When Kaitlyn Suarez entered the hospital to face a second bone marrow transplant in her battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she knew that in addition to her doctors and treatments, one of her biggest weapons would be a nurse named Jess.
An important friendship
“When I found out she would be my primary nurse, I was like, ‘OK, now I know I’ve got this; I have Jess,’” says Suarez of Jessica Bilbo, the nurse she had grown close to during her first hospital stay.
While nurses play an important medical role, they also become trusted allies that help promote patients’ emotional well-being and overall hospital experience by fostering strength, hope and friendship with those in their care.
Bilbo says her main role is to be an advocate for her patients and their families, a job that requires wearing many hats, from acting as middleman (and often translator) between patients and doctors, to answering questions and supporting other family members, to providing emotional support and companionship. In addition to being cheerleaders for their patients, nurses offer a bit of normalcy that can be tough to find among friends and loved ones.
“Jess became my friend,” recalls Suarez. “Even though I was in isolation, I didn’t feel isolated.”
A two-way street
However, as Pamela F. Cipriano, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), notes, nurses can’t juggle those roles if they don’t focus first on their own health. Just as Bilbo and other such terrific nurses try to provide a well-rounded experience for their patients, the ANA’s picture of a healthy nurse is multi-faceted. A healthy nurse, notes Cipriano, “actively focuses on creating and maintaining a balance and synergy of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, personal and professional well-being.”
“Patients are influenced by the health care professional they see in front of them,” she continues. “Research has shown that nurses and other health care professionals are more likely to engage in patient education on healthy choices and behaviors if they themselves, for example, eat balanced meals, exercise, refrain from using tobacco products and manage their stress effectively.”
And when nurses focus on their well-being, it pays off, big time.
“Nurses have this ability to care with all their heart,” Suarez says. “They’re willing to talk to you and for you to get you through it, because while half of the battle is physical, the other half is mental. And when they come in every day with a smile on their face, patience and questions and answers, it’s pretty incredible.”