I have had the pleasure of working with Kris Niehaus for the last two years and the chance to witness her daily (nightly if you will) compassion for her patients. As many units go, ours can be quite challenging. Caring for six patients can lead to quite a bit of time spent charting and running back and forth from patients’ rooms to the nourishment room for their late night snacks. Despite this, she still will take the time to offer all of her patients a back massage before they go to bed. I do not know of any other nurse who continues this practice, and I cannot count how many of her patients ask me if their nurse will be Kris that night because they feel safe, secure and comfortable with her. The simple act of a massage before bed can give a patient a sense of tranquility. It could allow them to finally release stress and pain and have a restful sleep.
Though this alone is worthy of a DAISY Award nomination, there was a specific encounter I wanted to share where Kris went above and beyond to provide exceptional care and empathy to one of her patients. As charge nurse one day, I went into this patient’s room to assist her in rearranging her room so that she would be able to sit in the chair and color in a coloring book, facing the window to look outside, and reach the call light. This patient has been admitted to the hospital frequently in the last couple months due to left sided weakness caused from cancer progression, and numerous nights she would find herself not being able to sleep. The night shift nurses would often set her up a coloring station in the nurses’ station to socialize with them so that she wasn’t sitting in her room alone. The patient told me that Kris saw that she loved to color, and she had purchased Prismacolor Premier coloring pencils for her son and instead of giving them to him she brought them to her in the hospital as a gift so that she could continue her coloring. The patient enjoyed painting and coloring to pass the time in the hospital, and she would then give her art to the nurses who cared for her.
This story really moved me. Often times the hospital setting can be fast moving and abrasive, and honestly perhaps sometimes quite scary for the patient. Kris reminds us of the importance of “seeing the patient” and stepping back to remember why we as nurses do what we do. This small act of kindness, I think is what invigorates all nurses to continue to stay and work in this profession. Kris is the definition of what nursing is, selflessly giving everything she can each and every night that she steps into the hospital. Her gentle touch and humorous demeanor and empathy touch each of our oncology patients each and every week.