Local RNs talk about what it takes to provide excellent patient care
SOME JOBS ARE MORE than an occupation; they are a calling. Nursing is one of those professions; it requires special individuals with distinct skills who are able to handle a demanding, and oftentimes stressful, environment. The many hospitals in Central Florida all rely on the sharp minds and strong hands of the battalions of nurses that walk their floors and departments all day, every day, providing excellent patient care. In light of National Nurse’s Week this May 6-12, it’s important to honor those nurses and to recognize the unique qualities that go into providing the best care. If you want to know what qualities are required to provide excellent patient care, just ask a nurse.
PASSION COMES FIRST
All nurses agree: the best nurses are the ones who are living their dream or following their destiny by caring for patients. Kristi Shepherd, a RN in the Progressive Care Unit at Bartow Regional Medical Center, says, “I don’t recall ever thinking, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ I just always knew that’s what I was going be … you could say I was born for this. There is nothing else I’d rather do. I wake up for work every day and am thankful to have a job that I love.”
Time doesn’t lessen that passion either, according to Jill Hoagland, who is the Assistant Nursing Director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (FLDOH-Polk). She’s been an RN for 27 years, and she vows that when she started nursing school, “I just felt that I was being called into nursing.” Among all of her years of experience and all the different types of nursing she has done, Hoagland sees the love of nursing as the common bond among it all, asserting that, “You have to have a heart for what you are doing. You have to love what you do.”
Similarly, Amantha Theodore, a nurse who’s worked the last 10 months at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, echoes that same sentiment: “Practicing as a registered nurse has always been my utmost dream, and I’m grateful each day for the opportunity to impact the lives of patients. Nursing comes from a special place within … Being a nurse is definitely not a job; it’s a lifestyle.”
Another nurse at the Lakeland Regional Health agrees. According to RN Breanne Marcoux, a Clinical Nurse Specialist for Medical Services, a passion for caring for others is what gets nurses through the long hours, strenuous work, and challenging situations. “The current healthcare environment places high demands on direct-care nurses,” she explains. “Nurses are able to handle these demands when they have a true passion to care for patients.”
POSSESSING TRUE CARING
That passion for working with patients and families must also include a component of caring and compassion. A nurse can have a true desire to make a patient well, but that nurse must also have empathy and concern for the patient to offer truly excellent patient care. Kelly Crouch, a Chemotherapy Nurse with Lakeland Regional Health Cancer Center, upholds that true caring and compassion are paramount in nursing. “There are many qualities that make a good nurse. One of the most important is compassion,” she says. “Patients are often going through things that they don’t understand or don’t want to accept. They need a nurse who is willing to lend his or her heart and ear to help the patient process the emotions of what is happening.”
That foundation of genuinely caring for others is considered to be of the utmost importance to RN Tina Weakland, a Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator with Lakeland Regional Health Cancer Center, when striving to provide the best in patient care. “One of the key attributes of being good at nursing is the desire to help others,” she asserts. “I believe it is the catalyst that defines nursing. The needs of the patient are the priority; they are the focus of what we do.” RN Amantha Theodore with Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center adds that true patient care goes beyond the actual duties of tending to a patient and is something that each nurse must find within her or himself: “It’s about being courteous and doing whatever it takes to please that individual and at the same time working together to help heal; it’s important to see the individual not as a patient but as a human being.
EXCELLENT ‘SOFT’ SKILLS
Nurses must first and foremost have passion and true empathy, but the requirements for excellence don’t end there. All nurses will tell you that a great nurse is as good at the “” skills — those associated with working with others and unmeasurable qualities like organization, flexibility, and critical thinking — as he or she is at the “hard” skills, like reading a chart and taking blood. Working as a team is a must, according to Weakland. “I believe that the art of working with others is another characteristic that is important for nurses to possess,” she observes. “Taking care of patients and meeting their needs is always a team effort.”
Theodore adds that effective communication has to be part of that team effort, and Shepherd maintains that good communication extends to the patients as well: “Providing excellent care for my patients starts with the basics. Talking, listening … paying attention to what is being said,” she explains. Lastly, Hoagland emphasizes that the communication must be “at whatever level that is necessary for that patient — or patient’s family — to understand,” and stresses that teamwork in nursing is vital, from administration on down to supervisors and to the nurses themselves to help everyone provide outstanding care. “I want the quality of care to be what I would want to be given to my mother, my father, brothers, sisters, children … I would want that care to be outstanding,” she adds.
It’s lucky for the people of Central Florida — for all of those trying times when a mother, father, child, or other loved one is ill or in the hospital — that there are so many wonderful nurses committed to excellent patient care.
story by ERIKA ALDRICH