March 2015 • By Andrew Schwartz

The transfer in February of more than 130 patients – mostly children – from UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus to the trio of new UCSF hospitals at Mission Bay was by all accounts a well-executed move by an entire organization.

It was also an exaggerated example of a care transition and of the need for skilled clinicians – often acute care nurses, clinical nurse specialists or nurse practitioners – trained to ensure coordinated, continuous care as patients move between different locations or different levels of care.

Transitional care is a hot topic these days due to its emphasis in the Affordable Care Act, but, of course, overseeing transitions is only one of many clinical roles for acute care nurses. Others include patient monitoring, symptom management, patient education, family support, patient advocacy and communication. Acute care nurse practitioners (NPs) also diagnose and treat patients.

All of these roles are crucial for patients’ sustained recovery from illness and reintegration into their lives when they leave clinical settings. All demand training and high-level thinking. Yet outside of the nursing world, these roles are often misunderstood, and downplayed in vaguely patronizing ways, such as stories about nurses with hearts of gold, as though compassion – important as it is – were the only skill needed to perform the job. Such portrayals can be a source of frustration for nurses, leading to the emergence of groups like The Truth About Nursing and The American Nurse Project.

But some nurses take refuge in the knowledge that most patients and families who have suffered a serious health crisis know the role that nurses play. Often, these families have remarkable insights into how their lives might have been different if not for the work of expert nurses.

Managing Pain

Consider Amanda Wallis and her daughter Kathleen (Katie) Blue. Now 24, Katie was born with a congenital heart defect – a double-inlet single ventricle – that required a series of complicated surgeries by a highly skilled surgeon to address. Though it was almost a quarter century ago, Amanda remembers vividly sitting with her intubated infant in the aftermath of the first corrective operation and observing Linda Roan (MS, 1986), a pediatric intensive care nurse at UCSF Medical Center.


The Dean's Blog | David Vlahov

Many years ago, while nursing in a coronary care unit, I had a patient who ran a kosher deli. Each day, his family would arrive with a heaping tray of pastrami and corned beef, the best deli treats I’d ever had. At first, I was uncomfortable with the family’s gifts; I was just doing my job. Eventually, though, I recognized both the family’s sincerity and the hurt I was inflicting by not accepting their gift. Their look of happiness when I did accept has always stayed with me....

These situations are, in fact, opportunities to deepen our connections and grow as nurses – to speak with our patients and former patients about just how meaningful their gratitude can be. And when the gratitude comes in the form of donations to our education, it is extraordinarily meaningful and valuable.

Featured Articles

March 2015
A Nursing Story – When 19-year-old Steven Rodriguez entered UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco with a rare brain tumor, highly skilled nurses were central to his clinical care and to the emotional health of Steven and his family.
March 2015
Neuro-Oncology CNS Margaretta Page Spearheads Innovative Program to Care for the Caregivers – Caring for a loved one with a brain tumor presents unique challenges. Clinical nurse specialist Margaretta Page’s new program helps people cope with those challenges.
February 2015
Palliative Care Minor Builds On Historic Commitment, Interdisciplinary Collaboration – As recognition of the need for palliative care expands, UC San Francisco School of Nursing responds with an innovative new program.
February 2015
Commentary: Sex Work, Health Policy and the Need for a Grassroots Social Movement Perspective – Doctoral student Kate Horton argues that an ongoing sex worker movement is well suited to taking the lead in forging laws and policies that will better protect the health of these workers.
February 2015
A Different Kind of Nurse: Ilufredo Tantoy Looks at a Future in Pharmaceutical Research – PhD student Ilufredo Tantoy is combining practical experience with research to bring better drugs to patients with cancer.