The RN Ambassador Award is given to an RN who demonstrates outstanding leadership, professionalism, stewardship, awareness of issues affecting the nursing profession and performs community outreach activities heralding care in nursing.
Gay’s involvement with palliative care in NICU at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is inspirational and rewarding both to patient families and nurses. With the support of the medical staff Gay, along with Pam Hefferman, Allison Brooks, Zia Shapiro, and Francie Hornstein, formed the Palliative Care Committee in 2003 and later expanded it to the Palliative Care Team. She says there is a group of 15-20 nurses on each shift familiar with the Team’s resources who care for dying infants and their families in the NICU.
“We now have in place, nurses who are open and available to care for families and we have more resources in place, so the nurses are more comfortable in caring for a dying baby,” says Gay. Also in place is grief support for nurses after a baby dies. “Some of the nurses had a history of being traumatized by previous deaths in their lives,” explains Gay, “and taking care of a dying baby was very hard for them.”
In February 2006 Gay, along with Allison Brooks, wrote an article, “Implementing a Palliative Care Program in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” published in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care. According to Gay, palliative care is a hot topic and JCAHO came out with a new regulation saying that hospitals must provide support to the families as well. Gay says this triggered a lot of hospitals to look at their palliative care in all their other departments.
In addition to the work she has done with the Palliative Care Team, Gay has been a guest speaker at local hospitals to talk about Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin holding) and infant touch programs for babies exposed to cocaine. This type of care supports at-risk mothers in making healthy emotional connections with their newborn.
Gay is passionate about talking to high school students about choosing nursing as a career and utilizes the free presentation materials and collaterals offered by CNCC. Her message centers on the many opportunities available to them as a nurse. Because of the nursing shortage, there are openings everywhere she tells them. She advises them to consider the private schools as well as the public schools, scholarship opportunities, and going to work for hospitals that offer forgivable loan programs.
Gay says she has more work to do and retirement isn’t likely. She has expressed an interest in working with geriatric patients which could be her next career move. She says we are not going to cure the problems we have in old age because they just don’t go away. “People are living longer, and geriatric medicine is focused on safety and quality of life as well as symptom management,” comments Gale.
Gay has been practicing for 28 years and is currently working at Alta Bates Summit Medical Hospital in Berkeley as a Staff Nurse III, in NICU.
Release Date: August 15, 2007