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Nurse wins award for helping patient through difficult circumstance

Vice President Patient Care Services Mary Hardin earns STAR service award for November
Mary Hardin and Scott Burnette

Mary Hardin, of Bracey, Virginia, has worked at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) for 34 years. She worked her way up to vice president of patient care services and is responsible for the nursing care at VCU Health CMH. Hardin recently went above and beyond to support a patient during a time of loss, earning the November STAR Award for service. STAR stands for Safety, Teamwork, Accountability and Relationships.

The spouse of one of our patients passed. Due to isolation restrictions, family was not allowed in the hospital to support their remaining family member.

"Mary came in one evening and showed compassion, understanding and the true meaning of nursing leadership," explained Erin Davis, who submitted the nomination. "She is an inspiration with her kind and caring spirit."

Hardin knew this was a delicate situation and volunteered to be on call when the time came. One evening she got the news and donned protective equipment to enter the patient’s room. The patient’s family wanted to share the news on an iPad, with Hardin’s help.

Hardin called the family and stayed by the patient’s side to support her during the emotional exchange. She then said a prayer and sang Amazing Grace.

Hardin relied upon her 20 years of experience as an oncology nurse dealing with end-of-life care and her background as a choir member at her church to meet the needs of this patient. Shortly afterward, the patient recovered and went home, where she could mourn with family.

"As a nurse, you have to understand every aspect of the end of life. You have to be as supportive as you can and then the emotions will hit later," Hardin explained, through tear-stained eyes. "This is just one story of many that have happened here. I encourage nurses to reach out for assistance and rely on each other to get through the tough times. As strong as we are, we have to allow ourselves effective ways to deal with our stressful situations to maintain our mental health."

VCU Health CMH recently opened a special room for staff to take a 15-minute break after an emotional situation like this. It has a massage chair, soothing music and soft lighting.

Hardin received the STAR service award, STAR pin, a parking tag that allowed her to park wherever she wanted for the month of December and a $40 gift card.

The other nominee for the month of November was Sheri Sims in Respiratory Therapy.