Judith Bell is as passionate about being a great nurse as she is about teaching the next generation of healthcare professionals, which is good news for her Tyler Junior College students.
A full-time nurse at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Winnsboro, Bell has been recognized for her attention to compassionate patient care, earning a coveted DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.
DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem. The DAISY Foundation was formed in January 2000, by the family of J. Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), an auto-immune disease. The nationwide program gives patients and their families an opportunity to nominate nurses who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
The DAISY award is also highly competitive, with nominations gathered from across the entire CHRISTUS system.
Bell earned the top prize after 15 nominations. Winners receive a hand-carved sculpture called “The Healer’s Touch,” a certificate and a pin to wear on their name badge.
Like most nurses who receive the DAISY, she is appreciative but doesn’t believe she was doing anything special.
“I was just doing my job, which is to provide the best care I can,” she said.
Two years ago, Bell began teaching part time in the TJC Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program.
“Teaching was something I had thought about doing after I retire; but when this opportunity came up, I went for it,” she said. “I get to do two things I love most.”
In addition to the practical applications of providing medical care, Bell also wants to make sure her students are educated in those DAISY-level lessons that go beyond textbooks and skills labs.
“If there is one thing that I feel is my duty as a nurse at the bedside to teach incoming nurses, it’s how to be a compassionate nurse,” she said. “How do you care for a patient — a complete stranger — with the compassion that you would a family member? How would you take care of that patient?”
It mostly boils down to patience and trust, she said.
“You have to build a nurse-patient relationship where they trust you with your knowledge and experience,” she said. “They need to feel important and believe you know what you’re doing so they can trust you throughout their entire plan of care.”
Plus, they need to believe all of that on a time crunch.
“When you have six patients at a time and there are so many tasks to do — someone needs medication, someone needs help to the bathroom, someone needs discharge papers — you’re kind of going everywhere and not in their room for very long,” she said. “So, how do you still show compassion even though you can’t be there all the time?”
It’s a tough balance to strike, she admits, and it was a skill that took time.
When Bell began her nursing career in 2007, she was initially a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse, which is an ICU-trained nurse who takes care of patients immediately after surgery. A few years later, she earned additional credentials and became certified as an operating room (OR) nurse.
“Those are both very important nursing jobs, but neither of them gives you the opportunity for a lot of patient interaction,” she said. “You’re with them briefly before or after being sedated, so there’s not a lot of time to get acquainted.”
That changed about six years ago when she began working in the medical/surgical unit at the Winnsboro hospital.
“All of a sudden, I had patients who were looking at me and who wanted to talk with me — plus my facial expressions say a lot,” she said. “I really had to focus on having a bedside manner.”
Being at a small hospital in a small town, it didn’t take long for Bell to find her groove.
While some patients only stay a day or two, there are repeat customers and others who are there for long-term treatments.
“I got fascinated with people’s life stories: the World War II vets, old farmers, teachers, widows who haven’t had anyone to talk to in forever,” she said. “I got better at just loving people. And the more I got into the med/surg routine and got the skills down, then I could really focus on the relationship part of it. I think that’s really what makes the difference. If you treat someone like family, you remember the little details about them as well as their family members.”
She continued, “For example, I had one lady who had a massive abdominal surgery, and she had a colostomy. Her husband was always there with her, and I noticed that he constantly kept drinking cup after cup of coffee. So, when she came back six months later for the reversal surgery, I made sure that we had his coffee — with cream and two sugars — ready to go. She nominated me for a DAISY award for remembering her husband’s coffee and making sure he was taking care of, along with her.”
Those are the lessons she hopes to drive home to her students.
“That’s what I love about being a part of TJC,” she said. “I like to be able to not just do the teaching of the labs and the skills and seeing their little faces light up because they’re in awe of thing. I also want to give them life lessons on how they can be compassionate and save someone’s life — not just the physical but the emotional life as well. That’s so rewarding to me.”