The Human Touch

September 22, 2020
Volume 14,

In the winning essay for the Finest Hour award, Evangelina SantaTeresa, CCRN, details how the human touch makes all the difference for award winner Elizabeth “Liz” Farrat, B.S.N., CCRN at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

My colleague, Elizabeth “Liz” Farrat, B.S.N., CCRN, has been a nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for over 15 years. She was re-deployed to the newly created critical care area during the COVID-19 pandemic, functioning as a resource registered nurse.

Liz had to teach critical care nursing to a staff who had never provided care for this patient population. She was always calm and patient while teaching about emergency scenarios. Liz was able to communicate the importance of connecting with each patient. She provided personal grooming items to make the patients who were sedated, intubated or on breathing tubes feel alive, although many were to die or become ventilator-dependent. She purchased razors, shaving cream and beard oil and created comfort.

Liz taught the importance of recognizing that each patient requires dignity throughout all procedures. While putting patients in a prone position, she ensured that each was comfortable before being paralyzed. She provided AROM (active range of motion exercises) by seating the patient with COVID at the side of the bed, working while wearing full personal protective equipment, sweat streaming down her body, even though we needed to limit our exposure time.

She showed the staff the importance of communication with iPad technology. Prior to intubation of one patient with COVID-19, she took the time to FaceTime with the woman’s husband, as this would be the last time they would speak. Liz held the patient’s hand and prayed with her prior to intubation. She brought the human touch to each nurse and patient.

Liz’s eyes are always smiling, and that didn’t change when she self-quarantined from her husband and two children, including a 9-year-old son who has autism. I could see daily how much she longed to see her family. She could have exempted herself from caring for people with COVID-19, but instead she did not hesitate to care for some of the sickest patients in history.

In addition, Liz opened her home to me for a month so that we could care for the patients together. On her off days, she prepared meals for her neighbor who had lost his job and whose family tested positive for COVID-19. She also prepared meals for other nurses who needed to feel love after a 12-hour shift. Liz’s energy is one of love, and all who came in contact with her could feel it daily.

We can’t provide nursing care from a distance, nor can we fear the unknown. By providing a physical or spiritual touch daily, Liz makes our challenges easier to face.

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