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As a standout among a group of very accomplished and seasoned nurses in McLean’s Psychiatric Neurotherapeutics Program, Teresa Henderson, BSN, RN, is well respected by all members of the team. Whether she is talking with patients about hard issues, or persistently following up on the phone with patients or family members after a missed appointment, everything Henderson does has the patients’ best interest in mind.
For these, and myriad other reasons, Henderson has been selected as the 2015 Julia Altschule Award winner. The award is conferred annually to a nurse or mental health specialist who exemplifies the highest level of humane patient care through respect, kindness, initiative, and humor.
While Henderson is been recognized for her excellent clinical care and leadership, probably the most important characteristic that Henderson brings to her care of patients is just that—care. One only has to observe Henderson working with patients and families to understand the kindness, compassion and genuine caring that she brings to each interaction.
“I have witnessed her on the phone for many minutes with a distraught patient or family and have seen her patiently be there with them, offering a listening ear and helping to problem solve the situation,” said Paula Bolton, MS, APRN-BC, program director of the Psychiatric Neurotherapeutics Program, who nominated Henderson for the award. “She is unafraid to be with patients in the tough situations, when they are at their most vulnerable or agitated or angry or depressed, and her unfailingly kind and compassionate approach to situations puts patients at ease.”
And, according to Bolton, Henderson’s caring extends to family members and loved ones as well. Henderson helped to develop a monthly Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Support Group co-led alongside a person who has experienced ECT. This support group has proved to be very helpful for both patients and their families, and Henderson works to be sure that patients’ educational and support needs are being met through this meeting.
Co-workers have said of Henderson: “Teresa is an excellent nurse and I have learned a lot from working with her,” and “Teresa is a strong leader in a gentle quiet way. She is wonderful with patients, and a forward-thinking, great case manager.”
An outstanding clinician, Henderson assumes charge nurse coverage with ease and is able to see the big picture in terms of patient flow while still meeting the individual needs of patients, and even taking the time to mentor newer nurses to be competent and confident in their psychiatric and medical nursing skills.
“Recently Teresa has been working with outpatients and their families to provide continuity of nursing care and to assure that safety concerns are met, as well as individual patient needs for ECT-related care,” said Bolton. “She works in close concert with other members of our treatment team, including the charge nurse, the anesthesia group and the psychiatrists, as well as outside treaters to assist patients and families in navigating through transitions of care.”
In addition to all of this, Henderson serves as a preceptor for new staff. She has oriented both seasoned nurses who are new to ECT and new graduates who have begun their nursing careers at McLean. She is unfailingly patient with new staff and utilizes various teaching methods to assure an excellent orientation.
Henderson has also developed a system for tracking patients receiving maintenance ECT. The system ensures that yearly primary care updates and necessary lab work and testing were done and interpreted in order to provide safe care and to meet regulatory requirements. This year, because of ideas she has gotten from talking with patients and families, she is working toward developing a patient satisfaction survey in order to more formally identify areas of patient education and management that need improvement.
Finally, as two coworkers commented in a recent peer evaluation: “Teresa is joy to work with and an example of competent, kind and compassionate nursing. There is nothing she can’t do and do well, plus the patients love her!”
The Julia Altschule Award was established in 1980 by Mark D. Altschule, MD, in memory of his wife. Mark Altschule was director of Internal Medicine and Research in Clinical Physiology at McLean from 1947 to 1967. He was a consulting internist from 1945 to 1947 and again, from 1967 to 1985.