Even though she is just 24 years old and in her first year of nursing, Hanna Reinkemeyer recently received the prestigious Daisy Award, given by healthcare organizations to nurses who exhibit extraordinarily compassionate care.
The Daisy Award was created in 1999 to honor the life of Patrick Barnes and the nurses who cared for him in the final weeks of his life at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The award was a way for his family to say “thank you” for the exceptional care Patrick had received.
Today, the Daisy Award Foundation partners with healthcare organizations in all 50 states and 28 countries to provide on-going recognition of the clinical skill and compassion nurses provide to patients and their families.
Nurses can be nominated by anyone in the organization – patients, family members, other nurses, physicians and staff.
Reinkemeyer is an RN in the Pediatric ICU (intensive care unit) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Nursing. Although she is scheduled for 12-hour shifts, rotating days and nights, she usually works longer hours.
“I actually get to the hospital around 6:45 a.m. and leave at 7:30 to 7:45 p.m.,” she said of her day shift routine. “Sometimes, I’m stuck until 8:30 p.m.”
Reinkemeyer takes care of children up to 18 years of age in the ICU. It was there that she began taking care of a boy who had respiratory problems and had been in the hospital for some time.
Since the staffing nurse tries to keep nurses with the same patients for continuity of care, Reinkemeyer spent a lot of time with the boy and his family.
“I was lucky enough to be able to take care of him quite a bit,” she said.
Reinkemeyer would even check in on him when she wasn’t his nurse, as his progress would change daily.
“It was waxing and waning,” she said. “Some days were really good; some days were bad.”
As part of the healthcare team, Reinkemeyer talked with the family regularly to discuss the child’s prognosis and options for treatment.
“The family and I had gotten really close,” she said.
In fact, the family nominated Reinkemeyer for the Daisy Award. In a letter to the hospital they wrote:
“We couldn’t (have) asked for a better person to care for our son. Hanna, from the very first day we met her, she has made us feel very comfortable. (Our son’s) journey has been rocky and meeting (her) during this time really has helped. When she felt like something was better for him, she’d speak up for him. Our experience watching her care for (him) has been amazing. She has a connection with him that we greatly appreciate. Couldn’t praise her enough for her enthusiasm and optimism about (him). It was great to feel like someone was in our corner!”
Reinkemeyer was presented the award after a grueling 12-hour night shift. She was finishing up in a patient’s room when the vice president of patient care asked to see her in the hallway. Not knowing what to expect, she was pleasantly surprised when she was greeted by a hallway full of people, including ICU team members, managers and even a couple of her friends.
“They presented me with a plaque, a trophy and a pin and read what the family had written,” Reinkemeyer said. “I fell to my knees. All nurses know about the Daisy Award, it’s such an honor.”
The only other nurse Reinkemeyer knows of who has received the award at the hospital had been there 15 years.
“It’s unheard of in your first year of nursing to get the Daisy Award,” she said.
Although Reinkemeyer didn’t grow up thinking she would go into nursing, she believes her empathy for children began when she experienced her own illness as a child.
She suffered from Tularemia, which is a rare infectious disease that typically attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs. Also known as rabbit fever, it is caused by a tick bite. She believes she got it from her family farm in Jefferson City.
She had to have a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) inserted into her arm and that caused a lot of anxiety. She credits her pediatrician for keeping her calm.
“It makes a big difference talking to a 10-year old, waking up kind of loopy, not sure where I was,” Reinkemeyer said.
That empathy she received stayed with her.
“I’ve worked with kids with chronic illnesses, with ICU level care,” Reinkemeyer said. “It’s something I have a lot of familiarity with. We put their priorities in front of ours.”
Unfortunately, the young boy that she was taking care of in the hospital passed away a few days after Reinkemeyer received the award.
“It’s always hard when kids pass away; it never feels like the right time,” Reinkemeyer said.
As difficult as it was for the family, it was incredibly hard for her as well. She had been warned not to get too emotionally attached.
“I’ve been accused of loving on kids too much,” she said. “I loved on him as much as I was able to. As a healthcare provider, we want to jump in and do everything we can.”
Since ICU nurses tend to burn out quickly, they need to have a way to relieve their stress outside the hospital.
“It’s important to have an outlet with healthy kids, healthy families,” Reinkemeyer said. “It’s really important to remember that all kids are not sick.”
Reinkemeyer’s release is teaching/coaching gymnastics at Olympia Gymnastics in Ellisville. She competed in gymnastics herself for 10 years and retired at the age of 15. But she continued to stay active in the sport, coaching all through high school and during the summer.
Even with the passing of her young patient, Reinkemeyer said she is not deterred from nursing.
“Death is a big part of working in the ICU, but it makes me work harder,” she said. “It’s definitely the worst part of the job, but we try hard to make it rare, or when it’s inevitable, as comfortable and with as much dignity and control as possible.”