Guiding grief with compassion

In intensive care units, challenging cases and clinician dedication intertwine. You have to be an exceptional provider to work in these environments, and an even more remarkable individual to emerge as a beacon of hope for those in your care, especially when guiding grief.

Such is the case for Julia Marchese, a young RN who recently received the prestigious DAISY Award for her outstanding contributions to a family admitted to her unit. Julia was nominated by the daughter of one of her patients, a gentleman who had been in Critical Care following a fall. “Julia went above and beyond to support our family,” the nominator shared.

Despite the patient being in a coma, Julia constantly communicated with the patient and his family, explaining procedures and ensuring they felt involved in his care plan. Many providers choose to speak to their patients despite being in dissociative or comatose states, going the extra mile in their care. Throughout the challenging journey, the nominator was particularly struck by the exceptional kindness and gentleness Julia showed her father during examinations. “She treated him as if he were her own parent.”

Ultimately, the family had to make the difficult decision to remove the patient’s breathing tube. Throughout the process, Julia remained a constant source of kindness and compassion. She even created meaningful keepsakes for the family and checked on the family while respecting their need for space and time. 

“I cannot even say enough how amazing she was to us. I wish everyone could have Julia if they have to deal with the loss of a loved one. She clearly loves her job, cares greatly for her patients, and has a strong passion for her place of work,” the family member shared in her nomination.

For Julia, being nominated for the DAISY Award was an overwhelming honor. Her journey with this particular patient spanned nearly two weeks, during which she became deeply involved in his care, forming a bond not only with him but also with his loved ones. 

Continuity of care, she emphasized, played a pivotal role in building trust and understanding with the family. From nursing interventions to being a source of support during difficult conversations, she checked in consistently, and navigated every step with empathy for those involved.

What truly touched Julia’s heart, she said, was that the patient’s grieving family took the time to nominate her for this award amidst their own emotional turmoil. The recognition felt like a reminder of the impact she can have in her work.

Julia’s passion for people, and even a loss of her own, was actually what propelled her toward nursing work. She decided to pursue nursing after witnessing her grandfather’s end-of-life care following a stroke. 

Overall, working in the Neuro ICU is challenging, but there are bright spots, says Julia. She finds satisfaction in witnessing the successful recovery of patients, particularly those affected by strokes. The availability of advanced neurological interventions, tools, and procedures at her institution, Maine Medical Center, plays a vital role in not only saving lives, but also improving the quality of life of people she sees day in and day out. Uplifting moments of progress, she says, help make it all worthwhile.

Wonderful work takes a village

When asked about her career influences, Julia attributes her success in part to her department, which has shaped her into the nurse she is today. Collaborative learning, critical thinking, and strong teamwork have been instrumental in her growth. 

Additionally, she finds inspiration in her cousin, Greg, who serves as a leader and mentor for her. “It’s extremely therapeutic to be able to communicate with someone that understands the demands of a job in healthcare,” she said.

Beyond nursing, Julia cherishes moments spent with her loved ones. She enjoys being active in nature, whether hiking or skiing in the mountains, or taking trips to the beach with her husband and their golden retriever. Balancing her personal life and hobbies allows her to recharge and maintain the stamina required for her demanding job.

Words of wisdom for fellow frontline nurses:

Nursing, Julia says, is often an underappreciated and mentally and physically exhausting profession. “You may have one patient who is transitioning out of the ICU and to a rehabilitation facility after surviving a stroke, while your other patient may be on comfort measures at the end of their life,” she shared. The multifaceted roles demand adaptability and emotional resilience. 

To nursing students and new nurses, Julia offered valuable advice: discover what brings you joy within the vast profession. Opportunities, specialties, and work settings are aplenty, and finding your passion is crucial. Equally important is self-care. To provide the highest quality of care, you must also care for yourself intently. 

The nursing profession is fortunate to have individuals like Julia, who exemplify kindness. As she remembers her experience with her DAISY nominee family, she remarked, “Ensuring my patient was comfortable while he took his last breath was a special privilege for me. I would have wanted the same for my loved one. I tried to do everything I could to care for him, advocate for his wishes, and support the family.”

Julia’s DAISY Award recognition serves as a testament to the transformative impact nurses can have on the lives of patients and their families. As we celebrate her achievement, let us remember the invaluable contributions clinicians like her make every day, not just in physical healing, but also in uplifting spirits with their compassionate care.

About The DAISY Award

The DAISY Award is a recognition program run by the non-profit organization The DAISY Foundation™ (an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem), which seeks to honor nurses at any stage of their careers, in any role, and in any setting. 

This includes student and faculty awards, team awards, nurse leader awards, lifetime achievement awards, and even awards honoring those nurses specifically addressing social determinants of health. All of this is done in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura in 1999 but received exceptional nursing care during his illness.

For more on The DAISY Award, please visit The DAISY Foundation’s website. Nominations can be submitted at the healthcare facility or via using Get Well’s best practice rounding tool, Rounds+. To make a nomination for a specific nurse who has provided compassionate care, complete the online nomination form today.

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