CHRISTUS nurses take stock of the sacred in their work through story sharing

August 1, 2021


At the end of her yearlong residency at CHRISTUS Southeast Texas – St. Elizabeth, Kaitlyn Read joined the other new registered nurses in relating an experience from the previous 12 months that reflected the system's mission in action.

Kaitlyn Read, a registered nurse at CHRISTUS Southeast Texas – St. Elizabeth, is a graduate of its yearlong residency program. As part of that program, she shared a Mission in Action story about how her preceptor embodied the system's mission to provide compassionate care.

Read, a labor and delivery nurse, told her fellow residency graduates about how green she felt in her earliest days and how grateful she was for the mentorship of her preceptor, Jaime Laing. "Her patience as she taught me the cervical exams, the neonatal care, the fetal heart monitoring, how to communicate with the doctors and when, was just really extraordinary," Read said. "She gracefully repeated things over and over. I never felt like I needed to hesitate to come to her with any questions."

Read noted that Laing was always aware of the "delicacy of each situation" at a hospital where labor and delivery patients range in age from 13 to 54, are sometimes substance abusers and can be in the process of trying to turn their lives around after having lost custody of other children. In Laing, she saw "never a judgment, just calm, professional, objective care."

Read went on to share how, after months of Laing's guidance at the hospital in Beaumont, she put those essential soft skills into practice while caring for a 16-year-old admitted at 35 weeks gestation with severe preeclampsia. Read explained to the young woman that she would be on strict bed rest with fetal monitoring, a restricted diet, a Foley catheter and an IV drip of magnesium sulfate. The drug is used to prevent seizures in the event of worsening preeclampsia.

Read noticed that her patient had her shoes on under the bedsheets and offered her help to remove them. The teen said she had stepped in a puddle and hadn't had time to wash her feet. They were dirty and stinky, so she was just going to leave her shoes on.

Read said she asked herself: What would Jesus do and what would Jaime do?

"The answer was clear," she recalled. "I went to the bathroom, filled up a tub with soapy water, I came to the bedside, removed her shoes, removed her socks and washed her feet."

Sacred moments
A video of Read telling her story is posted on the website of CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System. It is exactly the sort of story that Paul Guidroz, the system's chief nursing executive, was hoping the new nurses would share at the end of their residencies.


St. Elizabeth started the residency program in 2017 to transition new college graduates from student nursing into practice. It replaced what had been a 12- to 14-week orientation for new nursing graduates. Guidroz said the training builds the nurses' competency as well as their confidence.

In 2019, he and the others who built the residency curriculum added a segment called Mission in Action to encourage the nurses to watch for those sacred moments when CHRISTUS' mission to respect everyone who comes to its facilities for care, especially those who are poor and underserved, is evident.

At the start of the residency, Guidroz gives the class a heads-up on their final assignment.

"I say that things do get hectic pretty quickly as you're a new nurse, but you're going to see and experience some great moments and what I want you to do is to try to file those away and when you come to graduation it's your opportunity to share those experiences," he said.

An eye-opening day
When the nurses tell their stories, Guidroz invites the system's executive leadership team, clinical directors and nursing administrators to listen. He also collects the attestations in written form and emails them to the regional ministry's entire staff and to top executives of the CHRISTUS system "just so they can hear the great things that these new graduates share with us."

Read said the sharing of Mission in Action stories was one of her favorite parts of the residency. It reconnected the nurses after they had all been spending most of their time separately getting trained in their specialties.

"I think it was a good eye-opening day for us to see what people are dealing with on other units," she said, "and it's a good opportunity for people to speak on what they see in their co-workers and the good work that they are doing."

Poetic inspiration
When it came time for Lynde Freeze to write her Mission in Action story, she found it impossible to zero in on just one memory.

Instead of a story, Freeze, whose specialty is trauma care, wrote a poem that draws upon several powerful moments etched in her memory. The words flowed easily despite the fact that she is not normally poetic, she said, "not even a little bit."

Her poem references holding the hands of dying patients, trying to save the life of an injured infant, watching an unsuccessful attempt by trauma staff to resuscitate a colleague transported to the ER after a heart attack and staying on duty as the community evacuated before a hurricane.

Her poem includes these lines:

"We put on brave faces as we walk through the doors;

To tell you your loved one is not coming home.

As our hearts are breaking we are still there;

To help you grieve and offer you prayer."

Personal touch
Freeze decided to pursue a bachelor's in nursing after she had earned a degree in nutrition and found out that she didn't like the work she was doing. St. Elizabeth, a hospital where she took part in a training program in high school, was her employer of choice and the fast-paced environment drew her to trauma care.

"I always thought if I was going to be a nurse it's going to be here," she said. "People here understand. I couldn't talk more highly of this place."

Having new nurses recognize that care goes beyond medical needs is what the Mission in Action segment of the residency program all about, Guidroz said.

"It goes above and beyond just a CT scan, an MRI, a robotic surgery, the right medication," he said. "It's really trying to give that personal touch, take that personal time and truly set ourselves apart as a Catholic hospital in the way that we care for our patients."

Copyright © 2021 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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