There’s no question that the last few years have been exceptionally challenging for health care workers and those who’ve dedicated their careers to healing. Nurse practitioner Kirstin Brainard, MSN, ARNP, AGACNP, believes there’s something to be learned from hard times.
“Sometimes, overcoming adversity can make people think about what they’re grateful for,” Brainard says.
Starting her career as a nurse in 2011, Brainard now works as part of the advanced practice provider team in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) at UI Hospitals & Clinics. She’s learned to find value in adversity, or, more specifically, she sees how learning from life’s challenges helps herself and her coworkers.
Advice for newcomers
With more than so many new hires joining UI Health Care recently, Brainard hopes newcomers understand the importance of gratitude and taking moments for your emotional well-being.
“I’ve grown to really appreciate my time away from work and spending time with family, which is really what helps with my mental health,” she says.
While she is at work, though, Brainard finds solace in leaning on the members of the MICU team during the hardest days.
“With my colleagues, talking about what we’re dealing with does seem to help deflate the stressors we may be having,” she says.
That peace of mind is something she strives to deliver to her patients and their families.
Working towards dignity
Patients in the MICU cope with ailments in need of specialized, critical care. This often presents a challenge to those working in the unit, a test Brainard takes pride in.
“Critical care patients’ illnesses aren’t always cut and dry,” Brainard says. “I like being an integral part in figuring out how to heal someone.”
Brainard says because patients in the MICU are often unconscious, providers work with the families of patients to make the best decision for their loved ones’ care.
For many families, this is an extremely difficult time. Providers like Brainard are called upon to use what’s often thought of as a “soft skill,” or the ability to anticipate how a family will respond to difficult news.
“Some families like you to be very direct and blunt about how their loved one might be doing. Others need a softer tone and for the information to be delivered in parts,” Brainard says.
When asked how she learned to handle tough conversations, she says it came from observing her colleagues. Brainard wants families to feel secure and supported when it comes time to make hard decisions.
“I’m grateful that we can offer dignified choices to patients and their families when it comes to end of life care,” Brainard says. “We work with the families to understand what their loved one would want and to help them come to an answer.”