Nurse awarded for speaking up

Published 12:08 am Saturday, December 1, 2018

Gretchen Hinson-Budy has been an outpatient surgery nurse at Sentara Obici Hospital since March. She lives a short drive away from the hospital with her husband, Jaime Budy — a fellow nurse — and had years of experience in her field coming into Obici.

Combined with her keen awareness, that experience helped avert a serious situation on the job, and for that she received the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s “Virginians Speak Up for Safety” award for the third quarter of this year.

The case in question was a middle-aged, female patient’s post-surgical complication after her spinal surgery this past summer. According to Hinson-Budy, the patient had numbness and tingling in her feet, which isn’t uncommon following a procedure like hers.

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But she knew something was wrong when her gait was off and she had to keep a hand on the wall to steady herself.

“I don’t even think she knew really what she was supposed to feel, but I knew it wasn’t right,” she said.

The patient was ready to leave, but when Hinson-Budy assessed her 30 minutes later, there was no change in her condition. She then immediately contacted the doctor, and an MRI was ordered.

Less than 20 minutes after the MRI, the woman was taken to surgery for a hematoma on her spine. It was because of Hinson-Budy’s awareness that the hospital was able to address this problem and prevent anything more severe.

“I just knew there was something that wasn’t right,” she said.

She credited her good instincts to Sentara’s training. In 2004, Sentara began its Culture of Safety initiative at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, for which it was awarded the Quest for Quality award by the American Hospital Association that same year.

Sentara was then awarded the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality award by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations in 2005 when these “safety habits” were instilled at other Sentara hospitals in the region.

Hinson-Budy’s work exemplified many of those safety tenets, such as paying attention to detail, having a questioning attitude and clearly communicating with other staff mid-crisis.

Dianne Boone, the director of surgical services at Sentara Obici and BelleHarbour, said all hospital staff are trained and encouraged to speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

“We’re real proud of what Gretchen did, but it’s also what any nurse would do at this hospital on any given day,” Boone said.

Nurses are meant to be “advocates” for the patient, Hinson-Budy said, their eyes and ears to help them process and understand what’s going on, from diagnosis to treatments and everything in between.

“They don’t have the medical knowledge that we have,” she said. “They trust us with their lives when they come in this door, and I don’t take that lightly.”

She was also quick to add that she’s far from the only nurse that could have saved the day.

“It could have been any nurse that got that patient here, and I know they would have picked up on it,” she said.