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Nursing from the Heart: "I try to put them at ease"

by Apryl Chapman Thomas

They will be the first to tell you that no other career could be as rewarding – or as demanding. The current national and state nursing shortage has put nurses, the backbone and indeed, the heart and soul of our healthcare system, squarely in the limelight. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Labor has identified nursing as the top occupation in terms of job growth through the year 2012. This demand is fueled by an increased need for caregivers as our population ages, the retirement of scores of career nurses, and the struggle of college and university nursing programs to keep pace. But through it all, nurses in our community remain devoted to their patients and the quality of the care they provide. Gwinnett Magazine profiles two Gwinnett nurses who go above and beyond for their patients – and love every minute of it.

'I can”t imagine not doing this”

It”s noon on a Thursday at Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC). Nurse Kathie Hilz has been going strong since 7 a.m., and doesn”t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

"I am a morning person," says the spry LPN. "I love to be busy, and I love taking care of my patients."

Hilz is a rare breed in today”s healthcare environment – a career veteran with more than 40 years experience, 34 of those years within the GMC system. What makes Hilz stand out is her overall compassion for each of her patients. In fact, she was honored by Gwinnett Medical for her customer service, according to Theresa Dorfling, cardiac nurse manager.

"She”s very outgoing and friendly," Dorfling says. "She definitely makes an impression on patients. We have had patients who come in and request her as their nurse, because they either had her before, or a friend recommended her."

Hilz laughs in appreciation when she hears this, and then in a serious manner says, "You know, they are here on this floor, the cardiac floor. It”s serious, and they are scared and nervous. Sometimes they might be waiting for three to four hours for tests. I want them to be relaxed, and I try to put them at ease."

This includes fetching additional blankets, getting small cups of water, and even distracting patients with conversations that don”t involve medical jargon.

"I share a little bit of my personal self with them," she says. "I talk about my family. I even talk about where to go on a summer vacation."

Dorfling adds, "She doesn”t want the patients to sit alone. She has even been known to introduce one patient to another if she thinks they might have something in common and would enjoy talking to one another.

"If a patient is really nervous, we put them in Kathie”s care. It”s her gift. Her patients are “honeys.” "

Hilz recalls how she met current scheduling nurse, Julie Wadsworth. Wadsworth came in with her husband, who had to undergo some cardiovascular tests.

"They were both anxious, and after I took care of her husband, I sat and talked with her," she says. "I try to put myself in the family member”s position. I treat them the way I would want my family to be treated."

Even though their first meeting was in an unusual setting, Wadsworth and Hilz became friends. In fact, Hilz helped her to get a job on the floor, and Wadsworth”s husband still stops by to visit his girlfriend, "Nurse Kathie."

"All of my patients are special," she comments. "They are like family in a way. You run into them everywhere. It”s great to be remembered, and to know that you made an impression on them – even if it was for a moment – is special."

Back in her office, Hilz points to a picture of herself that was taken in t