Rachel Whittaker

Rachel Whittaker

Rachel Whittaker, BSN, RN, CPN

Medical Unit 9th Flr.
Children's Hospital Colorado
Aurora, Colorado
United States
"A family won't remember your name, they won't remember much, but they will remember every single detail of their child's very last moments". Rachel was a part of that experience and I am sure they will always recall her compassionate spirit when reflecting on this time.

Rachel instantly stood out due to her caring and compassionate nature, not to mention her attention to detail and following policy and procedures. Very quickly Rachel established herself as a mentor to other nurses. We knew she could take complicated patients. Her true talents soon rose to the top when we had a family facing an end of life situation. For such a new nurse, Rachel handled this complicated situation with grace and such professionalism. Rachel realized her interest in ethical issues and became the unit's ethics liaison and was soon recognized house wide for her efforts in Ethics. She was also asked to teach at CU to a class of doctors and other healthcare professionals on the subject of ethics.

Rachel has been the champion of our unit's debriefs when we are faced with a difficult patient/family or one that is long term and she notices staff is getting fatigued. We have an ongoing patient on the floor that has been hard for everyone involved. Rachel makes sure debriefs happen for this patient regularly and stays in close contact with the medical team so she is aware of issues that may affect the bedside staff as well as the patient.

Recently, we had another well-known patient see a dramatic change in their health status. Rachel had been their nurse and was there to council the mother as best she could to assist the mother in making decisions and being at peace with those decisions. Rachel was patient, as this decision understandably took some time. Rachel was there for this mother on her best days and on her worst days. She also listened to staff as they wrestled with their own feelings about this patient. She assisted the mother in deciphering what the DNR meant, what it would look like at the time so this mother was prepared. Rachel assured this mother had support and met every need of this family surrounding the discontinuation of support for their loved one.

I literally tear up as I write this thinking about how eloquently Rachel handled herself and how lucky they were to have her there at this time. The night before this patient would be disconnected from their vent, Rachel provided an atmosphere for all the family to say all their goodbyes. I was in charge this day, and remember vividly Rachel holding what looked like a hymn book and telling me she was going into the room for this gathering. Again, she was calm, compassionate, and exemplified what it is to be a nurse. I left that evening again thinking about Rachel and something I was told when I worked in Oncology: "a family won't remember your name, they won't remember much, but they will remember every single detail of their child's very last moments". Rachel was a part of that experience and I am sure they will always recall her compassionate spirit when reflecting on this time.

Rachel of course organized a debrief for the care team associated with this family. Some of the feedback I overheard was:

"Rachel did such an excellent job leading the debrief, she made me feel so much better about the mixed emotions I was having."

"I don't know how, but she seems to know what each of us needed individually, how does she know do that?"

"Rachel's words really meant a lot to me, I am so glad I went to the debrief."

Rachel not only affected the family's experience surrounding this situation, but she also touched our staff. Rachel also models self-care. She knows her own boundaries and will say so when she needs a break. Rachel personifies what it is to be a nurse. Not just with patients who are in this situation, but she extends this kind of care to all her patients. It was an honor to witness what she provided to this family and our staff.