By Tiffany LeCroy, MSN, RN, FNP-C, ACNS-BC, CRRN
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Shepherd Center
Dorothy Rudolph is an experienced rehabilitation nurse who is frequently recognized for her commitment and compassion to her patients, who have traumatic brain injuries. She is frequently heard saying, "I love my job," and her love for her patients is obvious.
Dorothy is a proactive rehabilitation nurse, actively encouraging patients to strive for independence and teaching strategies to families to help her patients be successful. Dorothy has a passion for our most severely injured brain injury patients, often speaking on their behalf even when she perceives others may be losing hope for their continued recovery. Dorothy continues working with some of the patients after they leave the inpatient unit, continuing to encourage them to reach their potential recovery.
Dorothy has been a Shepherd Center Daisy Award (for nursing excellence) nominee several times – and deservedly so. She leaves no stone unturned to advocate for the needs of her patients and is often requested by families who recognize her commitment to excellence and her genuine caring nature.
Dorothy's care goes beyond her own patients. At any given time, you may overhear her encouraging any of the patients to continue making progress in their efforts to achieve independence. Additionally, she is sought out by less experienced nurses for her expertise and guidance. She is truly a patient's nurse as evidenced by her almost constant attention to the patients wherever they are.
I have had the privilege of working with Dorothy for nine years. At Shepherd Center, we work with catastrophically injured rehabilitation patients who have an average length of stay of four to six weeks. During that length of time, we develop a strong rapport with both patients/families as they go through major life adjustments. While medically caring for the patients, we are teaching the families how to care for their loved ones.
As a charge nurse years ago, I noticed Dorothy worked tirelessly to ensure that she personally addressed every single patient need. She missed many lunches, stayed beyond the hours she was scheduled to work to meet every possible need her patients/families might have. Patients and family would often sing her praises explaining how she went out of her way doing all the little "extras" that meant so much to them. Whether getting all the tangles out of a patient’s hair that had not been brushed in weeks or just being the shoulder to cry on, Dorothy is always there.
Years later, I am now the clinical nurse specialist for the unit that Dorothy still works on as a staff nurse. Dorothy has not slowed down, nor have the compliments. I also happen to be the DAISY Award coordinator for the hospital. The DAISY Award gives patients/family and staff the ability to nominate "extraordinary nurses" by submitting a nomination with a story detailing the nurse’s extraordinary qualities. Dorothy routinely receives at least one nomination (usually multiple) each quarter we give the award. Every nomination is heart-warming, and it is so apparent in reading them that Dorothy truly has touched their lives in very a special way. There is not just one amazing story that stands out, rather every story consistently shows her compassion and respect for her patients/families.
Unfortunately, this past year my worst nightmare happened. My father, Ken, sustained a traumatic brain injury. After being stabilized in a trauma hospital, he was transferred to Shepherd Center, specifically on my unit. Obviously, this was a very difficult time for me, and I was trying hard to keep my boundaries (me, the employee) while wanting to ensure he was well taken care of (me, the daughter), which was a very bazaar and scary situation. Dorothy was assigned to care for my father as one of her primary patients. Whether I or another family member was in the room, Dorothy would come in, always providing as much information as possible, even before anyone would even ask. She would explain every detail and ask if we had any questions. She never took for granted that I would already know something simply because I was the clinical nurse specialist for the unit. SHE LET ME BE THE FAMILY MEMBER.
When I had questions or concerns, she would contact the appropriate person to get me the information as soon as possible. She understood the need to "know" and how getting information would help alleviate anxiety for me and my family. I had no doubt that she was my father's (and my family’s) advocate. She anticipated our needs before we did, as if she could read our minds. She put herself in my shoes, and I trusted her completely. She treated me like she would want to be treated. She followed the golden rule. She provided hope when I felt there was none, allowed me to cry on her shoulder and rejoiced with me when my father made tiny improvements.
Now, I get it! I understand how she makes patients/families feel cared for. Even working with her side by side, I never fully understood what special qualities she possesses. But being on the receiving end, I felt it. Dorothy has a gift, and I am lucky to have her as a co-worker, and I was blessed to have her as my father's nurse.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org