When William Barse needed a major gastrointestinal surgery at Our Lady of the Angels last year, he was understandably apprehensive. He knew he would be in the hospital for several days after the operation, and while he had faith in his team, he also knew that staffing shortages are common in the medical field.
“I tried not to dwell on it, but it was something that was on my mind to the point of having some light anxiety about it,” Barse said. “My grandson is a traveling ER nurse and I know several people who work in primary care. They’ve all said how hard it is to get enough staff, so it was certainly something I was thinking about.”
But, Barse was pleased to find that his concerns were unfounded at Our Lady of the Angels. Throughout his stay, he received prompt, attentive and professional care from a team of nurses and other clinicians who were committed to his recovery and provided comfort through compassion and listening.
Among Barse’s registered nurses in the ICU were Jessica Stewart and Maggie Dossett.
“They went over and beyond what I would expect,” Barse said. “The ICU is a strange place, but they were happy to adjust the lights and the shades and help me get comfortable. They just blew me away. I swear they were real-life angels. When I pushed the nurse call button, I wasn’t even finished pushing it and they would respond.”
Both Stewart and Dossett have had family members who have been hospitalized during the last year, which has helped the nurses gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a relative instead of a clinician. Those experiences have allowed them to put themselves in others’ shoes as they provide care.
“I know how important it is to feel like your voice is being heard and that the staff isn’t just going through the motions,” Stewart said. “It’s easy for us to get caught up in the work we do every day, but for a patient and a family, this is all new to them and it can be very scary. That’s why it’s important to be calming, to listen and to really be there for people.”
It isn’t uncommon for Stewart and Dossett to go the extra mile. They’ve been known to pray with a patient and a family, hold hands and provide any kind of emotional support they can.
“Eye contact is so big to me. It’s not always possible with every patient, so in those cases, I make eye contact with the family,” Dossett said. “I want them to know their voice is being heard and that we are advocating for them. I always tell them that I want to understand how they are feeling. We work in the ICU, so we are there for people’s most vulnerable moments. I want to do what I can to be a light for them and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I treat every patient as if they are my family.”
For Dossett, being a nurse was a calling. Her mother and grandmother both worked in nursing, but Dossett was always athletic and first considered becoming a physical therapist. But, after much prayer and thought, she ultimately chose to follow her heart into nursing.
Stewart’s journey to nursing was a bit different. As a teen, she was thinking about careers in physical and occupational therapy. Then, a high school friend died as a result of an ATV accident. That experience changed Stewart’s plans immediately.
“I remember not knowing what to do and feeling helpless. That is what sparked my desire to go to nursing school,” Stewart said. “I didn’t like not knowing what to do and not being able to help. I never wanted to have that feeling again.”
Today, Stewart said she feels confident she is on the right path. Hearing compliments from patients and families always reaffirms for her that she is exactly where she is supposed to be.
“A lot of times, we meet people on the worst days of their lives, so it’s easy for them to not be pleasant because it’s a traumatic time,” she said.
Barse said the care was especially meaningful because he asked his family and friends to keep their distance while he was in the hospital, as he didn’t want his condition to bring them down. But, he had no trouble making fast friends with his nurses in the ICU, often joking with them and having fun conversations about dogs. Barse operates a dog rescue ministry that includes a program where prison inmates train dogs to become service dogs.
“It was fun to find out that one of the nurses has four dogs and another has two dogs, because that created an immediate bond,” he said. “They really were more like family. They told me what I needed to know, which I appreciate from professionals. They were always in a great mood. It was just unbelievable care.”
Dossett said she gladly takes on the role of being one of Our Lady of the Angels’ most energetic staff members, since she sees the impact it has on patients and her coworkers. In fact, some have nicknamed her Positive Polly because of her constant smile and upbeat attitude.
“I just believe in choosing to see the light, pushing forward and drawing us together as a team,” she said. “It’s so important to have that positive energy because everyone feeds off of it. I see it from our leaders as well because they pray with us and for us. It makes a difference when everyone is like a family. I know God put me here for a reason and it’s a good feeling to show up and know that everyone wants the best for each other and our patients.”
Today, Barse is well on his way to making a full recovery and said he is doing “a lot better than I thought I would be at this point.” In fact, he’s already resumed work with his dog rescue ministry program.
“Almost the entire time I was in the ICU, they told me that it was important to focus on having something positive to look forward to,” he said. “That was a huge help in my recovery as well.”