Andrea Jefferson, BSN, RN loves to laugh and she’s always looking for a way to incorporate humor in her work as a nurse in the cardiovascular ICU at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. She knows how to get a smile out of her patients, so much so that the daughter of one of her patients recently dominated her for a DAISY Award, which is reserved for nurses that deliver exceptional care.
“Grappling with losing my mother after I had only just graduated college is more difficult than I could express in words,” the daughter wrote in the nomination letter. “But on that day, Andrea provided comfort to all family members that visited my mom to say goodbye. She is very knowledgeable and amazing at her job.”
The daughter said that Jefferson’s warmth and joy provided comfort to her and her family when they needed it most.
The nurse reflected on her unique approach to bedside care.
“I just try to listen and after we build a bit of a rapport, I start throwing a little humor into things. They seem to appreciate that, because they’re very stressed,” Jefferson said.
She said she got her sense of humor from her family. She often tries to connect with the patient’s loved ones while balancing her role as a caregiver.
“I have a whole list of cheesy jokes that tend to work pretty well,” Jefferson says. “During tough situations—where, unfortunately, hard decisions are made while the patient might be unconscious—I really try to help take care of their family as well. They’re just as much a part of this as the patient is.”
Jefferson joined the CICU in 2021 and said she uses comedy to cope with the stresses of the job. She loves working at the center of the action.
“I have a fair bit of a commute,” she says. “People are like, ‘Why do you travel so far for work? I say, ‘Because I learned a while ago that I like to work at the hospitals where the helicopters fly in, not where they fly out.’”
The drive from her home Burlington, Iowa to Iowa City gives her time to reflect on her experiences at the end of a long day.
She has a long history of learning new subjects and pursuing new specialities.
“Before this, I had worked in everything except a cardiovascular unit,” she says. “I like to learn. And now that I’m here, this is what I’d enjoy doing longer term, because there’s always going to be a challenge.”
But the jump to the cardiovascular ICU came with a steep learning curve. She had to master a slew of high-tech equipment to do the job.
“When I was shadowing during the interviewing process, I looked around the rooms and thought, ‘Wow, you guys have all the good toys,’” Jefferson says.
Working in evidence-based practice forces the staff to learn new techniques regularly as the community learns more about cardiovascular diseases.
“Sometimes new research shows methods that are safer and work better for the patients,” she says. “There’s no such thing as too much training, as far as I’m concerned.”
Regardless of what equipment or technique she is using, Jefferson never loses sight of the human element of healthcare, and that includes comforting grieving family members.
“If I can make it a little easier for the family, I will. I don’t usually talk about death so much, but I’ll talk about their situation and try to be empathetic,” she says. “I think families appreciate the fact that you’re recognizing it’s very hard for them.”
It was ultimately her kind, gentle spirit that landed her a DAISY Award.
“I’m confident that Andrea is the only nurse that I would want to be caring for my mom and my family on such a difficult day,” the daughter added. “I hope she and her colleagues know the value that she provides to UI Hospitals & Clinics.”