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Emily Wyatt, Operating Room Nurse Photo by Ash Daniel
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Sarah Walor photo
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Sarah Allen, physician assistant, checks on emergency room patient Lennox Kennedy. Jay Paul photo
Emily Wyatt's calm diligence reassures surgeons and patients
Nurse Emily Wyatt knows the OR like the back of her hand, says Dr. Michael J. MacDougall, with Surgical Specialists of Richmond.
"In the operating room, there's really not a lot of room for error," he says. Wyatt "dots the I's and crosses the T's. Because of that, the operating room runs more smoothly, allowing the surgeons and surgical staff to focus on what they do."
Her patient care also earns praise. "I have seen her take the time to dress a favorite stuffed animal in miniature OR scrub gear [a makeshift hat, mask and booties] to allay a child's fears of going into the operating room," says Dr. Amit N. Gogia, also with Surgical Specialists of Richmond.
"Her cheerfulness and confidence are always reassuring to the patients."
Wyatt, 26, has worked at Memorial Regional Medical Center in her Mechanicsville hometown since being a patient-care associate while attending the Bon Secours School of Nursing six years ago.
"Working in the OR just always made sense to me," she says. "I cannot imagine doing anything outside of the OR."
Dr. Thorp J. Davis of the West End Orthopaedic Clinic says Wyatt is "smart and organized, which allows her to do her computer work, take care of the patient and the surgeon, and all in a calm fashion that allows for a relaxed and hyper-efficient OR experience." In part, he credits Stacy Gebhardt, who trained Wyatt. "They both deserve some attention," he says.
In February, Wyatt accepted a new role as orthopaedic and neurosurgery coordinator. Instead of focusing on one operating room used by surgeons of various specialties, she ensures materials management for those two services so their surgeries flow smoothly.
"I love it," says Wyatt, who expects to complete her bachelor's degree in December from the VCU School of Nursing.
"When someone comes along like Emily, I want to nurture them and move them along," says MacDougall, who encouraged her to take on the new role. "It'll be hard for the [other] surgeons, who will have to train someone else. She'll be hard to match." —MJS
Bart Bobb of VCU devotes himself to pain management
Shortly before Christmas last year, palliative-care nurse practitioner Bart Bobb attended a patient's funeral at Quantico National Cemetery.
The Navy officer's daughter was 20 years old when she died of cancer. Bobb had spent three years trying to keep her pain under control as she struggled through chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, radiation therapies and surgeries attempting to shrink the tumor that had started in her abdomen. Near the end, he tried to keep her comfortable.
"You just can't help but get to know them on a more personal level," Bobb says. "That made it definitely very emotional and difficult towards the end. When she did die, it was like a piece of me died that day. It was really that dramatic for me."
His primary responsibility as a nurse practitioner working in palliative care and pain management at the VCU Medical Center involves directing care for a range of patients, from those who recently underwent surgery to those receiving cancer treatment. In many cases, his purpose is to make sure patients are comfortable at the end of their lives.
"He is just so kind," says Dr. Laurie Lyckholm, of VCU's Massey Cancer Center. "He has tremendous expertise in pain management, but also in all the aspects of palliative care, [such as] communication about difficult end-of-life issues. He is one of those people who can be professional but then be warm at the same time."
Bobb, 36, says he developed a strong faith growing up as the son of a Christian missionary in Germany and Austria. And as someone who often helps people facing their final days, he relies on his faith as he works.
"My relationship with God is very important to me," Bobb says. "Certainly it does drive everything I do to some degree."
He received his bachelor's degree from Hampden-Sydney College in biology and German but later went to VCU for bachelor and master of nursing degrees. He started his current job in 2005.
"This is definitely my dream job," Bobb says. "It just was divine providence that I ended up here. I never realized this would be my passion as much as it has become. I feel very blessed."
Colorful butterflies of many shapes and sizes adorn the walls and ceilings of the palliative-care unit — a symbol of the transition process from life to death, Bobb says. A husband and the father of two little girls, he recounts stories of past patients, his soft blue eyes sometimes welling with tears as he remembers them.
"As a provider in palliative care, you have to be willing to let your heart break, too," Bobb says. "I've shed tears with patients and families on occasion. I think it can be healthy and therapeutic." —Anne Dreyfuss
A Higher Standard
Retreat Hospital's Cathy Childrey exceeds expectations for patient care
Stapled to the bulletin board opposite the cafeteria at Retreat Doctors' Hospital are thank-you notes addressed to nurse Cathy Childrey.
"I cannot express to you how thankful I am that you took it upon yourself to call me the morning [my mother] passed," reads one. "As shocking and heartbreaking as it was for me, I will forever be grateful to you for making that call. I am sure I would have always felt guilty if I were not there."
For almost 36 years, Childrey has been taking care of patients at the Fan District hospital. She sees each of her five patients on the east side of the fifth floor every hour to give baths, monitor IV fluids, take blood pressure and fulfill other needs.
"I just like helping people," says the Glen Allen resident, who was born at Retreat in 1951. "Getting them better, getting them home, taking care of them."
Childrey goes out of her way to make rounds with the doctors when they come in to see their patients, rather than relying solely on electronic medical records.
"She exemplifies the nurse who really puts the patient first and does it in a way that is not done anymore," says Dr. Cary Gentry, a colon and rectal surgeon. "That five minutes of rounding with the doctor is just so vital to giving patients what they need in terms of personalized care. … She gets it from interaction, not just a computer and an order."
Childrey says she likes to be in the room to support her patients. She gives an example of someone who receives news about a positive biopsy. "Maybe that patient just couldn't take it all in," she says. "They might have questions later on, and hopefully I'm there to help them cope with that diagnosis and deal with what he told them that morning." —AD
Invested in Patients
Sarah Allen acts as physicians' eyes, ears and hands
As a surgical physician assistant, Sarah Allen extends the reach of the eight or nine physicians at Surgical Associates of Richmond who work at CJW Medical Center's Chippenham Hospital. When they must be in the office, she works in the hospital caring for their patients before and after surgery.
PAs diagnose cases and prescribe medicine, serving as their supervising physician's eyes, ears and healing hands. "I act pretty much autonomously, although there's someone above me who supervises me," says Allen, who joined the surgical practice in 2007 after earning a graduate degree through Drexel University's Physician Assistant Program.
"I want to do what's best for the patient," says Allen, who also works part time in Chippenham's emergency room. "I spend the time to listen and hear what they have to say."
Dr. W. Scott Conrad of Radiology Associates of Richmond says Allen is worthy of recognition. "When you read a scan on someone and find a critical value, it's sometimes tough to find the doctor, so you call around. It's a waste of our time and may be critical for the patient," he says.
Because Allen works in the hospital, Conrad says, "she's always reachable. She's familiar with patients and is interested in getting to the bottom of what's wrong."
Several general and vascular surgeons with Surgical Associates also single her out for praise. Dr. Raymond Makhoul says Allen "performs at a level that exceeds many of those who do what she does. She's invested in almost every patient emotionally. She has a pride of care about getting them better. That's what sets her apart."
Makhoul also praised her strong clinical judgment: "When she calls you, almost 100 percent of the time her assessment of the patient is accurate."
In the medical field, Allen says, much stock is put into the eyeball test, "where in one quick look you can determine who's sick or not sick and assess the acuity of a situation and know what to do next. … My goal with clinical skills is to master the eyeball test. Then everything else falls into place." —MJS
Peace Through Healing
Retired physician Fred Ward trains health care workers overseas
Dr. Fred Ward contracted dengue fever in the Dominican Republic, had $80,000 dollars worth of medication confiscated by airport security in Sudan and worked to combat the plague in Libya. But the retired physician says he can't wait to embark on the next adventure.
The 77-year-old doctor joined the nonprofit health care training organization Physicians for Peace in 2000 after ending his practice at St. Mary's and Henrico Doctors' hospitals. Since then, he has completed 36 missions in 17 developing countries including Vietnam, Honduras, Yemen and, most recently, Libya.
"We do something by leaving behind the ability for the physicians and nurses to better provide for their citizens, but I always feel I take away more than I've given," Ward says.
Dr. Alan Dow, an internist at the VCU Medical Center, went to Libya with Ward in 2010. "When most doctors are retiring and slowing down, he's continued to really be a champion for patients across the world," Dow says. "He believes by connecting as health care providers — doctors and nurses — we can build relationships to help foster peace throughout the world."
In late March, Ward said he was concerned about some of his Libyan friends, including a promising medical student he had mentored, in light of the uprising there. "We have some very close friends there who helped us immensely, and we haven't been able to find out anything about them."
Founded in 1989, Physicians for Peace sends teams of medical volunteers — including physicians, dentists, nurses, physical therapists and physician assistants — overseas for two to six weeks to provide replicable medical training in surgery, general medicine, burn care and much more.
"We are trying to promote peace, to show that through working with our fellow physicians that people can coexist and work without any thought of political or religious affiliation," Ward says. "We hope that, through this, people will learn to be more peaceful toward each other." —AD