Every day in VA hospitals nationwide, nurses dedicate themselves to help patients reclaim their lives. What they do is more than a career, it’s a calling to restore hope and bring healing to Veterans and their families. Nurses’ strength, skill and compassion lie at the core of VA’s high-quality standard of care. This Nurses Week, we are sharing VA nursing stories that embody inspiration, innovation and influence. Be sure to check back in for a new story every day the week of May 6-12th and share your favorite VA nurse memory in the comments section.
“To care for him who shall have born the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.
Because of numerous national complaints against VA over the past three years, it is sometimes difficult for the local community to understand that caregivers at VA medical centers uphold the mission and core values of the agency with the highest regard. Understanding this privilege of caring for America’s Veterans also involves knowing that there is never one standard formula to care for every patient. Instead, each care plan is customized for the Veteran and is as unique as the Veteran.
One weekend, I took care of a gentleman that had severe and end-stage pulmonary fibrosis. He had this disease for many years living at home somewhat independently, with the help of his long-time girlfriend. His disease was very advanced, sometimes being so short of breath that he needed two oxygen devices to recover from movement.
He was admitted for a community-acquired pneumonia. He insisted that he would return home and did not want to die in the ICU because he hadn’t yet married his love and he was worried that his benefits would not be provided to her if they were not married. He was in denial of his impending death during his present admission.
I spoke to the ICU Intensivist (M.D.) on duty and explained that the patient had been continuing to decline with his level of shortness of breath. The doctor and I spoke in depth with the Veteran about the disease process and current decline. He was tearful and stated that he wanted to at least be discharged to be able marry his girlfriend. I told him gently but firmly that I did not think he could make the journey back to his home town. I then shared with him, “people get married in the ICU all the time”. He was grateful and relieved and they were married the next day. The Medical Center staff joined forces and provided the Officiate, decorations, and food. The family was supported by the nursing staff and comforted when the Veteran passed away the following day. I am grateful in my heart that I was able to give him resolve and grant him his last wish.
This heartfelt story demonstrates the Department of Veterans Affairs ICARE values through the dedication and determination of the I.C.U. nurse caring for a Veteran at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center. By providing the highest quality of care needed, the nurse was able to honor the Veteran by facilitating his personal request. Her belief in the VAs mission and core values enabled her, as she worked through the emotional situation to make a difference in the life of this Veteran and family.
Story submitted by: Sandra L. Sullivan, MSN, RN,LNHA, NEA-BC
The Martinsburg VAMC was the first VA Medical Center and the first hospital in the State of West Virginia to be awarded the ANCC Pathway to Excellence (PTE) designation. Martinsburg VA Medical Center has recently passed the document phase and currently in the nurse survey phase to obtain our 3rd and continues Pathway to Excellence designation. Under the PTE Practice Standard “Quality” and Evidence of Performance (EOP).