Jessica Wheeler knew at a young age she wanted to make a difference in others’ lives. “I was always filled with joy when I could help someone,” the Green Ridge native said. That desire never waned, and two years ago it evolved to Wheeler’s becoming a registered nurse. Her first job was at Bothwell Regional Health Center (BRHC).
This month the hospital honored Wheeler with its first DAISY Award.
A registered nurse in the hospital’s Critical Care Unit, Wheeler was nominated for the award by the family of a patient who was admitted to Bothwell on Feb. 1 and passed away 12 days later. In the nomination, the patient’s family said Wheeler “went above and beyond” in providing care to their father.
“She came in on her off time to check on our father and family and was very informative the whole time,” the nomination said. “Jessica gave regular updates, clearly explaining things to the family in a way that everyone understood. She was always honest, kind and thoughtful with the whole family.”
BRHC Chief Nursing Officer Rose McMullin read from the nomination at the DAISY Award presentation during a National Nurses Week Celebration at the hospital. “(Jessica) is a wonderful, compassionate and empathetic nurse,” McMullin said. “She truly cares for her patients.”
Wheeler said she was “shocked” when she was selected for the award. “I felt touched I was able to make an impression on a patient’s family in such a positive way during a difficult situation,” she said.
The hospital presented Wheeler with a certificate commending her for being an “Extraordinary Nurse.” She also received a DAISY Award pin and a sculpture called “A Healer’s Touch,” hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Africa. Also, a banner with her photograph will hang in the Critical Care Unit, and Wheeler’s name will appear on the DAISY Foundation website.
For Wheeler, working in critical care has its challenges. Aside from regular patient care, the critical care unit staff respond to all Code Blue, Code Stroke and rapid response calls at the hospital. These are emergency situations that require a team of providers to rush to a specific location to provide immediate care. Even with the sometimes stressful demands of the job, Wheeler tries to always remember why she chose nursing in the first place: to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
“I always want patients to feel like they are family and that I am here to help,” she said. “I take the time to sit down and talk with them to walk them through the experience. I believe it is important to make them feel comfortable and not feel like they are just another patient for my shift. Nursing for me is more than just the medical aspect. I want to provide competent, empathetic and compassionate care.”
It is that kind of care that the DAISY Foundation sets out to recognize and celebrate with its award. Known by its full name, The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, it is aimed at honoring nurses for their skill and compassionate care. The award was started by the family of Patrick Barnes, who contracted and died from an auto-immune disease. The care Barnes’s nurses provided inspired his family to create the award and the DAISY Foundation. DAISY stands for “diseases attacking the immune system.”
Since its genesis, the DAISY Award has grown into an international program in more than 2,800 healthcare facilities in all 50 states and in 17 countries.