Working in the ICU at Boulder Community Health, Lynne McAtee-Harris, BSRN, has seen firsthand the value and importance of compassion in healthcare. During a particularly challenging and stressful transition period in the ICU, Lynne made it her mission to prevent not only her patients from feeling any distress, but also to support her colleagues. She created a Compassionate Care Committee to ensure that caregivers have the resources to take care of themselves during stressful times. This program has grown to receive hospital-wide support.
Lynne leads by example, taking important steps to assure each patient and their family is supported. She re-learned her high school French so she could communicate with a non-English speaking patient, and then coordinated her son’s French class to write letters of healing and hopeful messages in French for the patient. In another instance, she implemented a patient and family journaling project for patients struggling with long-term treatments to help them channel their feelings and experiences into words.
“These initiatives continue to change the culture at Boulder Community Health and have led to increased social connections, healthy coping and resiliency, and the improved overall happiness and satisfaction of the ICU team,” colleagues report. “There is ongoing support of the team members in developing resiliency and meeting the emotional challenges inherent in delivering care. But what has stood out is Lynne’s intimate care to her patients in a time of stress.”
“Lynne has touched the lives of so many of our patients and staff members, but more importantly she has changed the culture of BCH, weaving compassionate care into the very fabric of the institution.”
Beyond these personal touch points, Lynne also created the Annual Compassionate Care Symposium, a day-long program for Boulder Community Health caregivers to learn how to emphasize compassion in all care interactions. Sessions and trainings emphasize patient-centric communication, empathy, humility, kindness, forgiveness, mindfulness and the power of centering meditation. These programs have helped reduce burnout and stress, successes credited to Lynne and her efforts.
Lynne says of her work, “For me, it’s just another work day, but for my patients and families this may be the first time they have ever been ill or had a particular procedure or surgery. Perhaps it’s the first time they have ever been in the hospital. For them, it is anything BUT normal. Remembering this is the key to compassionate care. Remembering that no matter how technically competent I am, no matter how well I do my job or how efficiently I accomplish my tasks, if I don’t take time to care, I am not being compassionate. To be truly compassionate, whether it is with our patients, ourselves or each other, we must pause, connect, engage, listen, reassure, address concerns. We must always remember that behind the machines, behind the diagnosis, behind the facade or the smile, is a human being. Compassion is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to a person in need.”
A colleague writes of Lynne, “I can truly say that Lynne personifies Gandhi’s philosophy of ‘be the change you wish to see in the world,’ and has transformed the work culture at our hospital to reflect her own philosophy of patient-centered, compassionate and empathic care.”