I am the Orthopaedic and Spine Program Coordinator at a Bon Secours Mercy Health facility, Memorial Regional Medical Center in the metro Richmond area. As our elective procedures were halted in response to the pandemic, I worked with my team members across the care continuum to prepare for reopening elective cases, albeit date TBD and recognizing the delivery of care would be dramatically altered. Having disaster early response leader experience through the United Methodist Church, a belief in prepare for the whatever, as you cannot anticipate all the challenges, was ingrained in my experience. I also have a quote from General Tommy Franks in my office - No plan survives contact with the enemy. All of this served well in tackling the unknown with calm. As a nurse leader, I was very proud of our staff who redeployed to very unfamiliar roles and many have shared both their fears and the joyous peak experiences in this new world. Discovering resiliency was a common thread in their stories.
As I observed the impact of visitor restrictions in our previously very "family centric" model of care, I knew I needed to respond to the need to bridge that additional stressor to our patients and their families. I submitted a brief proposal to my executive team and got immediate support to close this divide using virtual technology. Being a "take it and run with it" sort of person, I was both buoyed by their support for my idea, but also realistic that I lacked that technology and staff needed to actualize it. With a lot of divine intervention and me creating new networks within our health system to garner what I needed, I developed a Ministry of Presence. My staff come from disparate roles - from rehab therapists to cybersecurity leaders to unit secretaries. With grace, we all meshed quickly to accomplish the goal of virtually connecting our patients and their support systems. At the same time, quite a bit of telehealth equipment arrived and having no one else to take that on, our team absorbed the responsibility to create the logistics and training for telehealth. With minimal relevant experience, but a "can do" attitude, we pressed on. To a person, our team feels we are doing purposeful work, bridging divides, mastering new skills, facilitating sacred moments for patients and family members and flexing our flexibility muscles like never before! Since we cover the whole medical center, we get to interact with colleagues and roles we rarely would have otherwise.
Personally, I am nearing the end of my career and have the experience base to know we can meet all challenges if we can maintain a "can do" attitude and hold onto our faith. To help imbue this in other younger colleagues has been especially meaningful to me. I applaud all healthcare workers do have stepped out to do work they never envisioned, work hours outside their norm and cheered small and large victories - I think we see with "new" eyes and experience gratitude and empathy in new ways. These are the silver lining.
I cannot wait to get back to helping our team get our communities and patients back to more active lives, but until that day arrives in full force, I am honored to be the force behind this Ministry of Presence for the community we serve.
Another observation to share is an intervention I have long valued and then seen less emphasis placed on it over the years. Therapeutic use of self is experiencing a resurgence in recognition of its value as an intervention and its impact on outcomes. It was what I looked for in my Ministry of Presence team members and have watched being utilized across our medical center. Hopefully we will hold onto this art, as we continue to expand the science of healthcare.
So yes, an orthopaedic nurse to the core, but always ready to be "other" when the need arises!
-Pauline Elliott, RN, ONC