Compassion comes from within

Nicholas Klein, RN, was honored with the DAISY Award for his extraordinary care. His story shows how nursing touches lives and how lives touch nurses. He reminds us all that compassionate care is oftentimes not just what one is obligated to do under licensure, but what one is compelled to do as a human being.

In the quiet minutes just after midnight where the only sounds heard were the medical monitoring equipment and distant voices in the hallway, Nicholas Klein, RN, sat beside a bed and squeezed the hand of a patient with COVID-19 in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU).

Nicholas Klein, RN

Klein had been in the room for hours; his only focus was on one thought: Please don’t let this patient die alone.

“He was actually the same age as my mom,” says Klein. “I kept thinking to myself, what if it was my mom or another family member? I couldn’t imagine them passing away alone. That’s the cruel side of this novel coronavirus.”

Klein had taken care of the patient for two days when he was admitted to the MICU. Months after he cared for this particular patient, Klein recalls those final moments.

“He was completely lucid for awhile, and he knew he was dying,” Klein remembers. “The start of the second night, though, I could tell he didn’t have a lot of time left, so we called the family and we explained to them what was going on.”

Final moments

Klein held a phone up to the patient’s ear so that the man could hear the voices of loved ones unable to hold him or kiss him one last time. Klein then made the decision to stay with the patient until the end, holding his hand and not letting go.

“I stayed in the room with him because it broke my heart,” Klein says. “At the end, he suddenly opened his eyes and looked at me as I sat beside him, me all gowned up and with gloves and with a full face shield so that he could only see my eyes. I told him, ‘It’s okay. Your family loves you very much.’ He nodded and closed his eyes. As I squeezed his hand one more time, he took his last breath.”

“I remember that it was 12:10 in the morning,” Klein says. “I sat there for a while after that and grieved about everything. It was the toughest moment in my nursing career.”

For showing the ultimate compassion and kindness in taking care of a patient in their final hours, Klein received the DAISY Award.

Extraordinary dedication

Nicholas Klein writes a note from inside the room of a patient with COVID-19.

Caitlin Cross, RN, BSN, is the charge nurse of the MICU and the one that nominated Klein for the DAISY Award. She remembers that weekend months ago also as one of the hardest ones in her five years as a nurse in the MICU.

“Our unit was full of patients with COVID-19, young and old. We were taking dozens of phone calls a night explaining to families how it is safest for them and everyone else if they stay home, which in turn causes a lot of turmoil for these families,” says Cross. “This particular weekend we had two deaths, and our nurses were extraordinary in their compassion and dedication to ensuring that no one would die alone.”

While Klein sat beside his patient, colleagues took over his other responsibilities and brought him any supplies he needed, with everyone understanding that compassion, especially during times like this, should be the highest priority.

“Whatever situation we have, our nurses learn to carry each other, whether we pick up physical tasks when a nurse is busy or we help each other when our emotions just get too hard,” says Cross. “We go through things together that our families at home will never understand and most of the time will never hear about.”

An unforgettable connection

Klein, who is an adjunct professor in the nursing program at Kirkwood Community College in addition to working in the MICU, says he often tells his students that, at the bedside, you need people skills.

After going home to sleep, Nicholas Klein returned to the MICU the next night, again caring for patients with COVID-19. In the 26-bed unit, the nurse-to-patient ratio is 1-2, which means that in each room, there is another opportunity to personally connect.

“Compassion is such a key element to nursing,” he says. “In this instance, it gives me a little peace inside to know that I had the privilege of caring for this patient.”

 

15 comments

  1. Nicholas – Thank you for your kindness and selfless compassion. And thanks to your team for allowing you to carry out this last act of caring. I’ve long known nurses are angels. This lovely story is proof of that.

  2. Faith in humanity restored. Thank you for caring for these patients and loving them as your own family. I am certain it is at the cost of sleepless nights and many tears. Thank you for exemplifying what the art of nursing is.

  3. As a fellow nurse I commend you for making this very difficult situation more peaceful for this patient and their family. Keep making a positive impact in your career!

  4. Your story has brought me to tears. Thank you for being there for this gentleman when his family could not be. You are everything that a nurse and every human should be – caring.

  5. Nicholas, you are awesome! I just want you to know that this brought a warmth to my heart. If I was in the situation that I could not be with my loved one I would want you to be the one taking care of them. You showed respect and compassion to the fullest degree. Thank you!

  6. This is a beautiful example of what healthcare should be! My husband is very high risk, and if he caught COVID-19 he would die. My greatest fear is that I wouldn’t be able to be with him, and that he would die alone. Thanks so much to you for being there with him during his last hours, and to your team for covering for you so you could be there for him.

  7. A true professional and shining example of compassion and caring. Thank you for your dedication and bravery in caring for these most unfortunate people. I am proud to say that I work here where there are people like you.

  8. Wow! What a great story of caring, compassion, the art of nursing and teamwork! Kudos to the entire MICU for supporting each other and your patients during this difficult time. Nicholas, God Bless You!

  9. I am so proud of this young man! He grew up in our church, sang in my children’s choir, was always the best kid! It does not surprise me one bit that he would be like this! I would love to say that I raised him well, but I can’t take credit. His family is all the same way — loyal, caring, compassionate. At a time when we need to hear more hopeful news, this comes when needed most! Nick Klein! I am not one bit surprised! What a blessing to the sick and dying.

  10. Nick, what an incredible act of compassion and kindness. Thank you! What an role model for all of us in health care. Blessed to work with you.

  11. Fabulous nurse, He took care of my husband in another situation and he was great! Thank you Mr. Klein!

  12. Thank you. I needed all the care I got here. Your compassion there shows and reflects around. Be blessed. Thank you for that patient and their family from one who just got out of that ward.

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