same time.

I point out in my Be the Change presentations that you never know when or how you are influencing someone’s life by the decisions and choices you make. As a nurse you never know when you will have that same opportunity to humanize medicine and make a powerful, lasting impact on a patient’s family. At the end of my presentation I say, “One nurse leads by example, affecting others”. A statement I truly believe and has been demonstrated to me many times.

Every nurse has the ability to make a difference; to be the change. Will you be the one who offers life long comfort to a young woman and her family by the choices you make and the relationship you develop even if it is for only one morning filled with both laughter and tears?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making an impact

Usually if time permits there is Q&A at the end of my Be the Change presentations. I believe allowing the opportunity for questions or thoughts to be communicated before I leave is key to what surrounds Be the Change.

Relationships and partnerships developed in that environment, even if just for a few minutes, are as important as the ones I talk about. Our story, which I share in Be the Change presentations, is about my family's health care experiences and the insights I have gleaned from them. But it’s also about putting a real face, Michael’s face, our family's face, to the importance of relationships and partnerships in health care. The experiences I share with my audience and the experience they have with me is no different. For any change to occur there must be mutual respect, understanding and a shared vision for what is possible, which is supported through a relationship and partnership.

It was exciting to have an opportunity to share Be the Change with a group of nurses and staff from the Minnesota School of Business (MSB) Richfield campus nursing program yesterday. Once again I was reminded of the hope and promise that exists in them and the future of nursing. The energy and commitment of not just the students but the staff as well was evident during my time with them. They were very kind and welcoming when I arrived and throughout the presentation I was certain of the impact our story was having on them by the attentive way they listened and the valuable questions they asked.

None of us can ever be sure of the kind of impact that we are making on others. That’s one of the things I talk about in my presentation. But I trust and believe in that we can be confident of anything that is done with great love and an annointed purpose, will make some kind of impact on those around us. The nurses sitting in front of me will be doing just that, some of them in the very near future. It humbles me to think that our son Michael’s journey in health care with a rare disease has the possibility of impacting these young women and men. The picture of Michael’s face on the PowerPoint screen behind me served as a constant reminder of the importance of providing quality nursing care while supporting the human experience inside the medical one. This is all because of the way a young boy impacted the health care community and the family who loved him, giving all of us a renewed sense of commitment and purpose.

I definitely left the presentation assured of the abilities in this group of nurses from the MSB nursing program. If they care for patients as kindly and compassionately as they cared for me in our short time together yesterday, then we will all be impacted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nurses working hard

It’s a busy time of the year; First Communions, Confirmations, Prom, Graduations, just to name a few. They all represent a new season in life where we step out in faith with the hope and promise of what lies ahead.

Amidst this busy season is a week that I assume will be very challenging for nurses. MN nurses vote on Wednesday May 19th to either approve a new contract or authorize a strike. The concerns that nurses have affects not only them personally but the patients they care for on a daily basis. Nurses are the life line to the necessary care that is required when we or a family member get sick. I think to some degree we all take nursing care for granted and presume that it will always be available to us when ever we need it. The nursing profession should be constantly assured of our support in their efforts to provide quality and safe care to us. The truth is that nurses not only face the same personal issues that all of us have in this current economic climate but they also strongly advocate for anyone who has ever been a patient or might be one in the future.

Nurses and patients along with their families want the same things in health care with safety and quality care at the top of the list. Only in a respectful partnership between patients, nurses and administration are we going to achieve the best and most favorable outcome. It always seems to come back to the value of relationships and partnerships that is demonstrated in the choices and decisions we make. This is true in any health care scenario whether it is by the care of patients or the care of the nurses who provide it.

Nurses, be assured of my support for you especially this week and I encourage everyone to offer some kind of support to nurses over the next few days. Let them know how much you appreciate what they are doing and how grateful you are that they continue striving to provide a high level of care as well as be concerned for patient safety. You never know when you will be the one on the receiving end of what nurses are working hard to maintain.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sometimes it is hard

Someone asked me the other day if it is hard for me to talk about and share our health care experiences. That question gave me a chance to really think about Be the Change and ask my self; Can there be value in taking a walk back into traumatic parts of our lives. Recalling experiences that, for most people would need to be quietly tucked away somewhere, only to surface by chance.

Since I believe the efforts of Be the Change should always come from a humble place centered in truth I will admit there are times when I prepare for a presentation I will find myself gripped by the emotion of that particular experience. However, I am quickly reminded that whatever feelings I am having won’t ever match Michael’s suffering. That thought alone renews my conviction and makes me want to press on. His short life accomplished so many big things one of which is how he challenged people especially those in the medical environment, to be better and to want to do better, just because they knew him or about him. Truly that is the force behind Be the Change.

Sharing about Michael and our story through Be the Change presentations will give the medical community an opportunity to hear about real life health care experiences and how they impact patients and families real lives. Sharing our experiences will reshape and strengthen the relationships that currently exist between patients, their families and health care providers simply by putting a face to the whole experience. This will not only make us be better by reclaiming the human experience, but challenge all of us to do better, increasing the quality of care in the medical experience as well.

So yes sometimes it is hard however, speaking the truth and changing the way things are done might be hard at times but it will be worth it in the long run. Be the Change and I are in it for the long run, until the day I see Michael again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

National Nurses Week

In light of National Nurses week May 6-12, 2010 I want to encourage everyone to thank all the nurses you encounter this week. Thank them for choosing to be a nurse; devoting a part of their life to service in all aspects of health care. I think all of us should take a moment to really consider what it would be like to walk a mile in their shoes. Honestly, a good practice to exercise in many areas of our life.

As I talked to a group of graduating nurses at a local community college last Friday, I was struck by the fact that these young women and men sitting in front of me are the future of nursing. They could very well be a nurse that might care for me or one of my family members sometime in the future. My commitment to sharing the patient and family story and the importance of talking about our health care experiences was strengthened by their questions and supportive comments.

Having now experienced for themselves some “Michael Moments” I have faith that it will leave a lasting impression on them and that our real life stories including my insights about partnered relationships in nursing, will allow them to become part of what we refer to as Be the Change. My talk with those energetic graduating nursing students ended on Friday with a statement that I truly believe, “One nurse leads by example affecting others and is the change, I hope it is you”.

Thank you Nurses in all of your roles as we honor you and observe National Nurses week.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Nurse

There was a nurse I had only one time but she made a powerful impact in that one encounter. I was hospitalized for a complication after my mastectomy that required another surgery. A lumpectomy was done just a couple weeks after I was told that I have breast cancer but clear margins were not obtained in that procedure. So I moved forward with a bilateral mastectomy to optimistically insure complete remission after chemotherapy. Unfortunately when the bandage was removed after the mastectomy it revealed darkened skin on the right side which meant that skin was not recovering and would need to be surgically removed and replaced. So in a matter of weeks I was back in the hospital again for the third time. That's when I met one of my favorite nurses.

As you can imagine my mood was somber and my mind cluttered with thoughts of Michael, his multiple infections and declining health. I knew I had to take care of myself in order to take care of him but it was hard to focus on that. This was a low point for me to say the least. A nurse came in to my room around 3:30pm to start the afternoon shift and as she wrote information on the white board she let me know that she was going to be my evening nurse also because she was doing a double shift. I had just got settled in my semi-private room from having the skin procedure earlier that morning to remove the failing skin and replace it with a graft from my back. The surgery was successful but as it turned out it was one of the most painful procedures I had so far, much more painful than the mastectomy. Since I was hospitalized a few times by now I developed a routine where I let every one I came in contact with know that my number one goal along with healing and recovery was going home asap. So as usual I was ready to start my speech with this new afternoon nurse but as I began she said “Oh I already know about you”. It caught me off guard but her tone and smile assured me she was about to partner with me in reaching my goal. She had heard from the other nurses what my intent was but she wanted to know for herself why going home asap was so important to me. As I began to share with her the details about my son Michael and his rare disease she sat on the edge of my bed, holding my hand listening even more carefully to my story. I told her about the miracle that just happened when my sister gave him one of her kidneys resulting in a successful kidney transplant but that multiple infections and rapidly declining white cell counts were taking over. About my husband who just had mitral valve replacement and the concerns I had about him returning to work plus coping with our son’s illness and now my breast cancer too. With complete compassion she continued to listen as I explained how much I miss my daughter too and all the things she had going on in high school and that for the first time ever I was missing her band concert.

Her willingness to take the time to listen to my concerns and take into account what I was going through emotionally, set a course that enabled the physical care she provided act in a true partnership between patient and nurse. My goal of going home asap inside certain medical parameters became both of our goals. She valued what I said and placed it as a priority which made me value what she said and did even more. She explained what I had to accomplish in order for us to reach my goal based on the doctors orders so we started with number one, which was getting out of bed. She showed me ways to get in and out of bed without relying on my right side. Those tips helped me do that more frequently through the evening giving me the real chance to reach my goal. I truly believe that this type of valued partnership makes any recovery go quicker and more smoothly.

I did go home the next morning, accomplishing everything dictated by the doctors orders mainly because of that nurse and her commitment to me. This hospital story describes the vital importance of the human experience being nurtured inside the medical experience. The following week Michael was hospitalized for what turned out to be the last time before going to his heavenly home which at the time of my hospitalization we were not aware of. That nurse partnering with me and getting me home asap gave me precious and valuable time with Michael and my family, together in our home for the last time. Her story wrapped around ours and many like it are the foundation for Be the Change.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grateful for Nurses

With all my talk of relationships and human experiences I also want to take some time to focus on gratefulness. I believe that being grateful in every avenue of your life has the potential to enhance the capacity of the situation giving it the ability to transform, especially when it is difficult or heart breaking.

Considering the broad spectrum of health care that I have been involved in over the last thirty years ranging from my parents to Michael’s to my husbands and my own I hope one of the things I display and verbalize is how grateful I am. I have such tremendous gratefulness for every nurse who has helped me and my family over the years. The nurse who could schedule three different appointments in multiple specialty cares on the same day so that Michael missed only one day of school. The nurses who could do a blood draw in just one poke calming Michael's fears. The nurse who took the time to chat with me at 6am before her shift began while I sat outside Michael’s hospital room. The nurse who brought us fruit and snacks because she noticed we weren’t eating properly while in ICU. Truly the list is endless as is my gratitude.

I am profoundly grateful for the extremely difficult job every nurse does day in and day out, weekends, holidays, overnights and double shifts. Emergencies and illness does not limit itself to Monday through Friday, nine to five. They care for us in our most vulnerable state with medical expertise and gifted ability seeing us through events that are quite possibly the happiest and saddest moments of our lives. How can you properly thank someone for that? Although in my opinion there isn’t much that replaces a simple sincerely spoken thank you, I find even the best of Hallmark cards fall short in expressing my deep and heart felt thanks to nurses.

One of my hopes and prayers in my efforts through Be the Change is of course that relationships between patients, families and providers will be strengthened and the human experience reclaimed but also that it speaks of my gratefulness to all nurses.

Thank you, thank you, with all my heart, thank you nurses.