CIU caregivers foster a culture of compassion

CIU caregivers foster a culture of compassion


A couple of months ago, Elizabeth Stamper, BSN, RN, on the Cardiac Intervention Unit at Rapid City Hospital, came home to a flooded basement. Similar to others who reside in/around the Black Hills, Elizabeth’s house was a victim of May’s heavy rains.

“We have a split-level house, so half of the house was flooded,” she said. “It would have been a lot of hardship on my husband to take care of that on his own.” She asked her manager if someone could cover her shift the next day. Ashley Neish, BSN, RN, and Anna Smith, BSN, RN, had both signed up – and were ready for – a day off due to low census. Ashley had several personal emails and phone calls to catch up on, and Anna needed to tie up loose ends for her upcoming wedding.

“We had people coming into town, and I had a lot of things to do for the wedding,” Anna said. “But when I heard about Elizabeth’s situation, I knew I didn’t need that time as much as she did.” Both nurses gave up their day off for Elizabeth. Their selflessness meant a lot to Elizabeth, but according to all three nurses, acts of kindness like this happen all the time on the CIU.

“I chose the CIU because of the reputation it had for teamwork,” said Ashley. “After being a Patient Care Champion here, I knew this was where I wanted to start my (nursing) career. As a new nurse, you’re already scared enough, so it eased a lot of my stress to know there was that support.” Anna agreed: “That’s why I chose to work here. I didn’t want to be afraid to ask a question. You don’t know everything, and you’ll never know everything. You have to be able to bounce ideas off your coworkers.”

Manager of Nurse Operations Cori Johnson, BSN, RN, said that when the CIU was started (then the Intermediate Intensive Care Unit) 11 years ago, she and other nurse leaders decided they were going to do it right. “That included hiring the right people. We want caring hearts, people who really want to do this as a calling and not just as a job. And we stuck to that.”

Cori, who has been a nurse for 28 years, said one key to the CIU’s success is their ability to hold one another accountable and have high standards. “We have difficult conversations with one another when it’s necessary. But we always work it out, and we don’t let things fester.” She also creates a culture of equality by not making unilateral decisions. “I don’t remember a time when I made a decision without asking half a dozen people first.”

But perhaps the most important component of the CIU’s culture is the caregivers’ ability to lift one another up during difficult situations. “We see some very sick patients and handle some very complex situations,” Cori said. “It’s awesome to see our nurses lifting each other up and saying ‘You got this. You’re a good nurse.’”

Elizabeth has left her job at the hospital several times due to family reasons, but said she always keeps coming back. “I can’t stay away. It feels like coming home. We’re like a family here.”

Thanks to all caregivers and physicians for creating cultures of support and teamwork within Monument Health.

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