How a dose of humor fosters connections with this nurse

It may be cliché, but laughter really can be the best medicine. This is often the case for those in mourning as they look for a positive light after losing a loved one.

“I have a fair bit of a commute,” Jefferson says. “People are like, ‘Why do you travel so far for work? I say, ‘Because I learned a while ago that I like to work at the hospitals where the helicopters fly in, not where they fly out.’”

In the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), Andrea Jefferson, BSN, RN, aims to be that light, often eliciting a smile of her patients or their families.

Recently, the daughter of one of Jefferson’s patients nominated her for a DAISY Award.

“Grappling with losing my mother after I had only just graduated college is more difficult than I could express in words,” the daughter writes. “But on that day, Andrea provided comfort to all family members that visited my mom to say goodbye. She is very knowledgeable and amazing at her job.”

The daughter says that comfort, however temporary, came from Jefferson’s joyful demeanor and humor. Her praise means everything to Jefferson.

“I just try to listen and after we build a bit of a rapport, I start throwing a little humor into things. They seem to appreciate that, because they’re very stressed,” she says.

Jefferson credits her ability to connect with a patient’s family to her ability to balance her natural humor with compassion for those she cares for.

“I have a whole list of cheesy jokes that tend to work pretty well,” Jefferson says. “During tough situations—where, unfortunately, hard decisions are made while the patient might be unconscious—I really try to help take care of their family as well. They’re just as much a part of this as the patient is.”

Working where the helicopters fly in

Jefferson welcomes the challenge of working in the CVICU. It’s why she opted to join the unit in 2021.

“I have a fair bit of a commute,” she says. “People are like, ‘Why do you travel so far for work? I say, ‘Because I learned a while ago that I like to work at the hospitals where the helicopters fly in, not where they fly out.’”

The experience has been well worth the miles Jefferson drives from her home in Burlington, Iowa. With UI Hospitals & Clinics, she’s found a professional home.

“Before this, I had worked in everything except a cardiovascular unit,” she says. “I like to learn. And now that I’m here, this is what I’d enjoy doing longer term, because there’s always going to be a challenge.”

Part of Jefferson’s learning curve came from learning to use the advanced technology used to deliver the best care to patients in the CVICU. It was a challenge she welcomed.

“When I was shadowing during the interviewing process, I looked around the rooms and thought, ‘Wow, you guys have all the good toys,’” Jefferson says.

Because evidence-based practices can be so fluid, continuous training is of upmost importance to Jefferson and, in turn, her patients.

“Sometimes new research shows methods that are safer and work better for the patients,” she says. “There’s no such thing as too much training, as far as I’m concerned.”

Connecting with empathy and honesty

Although Jefferson knows there are some things that can be difficult to train for—including how to support a grieving family—she tries to never lose sight of the human element.

“If I can make it a little easier for the family, I will. I don’t usually talk about death so much, but I’ll talk about their situation and try to be empathetic,” she says. “I think families appreciate the fact that you’re recognizing it’s very hard for them.”

The patient’s daughter who nominated her for the DAISY Award certainly did.

“I’m confident that Andrea is the only nurse that I would want to be caring for my mom and my family on such a difficult day,” the daughter writes. “I hope she and her colleagues know the value that she provides to UI Hospitals & Clinics.”

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