Bailey Strausser understands that there’s much more to being a nurse than providing expert clinical care. Sometimes, the job requires her to focus on how to support the patient without the aid of medications or treatment.
This past summer, one shift tested Strausser’s ability to multitask the care of several patients, while honoring the last wishes of another. She needed to contact a Catholic priest to administer last rites.
“In that moment, the end of her life, it was the last thing I could do to honor my patient,” says Strausser, RN, PCCN.
But it quickly became clear that what seemed like an easy task would be hindered when Strausser couldn’t get ahold of the on-call priest.
She faced a choice: hope the patient survived long enough for the priest to call back or do everything in her power to find another.
Her decision to take on the challenge of finding a priest as soon as possible was later recognized by her colleagues who nominated her for a DAISY Award.
Reaching out for help
Strausser, who works second shift in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU), wanted to do what she could to bring solace and closure to her patient’s family.
While ensuring that everyone else under her watch in the MICU received the care they needed, she reached out to the on-call interfaith chaplain. They provided interim spiritual support for the family while Strausser started calling anyone she thought could help. Eventually, she connected with a priest who could anoint the patient and perform last rites over the phone.
“When it finally came through and we were able to get hold of a priest, I felt relief as well as happiness for the patient and their family,” she says. “I wanted to respect the religious aspect of my patient’s life.”
The hospital interfaith chaplain who worked with Strausser that night says they were astounded at how she handled the situation.
“During a very difficult night, Bailey showed compassion, team spirit, determination, resolve, and bestowed the great gift of dignity on everyone involved. It was a gift to work alongside Bailey,” says the chaplain.
The call to nursing
Strausser’s call to becoming a nurse was forged in her mid-20s when her grandfather was in the last week of his life.
“He had a nurse who took care of his medical needs, but she made our family feel as if he was more than just a patient,” Strausser says. “Even in the worst moment—the worst possible scenario—she made it a little bit brighter.”
It was an experience that continues to inspire how she works today.
“I don’t want to just be ‘the nurse.’ I want to be an advocate and someone who can take the worst night of someone’s life and ease a little bit of the pain.”
Upon joining the MICU August 2021, she chose the nightshift because she felt it would enable her to maximize her style of nursing.
“I like the nightshift because of the environment,” she says. “Patients have less interactions with things like physical therapy or the different teams rounding. It’s more nurse-to-patient time.”
The importance of teamwork
On either the most gratifying or challenging nights in the MICU, Strausser is grounded by her colleagues, some of whom she considers family.
“Everyone’s always been a team player,” she says. “I feel a sense of safety walking into work because I know that no matter what is thrown at us, I’ll have a line of people ready to help. I always feel more than supported by my co-workers.”
That support was particularly evident during her search for the on-call priest.
“It was honestly a team effort,” she says. “I had nurses on one end of the unit trying to brainstorm ways we could find a priest and then there were those who helped me take care of my patients as well as their own patients to make sure everyone was cared for appropriately.”