In May of 2018, I received some tragic news from a coworker of mine that still works on my old unit. Our coworker Mary Jane was found dead. Mary Jane was a second career nurse that struggled to keep up her morale at times working in our busy step down unit. We all had our moments of self-doubt and stress from working with complex patients and their families.
The news was horrifying for several reasons. Primarily because Mary Jane’s situation is not the first time a healthcare provider has taken their life due to personal and professional stressors. Level of experience does not always deter medical professionals from taking such a drastic step.
Mary Jane had a family that loved her and had a whole different career for over ten years before she became a full time nurse. Every day we work hard to ensure quality of care for our patients. Family members and administration question why certain patients improve and others decline. We have monitors and patient care quality measures to ensure better patient results.
However, when is the last time a hospital, clinic system or any other healthcare facility approached a method to ensure quality of self-care for healthcare providers? The family and the patients are the first victims of an event. In recent times the horrifying truth has come to light, healthcare providers are more deeply affected by patient outcomes than previously understood.
Caregiver role strain does not apply to family members and loved ones only. It affects anyone who may have cared for a patient, or formed a strong bond with family members. Mary Jane worked relentlessly for months on that unit. She formed great friendships and bonded with patients and their families. She along with others missed lunch breaks and still felt what she did for the day was not enough. At the end of each day, she would return home weary eyed , hungry and disheartened. There was no reprieve from her daily struggles.As time went on she began to avoid conversing with coworkers. She appeared to be dragging herself through her shifts. She took a break and tried to rejuvenate herself. Mary Jane was determined to keep working and becoming a better nurse. She made personal goals and wanted to go back to school for more certifications. Mary Jane had planned a trip with her family to Disney shortly before her death.
That fateful May day, the nurse manager grew concerned when she was over an hour late for her scheduled shift. The police was called and they went to check on Mary Jane. Unfortunately it was already too late.
Let’s work together to ensure patients and those who care for them are receiving the care they deserve. It is about time we also focus on prevention of second victims with bad outcomes.