The Pulse | Thursday, April 21, 2022
Sandra Leon, DNP MSN RN-C ACNP-BC Shares the Work and Impact of GI Nurses
This interview previously ran in a newsletter for New York-Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center and is republished with permission from the author.
How did you choose GI Nursing?
My aunt died from metastatic colon cancer when I was 13 years old. I used to visit her in the hospital and saw the wonderful care the nurses provided. They were not only attentive to her, but to us as well. I couldn’t help to wonder how I could make a difference to people the same way her nurses did for us.
Being a first-generation American, from Hispanic descent, my parents didn’t fully speak the language, but my aunt’s nurses made sure my parents understood what was happening. They were patient and kind, and I knew that this path was what I was destined for.
What do you love about being a Colon & Rectal Nurse Practitioner?
I thoroughly enjoy the nurse practitioner role. Clinically, I acquire new knowledge on a daily basis, plus reinforcement of what I already know. Being able to teach my colleagues and patients, and share knowledge, is what drives my professional development. Having the right team is also important for longevity and positive patient outcomes. My director of nursing and colon and rectal surgery attendings are easily approachable, patient and collaborative. What I say matters, and my voice and opinion count. I am grateful for their leadership and mentorship.
Interdisciplinary collaboration is also important. My team has patients on various floors within the hospital. As a result, I am able to form relationships with numerous people across different specialties. We learn from one another, our roles, and our contributions to each other.
Can you name a time where you really felt that patient-nurse connection?
My team had a patient that had a post-operative surgical complication that was further complicated by multiple ICU transfers, resulting in a sequela of events. During her hospitalization, for approximately eight months, I would visit her daily and we would engage in banter, including many jokes and story-telling. She would tell me stories about her childhood and family and I, in turn, would show her pictures of my children, my twins.
Anytime I walked into her room, the first thing she would ask would be, “how are my babies?” Not, “I am in pain,” or “I had a bad night,” but she would remember everything I told her and ask about my past or future plans. I looked forward to seeing her and was deeply saddened by her passing.
Our last interaction was bittersweet; while she was intubated, I walked into her room and stroked her hair. She opened her eyes and said, "Babies?" I knew she was asking about my children. I told her they were great, showed her Christmas pictures, and she nodded and smiled and closed her eyes. I told her to get some rest and left for the week. She passed that weekend.