Bedside Nursing Excellence Award Winner


I can honestly say that I have stayed a bedside nurse for almost 32 years because I love what I do, and I know how much I can contribute to patient outcomes. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse. I started my career in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit that housed post operative cardiac surgery patients, and these kiddos were my favorite. Fast forward twenty-one years and we were finally going to have a dedicated CCU (Cardiac Care Unit). I loved our patients and cardiac intensivists, so it was an easy decision to leave the PICU and officially join the CCU team. Being a CCU nurse has not been easy, especially lately with the staffing crisis and increased nurse burnout, but I never thought about making a career change. I realized early on the important impact I had at the bedside, as an expert clinician, patient/family advocate, teacher, and integral part of the team. The bedside nurse is the first one to notice the smallest changes in the patient and can be the consistent caregiver throughout a patient’s stay. We support the families daily as our patients often have long admissions or frequent readmissions due to their cardiac defects. I strive to pay close attention to details, and to changes in patient’s assessments, to intervene early and be able to make changes to keep my patients stable.

Some things that I have learned throughout the years are:

  • Trust your gut. We have all had that experience where you know something just isn’t right, and to keep assessing, and advocating until you figure it out.
  • Be a fierce advocate for your patients and families. What I love about our patient population is that they are fighters! Many of us would not be able to endure in a lifetime what these children often go through in a couple of months. Families do not always know what to ask for, or are not able to do so, so it is important for us to help.
  • Take care of your patients how you would want someone to take care of you. My very first preceptor taught me that and I strive to do that every day. Have pride in the work that you do.
  • The more you invest in your career, the more you will get out of it.  Take the time to educate yourself, get involved in your unit and help be the change.
  • Have a positive attitude! I have had a lot of bad days through the years, but it takes so much more energy to complain about it. Bedside nursing can be mentally and physically exhausting. We don’t do this because it is easy, but because we can make a difference in patients’ lives.
  • It is important to find ways to take care of yourself and take a step back when you need to regroup. Find a friend at work you can confide in about your day. Our families at home cannot begin to understand what it feels like to do CPR, watch your patient crash onto ECMO, hold a dying infant, or support grieving parents. We do things daily that are unimaginable to others. We all need to find ways to process these feelings so we can stay healthy.

In summary, if I could do it all over again I would. I hope I can inspire you to be the best Cardiac ICU nurse you can be!

Tanya Kopke

Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago