Nurse wins DAISY Award
Melissa Soldridge has been in the medical field for more than two decades. It was later in life, after being a physical therapist assistant for 20 years, that she decided to pursue a different direction in medicine.
Graduating from the nursing program at St. Luke’s University Health Network in December of 2015, Soldridge then passed her boards in January of 2016. She has been a registered nurse for three years and has been working in home hospice care for Lehigh Valley Health Network for a year and a half. She has also worked for St. Luke’s and Fellowship Community.
Soldridge travels to homes and assisted living centers to care for her clients. In her part-time position, she currently has about 10 individuals she visits, mostly in the Whitehall, Northampton and Laurys Station areas.
A Class of 1990 Parkland High School graduate, 46-year-old Soldridge now lives in Coplay.
One of her client’s family members nominated Soldridge for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. That client, a gentleman, died in August.
This award honors nurses internationally in memory of J. Patrick Barnes. DAISY stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem.
According to daisyfoundation.org, the “foundation was formed in November 1999 by the family of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at age 33 of complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. The nursing care [Barnes] received when hospitalized profoundly touched his family.”
Lehigh Valley Health Network receives nominations from individuals. The committee selects one and then submits the nomination to the DAISY Foundation. Soldridge was chosen for the award for the month of September.
In November, a celebration was held at her work for this honor.
There were a lot of family dynamics during the time when Soldridge visited the client and his family, she said. The client was dying of cancer; his wife had dementia; and in the middle of that time frame, their son died unexpectedly. Another child in the family asked Soldridge to be there when they would tell the client and his wife about the death of their son.
“I didn’t want to step on their toes because that’s their family time, but I wanted to be supportive,” Soldridge said.
She was with the family for a time but, after a little while, said she’d be respectful and leave them to grieve together.
That’s when her client said to her, “No, I feel like you’re a part of my family.”
“I think that’s when they felt like I was part of their family because I had been through such a low part of their life, such a vulnerable time,” Soldridge said.
“When you really get immersed in their life at a time when they are so vulnerable, you develop a bond, and you can’t explain it because you don’t even know them. You know them (because they are your clients), but you don’t know them for long term. You really get close to people,” Soldridge said.
“I treat my clients like I would want my own family members to be treated, so to me, I was doing what I would normally do,” Soldridge said.
Soldridge stays with a client for an hour or two, but sometimes things arise that require her to stay longer. She also said the time spent with an individual depends on his or her journey. If death is near, she will stay with the client and family members for quite some time.
“It took me about a year to get comfortable,” Soldridge said. “You’re on your own. I mean, you can always call somebody, but you’re by yourself. You can walk into situations where the person might have fallen the night before, or he or she could have agitation or have a lot of pain that’s not controlled. You don’t always know what’s going on with that person.”
For those who are in a home hospice program, a registered nurse is required to visit. Each client can also choose to have a spiritual counselor, medical social worker, home health aide, massage therapist and/or volunteer organization visit and provide assistance.
All the home hospice employees “work as a team,” Soldridge said, for each client.
As a home hospice nurse, Soldridge also spends time with family members, going over the conditions of the disease or cancer, providing education on medications and making sure caregivers are taking care of themselves, too.
“It’s a very heavy job,” Soldridge said, because you may get close to clients and their families, so you are going to feel that loss, too, when the client dies.
Even though Soldridge often sees death firsthand, she also sees positivity in situations.
“You see people come together. You see families unite. You’re always going to see people have discord, but most of the time, you see relationships develop, and progress in the family is made when you work in hospice,” Soldridge said.
“I guess when I received this award, I didn’t really realize that I was making that much of a difference to somebody. I felt like I was doing the best I could do, and I was giving as much as I could of myself, but I never really expected to get acknowledged for that. I feel like that’s why I chose nursing — to make a difference for people,” Soldridge said. “It’s really important, as a human being, that you do the best you can for other people.”