“I heard you’ve been having a very difficult time, and I’m not sure what went wrong and where. I apologize for anything you experienced that caused you any discomfort. Here’s what I can guarantee you: we’re gonna focus on what we can do to help you you have the best day you can have being in the hospital. What can I do right now to get your day started off well?”
Edna Dunkin’s approach to work celebrates human connection in nursing. As a long time LTAC and travel nurse, she centers her practice on meaningful relationships with her patients. Long term acute care facilities are hospitals designed for patients with intensive medical issues. Patients receive specialized treatment over extended periods of time with stays averaging 20 to 30 days.
“By the time a patient and their family gets to LTAC, they’re weary,” she explained. “They’ve seen things go wrong and people who seem less than interested in what they do.” To Edna, this is where her work starts. She works alongside a multidisciplinary team of specialist health care professionals and brings a skilled ear listening to her patient needs. LTAC facilities offer more individualized and resource-intensive care, allowing nurses to gain experience in complex treatment methods. This gave her the opportunity to learn more about building trust with patients and their families by serving as their advocate. “Doctors are bottom line, nurses are the front line” when it comes to knowing a patient’s detailed treatment plan. As a lifelong learner driven by curiosity, Edna is always interested in learning about how body systems interact. This enables her to work with pharmacists and doctors to embrace a holistic approach to integrated medicine.
“She uses what’s described as her nursing superpower: the ability to talk to anyone at any time…Patients feel more supported when you demonstrate you care. “
While working at the bedside, Edna enjoys supporting a patient’s long term journey. She provides information for the families and fights stereotypes of LTAC facilities. “People don’t know how (this model) fits in with healthcare,” she described, but nurses should always provide quality care. To do this, she uses what’s described as her nursing superpower: the ability to talk to anyone at any time.
As an expert in handling “challenging” patients, she prioritizes asking them directly about their treatment goals. Her routine consists of checking in and asking everyone involved with the case how are they doing. She contextualizes patient behaviors to understand how they ended up in the facility. Her desire to treat patients’ “mind, body, and spirit” pushes dialogue toward pursuing a healthier lifestyle. “You learn how to really help them other than just giving them a pill. That’s important: that’s a whole human being.” Patients feel more supported when you demonstrate you care.
“You have to consider that person is having one of the scariest times of their life, both the patients and family members. We are actually fortunate enough to make a good living helping others, so the least we can do is a good job and stop judging people based on what we think they should or shouldn’t be doing.” With her approach, she helps people find motivation to develop healthy behavior patterns.
Her most memorable client found the courage to break his addiction to prescription pills. She helped the patient express his own goals and heard him commit for the first time to complete a rehabilitation program. “It’s not always the big things you say, it’s the little things along the way” that facilitate compassionate, dedicated care.
As a former radio host and journalist, Edna looks for the “string of universal truth” in people’s stories. During her decades in the nursing field, she’s learned that customer service doesn’t always mean getting to say what people want to hear. She prioritizes honest and transparent communication. She develops an empathetic rapport with her patients and strives to be the type of nurse she would want caring for her.
Through continuous self discovery and assessment, nurses can each find their own way of connecting to a client personally. LTAC allows opportunities to build strong relationships, gain new experiences, and challenge herself to grow. Humbly, her key to success is simply remembering “something in your life could have been immensely different…so we don’t judge people. We just judge ourselves and ask, ‘how can I do better?’”