Hospitals across the country are celebrating Nurses’ Week and at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re kicking it off with a very special announcement: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Nurse of the Year is Heather Sanders, BSN, RN, CPN.
I have had the pleasure of working with Heather in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital and have seen firsthand her interactions with her patients and their families. Heather is highly skilled and a vital member of the teams that care for critically ill children. She helps develop care plans and provides direct patient care with tremendous expertise. In addition to her clinical responsibilities, she rises above and beyond expectations in providing emotional support. She often is regarded as an extended member of the patient’s family.
That’s evident in the winning nomination. It was submitted by the grandmother of a child who passed away. She described Heather as her grandson’s “angel.” She was there for Cody, but also for his mother and family. They needed her and relied on her, too. Cody’s grandmother wrote about the extra things Heather would do for Cody. He always was cold, so Heather would give him warmed blankets. She would soak his hands and feet and wash his hair, which Cody loved because that made him warm. She would call to check on Cody on her days off. Heather also sang to Cody.
After 4 months in the hospital, Cody went home. Shortly before Christmas, he was admitted back into the hospital. This time, he stayed in another area of our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, away from where Heather worked. His grandmother wrote:
“Heather would come up after work or on her break and visit with him. After a 12-hour shift, Heather would walk in and he would ask Heather to wash his hair and she would. We all told Cody it was OK to go be with Jesus, but he hung on. On March 3 last year, Heather took her break and came up to his room and told him it was OK to let go and be with God. About 20 minutes later he did.
“We sang I Can Only Imagine, like she always did in the past, as he was slowly going. After he passed, she put on the song, Held, by Natalie Grant. It was his favorite. Heather put her cheek on Cody’s cheek and sang it to him for the last time. What a special nurse.”
It’s nurses like Heather who exemplify the passion and commitment we have for the kids we care for. And that extends beyond the children to their families. Our nurses do all they can to truly make a difference.
From all of us at Children’s Hospital — and especially the entire Critical Care team on West 3 who gets to work with you every day, congratulations, Heather! We’re so proud of you. Thank you for all you do to provide the best, safest and loving care for our kids and their families.
– Nancy Ghanayem, MD, clinical director, Cardiac Critical Care, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Dr. Ghanayem also is an associate professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.