When Pamela Cook, patient care associate, arrived at work on the morning of June 23, she had no idea what was about to happen.
A group of nursing leaders and colleagues had gathered on the Neurosciences Intermediate Care Unit to surprise her with the presentation of the inaugural TULIP Award for patient care associates (PCAs), medical assistants (MAs) and emergency services assistants (ESAs) at the Brigham.
“It made me feel really appreciated,” said Cook, who began her career as a PCA in 1979 and has worked on the unit since 2005. “It said to me that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives, and that makes me feel really good.”
The award has been a labor of love for the Department of Nursing’s Cardiovascular/Medicine/Surgery Committee for the past two years, having put the effort on pause for much of the pandemic.
“PCAs, MAs and ESAs play a vital role in the team approach to care at the Brigham,” said committee member Mary O’Neill, BSN, RN, of the Burn, Trauma and Surgical Intermediate Care Unit. “Our committee wanted to develop a platform to recognize the incredible care they provide to our patients.”
TULIP, which stands for Touching Unique Lives in Practice, recognizes PCAs, MAs and ESAs for going above and beyond. These team members partner with nurses and other staff to care for patients in inpatient units, outpatient practices, and the Emergency Department, respectively.
“I was ecstatic and honored to present the first TULIP award to Pam, who encompasses everything the award stands for,” said O’Neill.
Cook was nominated by Susan Rodriguez, BSN, RN, Fe Topinio, BSN, RN, and Maura Fodera, BSN, RN, nurses in-charge in Neurosciences Intermediate Care, for providing exceptional care. In the nomination, they wrote:
“She is very attentive to detail and individualizes her care in ways patients notice. It is also not unusual for Pam to go off the floor to get something for a patient, like food, a newspaper from the lobby or a hairbrush from the gift shop. Pam always takes the time to really get to know her patients, and by the end of the shift, she has developed a meaningful relationship.”
Cook says she enjoys working with Neurosciences patients, especially older patients. “I always ask patients how they are and where they are from, and that opens up the door to all kinds of conversations and connections,” she said.
She also has strong bonds with her nursing colleagues. “I’ve known many of the nurses on the floor since they were nursing students, and we’ve developed trusting relationships,” Cook said. “The Neurosciences unit can get very busy, and I am often nurses’ eyes and ears. I hear from nurses that their day goes smoother when I’m working, and that means a lot.”
Karen Reilly, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, associate chief nursing officer for Critical Care, Cardiovascular and Surgical Services, was moved by the award presentation honoring Cook.
“Not only did it recognize one outstanding PCA, but it also represented the appreciation of our nursing community for our PCA, MA and ESA colleagues and all that they do,” she said.
Linda Delaporta, MSN, RN, nursing director for Medical Intermediate Care, worked closely with the committee throughout the process.
“While our first award is part of a pilot phase in medical, surgical and cardiovascular units, we are looking forward to launching hospital-wide in the fall,” she said. “We hope that staff, patients and family members will consider their colleagues for this meaningful recognition!”
The TULIP Award originated at the Detroit Medical Center Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in 2008 by the Retention and Recruitment Committee. It has since been adopted by other health care organizations.
Patients, family members, visitors and colleagues will be able to nominate a PCA, MA or ESA beginning this fall. More information is forthcoming.