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Nominate a 2002 Scholar
Nominations for the 2002 Scholars are being accepted until March 31, 2002. For more information or to nominate a Compassionate Care Scholar call Wendy Martinez at ext. 2-6426 or visit BWHPikeNotes at http://healthcare.partners.org/bwhintranet to obtain a nomination form.
Dennis Thomson, the late vice president of Public Affairs, set a standard of excellence for all employees to be people of good character and value. In his memory, these qualities became the foundation of a program that ensured that the ideals of compassionate care continued to be celebrated among members of the BWH community.
In its second year, the Dennis Thomson Compassionate Care Scholar Program recognized seven clinicians in 2001 and awarded them with a small stipend to carry out a variety of projects that shared a common goal of furthering the mission of compassionate care.
The 2001 Thomson Compassionate Care Scholars included J. Stephen Bohan, MD; Lauren Godsoe, RN; Gabriele Harrison, RN; Doreen Landry, RN; Disty Pearson, PAC; Lawrence Tsen, MD; and Katherin Twitchell, MS, RN, NP. Over the past year these scholars have been busy carrying out their projects and planting seeds of compassionate care in their clinical specialties. To bring to life the legacy of Thomson, Gabriele Harrison, RN shares an overview of her project, discoveries and what compassionate care means in the scope of her daily work.
For Harrison, becoming a Scholar is one piece of a journey that began two years ago when she started considering ethical issues in BWH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). But in fact, as her efforts move forward, Harrison has come to the conclusion that the work she is conducting right now is rooted in 26 years of nursing— a career that has been centered on caring for many of Boston’s sickest children.
Harrison’s compassionate care project is built upon stories, memories and photos of patients and families who have been faced with difficult decision making and the death of a newborn. In her work, she has thread the common theme defining what is compassionate care at the end of life. To Harrison, compassionate care stems from providing customized care for each individual’s needs, personality, spirituality, values and specific medical situation.
“When I was working with children with Cystic Fibrosis, the need to question how we make end of life decisions became increasingly important to me,” said Harrison. “As I began to explore different cases in my role as a NICU nurse at BWH, it became evident that we not only needed to examine what is right and wrong during end of life care for the patient and their family, but also how our staff is impacted,” she added.
Harrison had observed that a great deal of training was offered for nurses on assistance at the beginning of life, but there seemed to be a piece missing. How, Harrison questioned, can we better prepare our NICU staff for dealing with death?
Harrison’s mentors, who noticed her desire to learn more and develop these ideas further, encouraged her to attend a prestigious ethics course at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, which was funded by the Mary S. Fay Award from the Center for Excellence in Nursing Practice. Following this program, Harrison returned to BWH with a program she developed with Martha Jurchak of Ethics Services called “Shades of Grey, ” an introduction to the principles and practices of clinical ethics. Building upon this initiative, Harrison created another presentation “Redefining Perfect” that delved deeper into clinical ethical practices in the NICU. When she was nominated to be a Scholar by Marianne Metcalfe, her nurse manager, Harrison was then challenged to develop a program for the NICU staff that would create a forum for people to begin talking about end of life issues.
“The ways in which we express compassionate care is unique for each of us. By creating an open forum, I wanted to allow all members of our NICU team the opportunity to express different emotions and thoughts. When we share and draw upon each other’s experiences, I believe we can begin to better define a common and appropriate set of ethical practices,” said Harrison.
During her year as a Scholar, Harrison has held two NICU “End of Life Care” forums for her colleagues and has been invited by numerous organizations including the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of Massachusetts to discuss and share her work. She has used her honorarium from the award to attend more ethics workshops at the National Center for Death Education at Mount Ida College.
“The more I learn and explore, the more opportunities I see for our NICU. As we develop new and diverse initiatives, they will each take on a unique personality. However, the theme and goal of compassionate care will be alive in each of them,” said Harrison.
Look for a second Compassionate Care Scholar profile in next week’s issue of BWH Bulletin.