Community heroes: 'You're caring not just for the patient, but for the family'

·4 min read

Aug. 28—Katie Weber would be the first to tell you that helping a patient recover from surgery isn't just a one-person job. As part of the day shift team of care providers at Cullman Regional's fifth floor post-surgical unit, she works alongside a team of fellow registered nurses, CNAs, respiratory therapists, physicians, and more to assure every patient the best possible chance of leaving behind for good the health burden that brought them there.

A Dalton, Ga. native, Weber joined the staff at Cullman Regional seven years ago, working as a tech until finishing her nursing degree five years ago at Wallace State Community College. In that time, she's taken on part-time roles outside the hospital — "I've worked in a heart center as a nurse in Huntsville, and have worked at local nursing homes here as well," she says — but there's something about the team-minded focus on aiding recovery at her hospital home base that makes her happy to call Cullman home.

"I really like what I do," says Weber. "I've worked at jobs where I dreaded coming to work. But, I can honestly say that I love coming to work here. On our floor you can have fun, but you can be serious at the same time. You always get out of a job what you put into it, and you can get out of this job and this hospital what you put into it."

Sharing a close working relationship with a "winning attitude" team, as she puts it, goes a long way toward elevating the post-surgical unit's overall quality of patient care, says Weber.

"You have to be confident in yourself and your own skills and abilities," she explains, "and you've got to know what you're capable of doing ... and when you're not capable anymore. But that's what I love about the floor that I work on: We work well together as a team. The nurse is very much a leader in the patient treatment plan, in terms of executing it. But all of our positions — CNAs, respiratory therapists, the list goes on — it takes everybody working together. Physicians, too: We have some really good surgeons here. They're very approachable, and we appreciate that kind of responsiveness."

Though the fifth floor is a place for patients to recover, individual circumstances vary, and the mood in every room isn't always optimistic. Staying flexible and remembering how patients and their families process emotions is a big part of compassionate nursing, says Weber.

"Sometimes that patient isn't able to speak for themselves. Maybe you have a family member who could take their feelings; what they're going through, out on you," she says. "But you have to remember that you're caring not just for the patient, but for the family. That's someone's grandmother; that's someone's father. Maybe they're terrified; maybe they've never had surgery before. Sometimes it's just the smallest things that can help, even if it's just offering to get a family member a cup of coffee."

Lots of young people go into nursing well aware of the open career opportunities that exist, especially for those who aim to reach the highest level of certification in their field. But Weber says money isn't incentive enough to show up every day for a job that simply can't be done without genuine personal commitment.

"With anything, you've got to really love what you do. You don't go into nursing for the money," she says. "It's about seeing other people go from a bad situation to a good situation — or at least helping them to be at peace, wherever they are.

"You can't teach compassion," she adds. "You need to have a good foundation of what you want, to be a nurse. You've got to have a reason, and you've got to find joy in helping other people in whatever form it is — whether it's listening, or calling the doctor to get them something for pain. You've got to be the patient's advocate; to speak up for them when they can't."