Heroes of the Week: Nurses work together to care for patient with special needs

When a nonverbal patient with special needs arrived at the emergency department of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, Nurse Manager Joyce Lee, RN; Lea Puchan, RN; and Ami Serraglio, ANM, approached her care with compassion and understanding.

Because the patient tested positive for COVID-19, she was unable to be joined by her support system, so she was distressed.

“When the patient came in my heart broke for her,” says Serraglio. “I used to work with special needs children, specifically autistic children, so I knew how hard the change in routine and scenery was going to be for her.”

The team of nurses connected with a relative of the patient via FaceTime, asking questions about her care and routine, so they could care for her in the best way possible. The patient also had the opportunity to see her family on the phone, which was a relief to both of them.

The relative told Lee, Puchan and Serraglio what to do to calm the patient down, and they did whatever they could to console her. Puchan even took it upon herself to go into the pediatric unit to retrieve a stuffed animal for the patient.

“My night shift RNs were the true heroes,” says Lee. “They stayed with the patient for several hours until she finally calmed down and trusted us.”

The nurses played music and pulled up old Barney videos to provide a safe and calm environment for the patient. Hours later, they gained her trust and got her to lay in bed. Puchan and Serraglio – in full PPE – laid with the patient, comforting her as she fell asleep.

“The patient was so sweet and I could tell she could understand we wanted to care for her and comfort her,” says Puchan. “I also really appreciated and admired her relative’s strength and how she worked with us and helped us even though she could not be there.”

The patient’s family and care takers put together a tip sheet to assist with her care for the remainder of her stay. The sheet provided instructions for other nurses as shifts changed, so the patient could receive the best care possible. When the patient was discharged a week later, the team held a clap out to celebrate her healing.

“I love what I do,” says Serraglio. “Experiences like this make all the hard times worth it.”

Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week is a recognition program that showcases and celebrates the incredible care and work of our caregivers who give their all each and every day. Caregivers are first recognized in Hero Huddles as part of our tiered daily huddles. The Office of Patient Experience then selects one of the featured caregivers to be Hero of the Week.

For your colleague to be considered, share why your colleague should be celebrated in Hero Huddles during the daily tiered huddle. If your team does not directly participate, speak to your manager, who can share the recognition with the appropriate leader to share in the huddles.