Abby DeSesso, an Intensive Care Unit clinical coordinator and senior charge nurse, personifies compassion in her every day work.
“All the nurses in this ICU give next-level care,” she says. “You have to find that connection with every patient. No matter how different you may seem, there’s also something you have in common.”
That mindset is critical in the ICU, where the human touch can make an enormous difference for patients and family members. It’s a major reason why Abby was selected as the Compassionate Care Recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award.
“When I go the extra mile for patients, I don’t like to announce it or be recognized,” says Abby. “It was surprising to me how many [people] noticed my efforts and appreciated them. I’m honored that the people I look up to think I have something special to offer the unit.”
A perfect example is Abby coordinating with the hospital’s respiratory staff to take a ventilated patient outside to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. Sometimes family members bring patients’ dogs or their children to meet up with them outside. “In the ICU, we see a lot of tears because of very sad situations. But I’ve seen a lot of families shed tears when they see their loved one outside. It’s a sense of normalcy that has been lacking, typically for weeks,” she says.
Even the smallest acts have big impacts. Abby’s locker contains games, arts and crafts items and even hair detangler to help patients.
“Being in a bed for many days is going to tangle hair, and sometimes it gets so tangled it has to be cut,” says Abby. “What an insult to injury, to be stuck in a hospital bed and your hair has to be cut. Little things like detangling hair, or buying someone gummy worms because that’s all they want, is the least I can do. I always try to put myself in someone else’s shoes.”
Reston Hospital Center has enabled Abby to embrace that caring style. When she started six years ago, many of the nurses had been there since it opened in 1986. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and the experienced nurses they had. They all took me under their wing and helped grow me into an ICU nurse.” Abby makes sure she pays it forward.