Dundin Named Essence of Nursing Award Recipient

Nurse Andrew Dundin without and with PPE
Andrew Dundin last fall at the Brigham and in PPE. "COVID means no beard these days," he says.

Andrew Dundin, MSN, RN, CEN, of the Emergency Department, was selected as this year's Kurlat Essence of Nursing Award recipient for his ability to form trusting relationships with patients and loved ones and for ensuring that their voices are always heard.

"Andrew encompasses all the characteristics of a compassionate caregiver, student, teacher, mentor and leader," wrote ED Nursing Director Anna Meyer, DNP, RN, in a letter of support for Dundin's nomination. "He communicates sensitively with patients and their loved ones; understands the significance of patients' families and their communities; and cares for his patients as though they were his own family members."

Dundin, who serves as co-chair of the ED Patient and Family Advisory Council, is passionate about making sure that the perspective of patients and family members is considered in decision-making. As his capstone project for graduate school, he launched a pilot training program for new Emergency Service Assistants (ESAs) to emphasize the importance of empathy and understanding the perspective of patients and family members in the busy Emergency Department setting.

"In this program, patient and family advisors help staff understand how their actions or inactions can make patients feel," said Dundin. "Staff also learn things we can do that mean the world to patients, such as providing a warm blanket, ensuring that the patient has access to their call bell or updating them. Because of the volume and velocity in the ED, we need to train people to think this way. Otherwise, the little things that mean something to patients and families may get lost."

Dundin, whose experience in the Emergency Department nursing spans two decades, recently shared how he and his colleagues are working together and maintaining these connections with patients and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

How has the pandemic changed your work?

AD: The real question is, how hasn't COVID changed our work in the ED? What's remarkable is that although we have many new processes and workflows in place for safety, the feeling of camaraderie, compassion, family and commitment are still the binding forces that exemplify the ED team. We still put our patients and families at the center of all that we do. There is a new distance between clinicians and patients as we attempt to minimize exposure and risk. Even though we now utilize isolation and physical barriers, we haven't lost the determination to connect with our patients and families and provide them care that they need, especially in these challenging times.

What is the sense of teamwork like in the ED?

AD: It doesn't surprise me that when times get tough, the ED team pulls together, supports each other and stands ready to hold the line. Our strength comes from our unity and recognition of everyone's importance and contributions. From sending food to NYC hospitals to taking up a collection to support our housekeeping staff, the ED nurses are always looking to find a way to help. Mr. Rogers said it best, and I think this applies to my teammates: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" I am so proud to stand side by side with some of the most incredible helpers in the world.

Relationship-based care was an important theme your nomination. How are you continuing to form relationships with your patients during this challenging time?

AD: The barriers, literal and figurative, that we must use for safety do present a challenge to connecting with people, but there is a new energy that is binding us together. Our presence is still felt even if at a distance, and I believe that this brings some peace and security to many of our patients. Nurses are still noticeably challenged by not being able to work with patients and families as before, but we are always looking to optimize technology and verbal communication as a means of establishing a conceptual presence.

Personally, I make sure that when I'm at the bedside doing necessary physical care in the appropriate PPE, I take the opportunity to hold a hand or touch a shoulder and make strong eye contact with my patients. These small acts carry such a critical weight in these times. Nurses have always known this and used these actions, but now, more than ever, we need to take every opportunity to be present with our patients.

Dundin was nominated for the Essence of Nursing Award by Diane Miller, MSN, RN, ACNS, CEN, professional development manager, with letters of recommendation from Martie Carnie, senior patient experience advisor, and Anna Meyer, DNP, RN, nursing director.

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