Costello Honored with Essence of Nursing Award
Margaret Costello, front and center, is the recipient of the 2007 BWH Essence of Nursing Award. She was recognized at the Nursing Recignition Dinner with four finalists, in back from left, Karen Green and Jim Roche; and, middle row, Mary Lou Powers and Joan Dorr.
When Margaret Costello, MSN, MHA, RN, was a nursing student at Salve Regina College, her first patient had a debilitating neurological disease that left her unable to walk or care for herself. At the height of her illness, the patient's husband left her, and financial problems forced her to move from the home she loved to a tiny apartment.
"She was up against so many odds, but she had this positive outlook that made everything more bearable for her," Costello, now a NIC on Tower 15C, recalled. "She could still find goodness in life. I was so inspired by her."
The experience with that patient shaped the way Costello practices nursing and the way she teaches it, both as a preceptor to BWH nurses and as a faculty member at Simmons College.
"As nurses, we don't just take care of patients' physical needs," she said. "It's about taking a holistic approach that helps them develop a positive outlook and the skills to cope."
She added, "For me, it goes beyond what happens at Brigham and Women's Hospital. It's also about teaching patients how to maintain the highest level of function they can when they leave."
This attitude and compassion make Costello an exemplary nurse and this year's recipient of the Mary S. Fay Essence of Nursing Award.
"Margaret's total focus is the care of the patient, and, to that end, she encourages every member of the staff to strive for excellence," said Suzanne Silvernail, RN, nurse manager of Tower 15, who nominated her for this award. "Margaret is an active listener and a compassionate, non-judgmental caregiver."
For Costello, nursing was a natural career choice. "I went into nursing primarily because I enjoy caring for people," said Costello, who worked as a nurse's assistant as a teenager. That love of caring for people manifests itself every day as Costello advocates for her patients.
"She's does whatever it takes to meet patients' needs," said Lauren Chiarenza, BSN, RN, of Tower 15CD. "Margaret always goes above and beyond.
Suzanne Silvernail, RN, and Margaret Costello, RN
Chiarenza had Costello as a professor during her senior preceptorship at Simmons College. "As my professor, Margaret was someone I looked up to and admired, and now, as my co-worker, I still aspire to be like her," she said.
Education is a two-way street for Costello. "I learn from the NLNs all the time," she said. She constantly asks new BWH nurses how their professors could have better prepared them for their first job and incorporates their suggestions into her own course.
In her quest to improve her own teaching and that of her colleagues, Costello is pursuing her PhD in health education studies at Simmons College. "I'm interested in how people learn, what helps them learn and how we can better prepare new nurses for the practice," she said.
Costello's love of learning influences those around her. Patricia Brita Rossi, MS, RN, nurse manager of Tower 14AB, worked with Costello when she was a NIC on Tower 14B. During that time, Costello inspired other nurses to advance their practice.
"Margaret's approach was always one of 'kind mentor," Brita Rossi said. "She had a way of listening closely to patients and nursing colleagues which focused on their needs. With her soft, caring voice and positive articulate manner, Margaret was able to draw people close to her in order to effect change."
In addition to her work at BWH and Simmons College, Costello serves as a lay minister for her church, a position that overlaps in many ways with nursing. "As a lay minister, I tend to the needs of sick people in the congregation, whether it's setting them up with a meal service, driving them to doctors' appointments or helping families grieve after a loved one has died," she said.
Spirituality is important to Costello. "Many people aren't comfortable talking about it, but it's who people are," she said. Recently, a dying patient on Tower 15C was praying loudly in her room. Staff called a priest to pray with the Catholic patient, which comforted her greatly. Later in the day, the patient became extremely agitated while her family was visiting. Costello told the family that the patient had been praying earlier and found it very comforting. She encouraged the family to lead their mom in prayer, and the family began to pray together. "It really calmed the patient immediately," Costello said. "It also helped the family to realize they could help their mother in her final stage of life."
Costello joined BWH in 1988 as a NIC on Tower 14. She later moved to 15CD to take the position of NIC. During her time as NIC on 14 and 15, she has pursued other nursing opportunities on a part time basis. She has also worked as a nurse practitioner in the Pre-Admitting Test Center at BWH.
She earned her BSN from Salve Regina College, MSN from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and MHA from Simmons College.
From left, Lauren Chiarenza, RN, Robert Culleton, RN, and Margaret Costello, RN.