I have been very blessed with my medical team and have learned to "pay it forward" by sharing my compliments to all involved. The following letter is one that I wrote and sent to my Home Health Care nurse and his employer. In order to respect their privacy, I did not include their names in the copy I am posting on my blog. (Of coarse, in the original one that was sent to them, his name and the company name was mentioned numerous times.)
To whom it may concern,
Prior to Jan 21, 2016 I had no personal experience with having a Home Health Nurse visiting my home to assist me with my medical needs. However, over the past 3+ years, I have had numerous experiences with nurses during clinic, ER visits, procedures, and hospitalizations. Additionally, I am active in online Gastroparesis & Chronic Illness support groups and hear all the time about the experiences that others have with their nurses. As a result, I have gained a lot of knowledge about the impact that a nurse can have on one’s well-being, patient experience, and health status. I have also learned to appreciate a great nurse when you find one, not only by letting them know personally but by also sharing with others, including their supervisors and the medical providers that employ them.
I’d love to say that every nurse that has been or currently is on my medical team has been amazing, unfortunately, that is definitely not always the case. As I’m sure you know, it can be difficult to find medical providers (nurses, doctors, etc) that are able to empathize, communicate, and create a trusting relationship with their patients. Having a chronic illness, one that is not well understood or even known of, can be difficult for anyone. In my case, my digestive system became dysfunctional. Being unable to eat and process it normally (gastroparesis, colonic inertia, etc) has created severe symptoms of nausea, heaving/vomiting, intense abdominal pain, fatigue, dizziness, dehydration, etc. These illnesses have made me dependent on tube feeds, an ileostomy bag, and currently IV hydration as well.
On Jan 8, 2016 I underwent surgery - a colectomy with ileostomy. What was suppose to keep me in the hospital for a few days, ended up keeping me for 2 weeks due to complication of an ileus, dehydration and difficulty receiving adequate nutrition thru my feeding tube. Eventually, I was discharged home with a PICC line and Home Health Nurse. I was frightened to have a home nurse as I often hear horror stories from other patients regarding their experiences. I was also fearful of having a PICC line due to possible infections. I was scared that my nurse would be mean, disrespectful, uncaring, judgemental and not properly take care of my health safety, such as not maintaining the sterilization necessary to decrease risk of infection. Many of my online friends have been hospitalized and some have even died from Sepsis infections.
I am glad to report that my experience thus far with my Home Health company has been a very positive experience. All of the nurses that have been a part of my care team from have been friendly and respectful. I thank you for employing nurses like them on your staff.
With this letter, my goal is to discuss how amazing my main nurse has been. Beginning with my PICC line and currently with my PORT (both used for IV hydration), he is always very thorough and diligent with maintaining a clean and sterile process. Regardless of if he’s exchanging the dressing around my PICC, when I had it, or currently accessing my PORT each week, I can depend on him to keep me as safe and as infection free as possible. I appreciate how he explains what he is doing along the way, especially if something “new” is happening. I have been impressed with how well he communicates not only with me, but also with my husband and even my Dr when the need arises. He appears to truly listen and is able to effectively communicate my needs (even if I’m not sure of them myself) to whomever necessary. It takes a lot for me to trust new members on my medical team, but he has demonstrated time and time again that I can trust him. I feel as though he actually cares about my health and wants to help me improve.
I’m confident that he’s qualified and able to effectively advocate for my medical needs if needed, as he has already done so on numerous occasions. One was when I became dehydrated, lethargic, and weak. I was desperately not wanting to make a trip to the dreaded ER, even though I knew it was at that point. My home nurse worked alongside my husband in convincing me that it was time to seek assistance from the ER, while also working behind the scenes with my GI to get fluids back on board at home. Another example was the time that I began showing signs of an infection near my PORT. With increasing pain around my PORT, I eventually broke down and called him on a Sunday evening. He was very encouraging as he made arrangements to come by and check out my PORT. Due to the pain and symptoms, he instantly removed my PORT needle and noticed that I had signs of infection near my surgical site. Calming my fears of not wanting to return to ER, he was able to talk directly with my GI (thanks to them already having an open line of communication) and get antibiotics on board immediately. Thankfully, the antibiotics eliminated the infection and saved me from having to have my PORT pulled and replaced. If it had not been for his calm but swift caring actions and problem solving skills, I would have either ended up in the ER or had to face a more severe infection. Additionally, he has also contacted the pharmacist on my behalf when we were having issues with receiving much needed nausea medication due to insurance barriers.
Other characteristics that I value from his care include: his willingness to learn more about my condition, his positive and welcoming persona, and his time management. He always arrives within the expected time or lets me know if the time changes, which is to be expected within the healthcare profession. At times I have had to schedule necessary medical appointments, which can influence the time of day that I’m available for a home nurse to visit. When this occurs, my home nurse has always been flexible to arrange a time that works around these appointments and has remained positive, never making me feel like I’m inconveniencing him - even if a last minute change occurs due to traffic. (My Drs are all out of town.) Something else that I appreciate from him is that he is extremely easy to talk to and makes me feel comfortable. He does not make me feel inferior, like some nurses in my past experiences have. Many times (as result of past experiences and fears) I find myself downplaying symptoms or hesitating to reach out to medical providers. I don’t want to be a nuisance or have to return to the hospital. In fear of being mocked, misunderstood, dismissed, ignored, and "labeled", I've become stubborn. I do my absolute best to tough things out as long as I can, sometimes admittedly too long. However, he has been able to recognize when I’m having difficulty and instead of judging me, he encourages me to keep him and my doctor updated while also reminding me that it’s okay to call when there is a problem (not to wait it out). He has never made me feel awkward or bad about having to call him for any medical issue or concern when they’ve appeared.
In conclusion, I want you to know that I am completely satisfied and thankful for the care that my Home Health company has provided me with. I would definitely recommend them to others that are in need of Home Health Care services. I can honestly state that I have witnessed first hand the integrity, caring, compassion, and professionalism that I expect and respect from health care providers; all of which are posted online as their core values.
As a result of my past experiences, I have learned to never underestimate the power and impact of having a compassionate, empathetic, and kind nurse. Whether in the physician's clinic, inpatient at a hospital, scurrying around the Emergency Department, or a part of one’s medical team as a Home Health nurse, nurses are an essential part to one’s patient experience and health journey. The past 3 years have been difficult for me. Learning to live with my health issues and lifestyle changes would be impossible without the wonderful nurses that I have met along the way. Having a health care team that you can depend on and trust is important, especially for those with chronic illnesses. Having an exceptional nurse who connects and communicates well with everyone involved (patient, family, & doctors) is definitely a valuable asset, and I feel very fortunate to feel as if I have such an exceptional nurse as part of my health team. Not only do my family and I respect him as a nurse, but so does my Dr, and that speaks volumes. I hope that eventually I will regain better health, but until that day comes, I hope to continue receiving the extraordinary care that my nurse, and nurses similar to him, provide under your leadership.