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Owing to isolation measures during the pandemic, hospital patients are denied the solace of family visits during their illness and final hours. But, in the best tradition of bedside nurses, Nurse of the Week Tabatha Kentner and the other nurses on her ward do all they can to serve as intermediaries between patients and their loved ones.

Of the special role nurses play at patients’ bedsides, Tabatha says, “We don’t just take care of them, we care for them like they’re our families. I don’t think there’s a bigger responsibility than to stand at that bedside and make sure that patient knows that his family loves him and haven’t forgotten him and that we’re here in their place.”

At Methodist Hospital in Katy, Texas, Kentner, an RN, works in a special Highly Infectious Disease Unit (HIDU) for patients suffering from the COVID-19 virus. In the isolated HIDU ward, the need is greater than ever for nurses to care for the ill “like they’re our families.” Tabatha and her co-workers recently stood in for family at the bedside of 93 year-old Richard Steubinger, keeping the lines of communication open between the WWII Navy veteran and his daughter, Shawn Creswell. According to Creswell, Kentner did everything she could to make up for the absence of family during the veteran’s last days. “She wanted to know more about my dad. She wanted all of the names of his kids and grandkids, and she’d talk to him and just whisper in his ear those names to give him that comfort.”

After Steubinger’s fever spiked and he was put back on a ventilator, Tabatha continued to make sure he knew that he was accompanied by the loving thoughts of his family. As her patient’s condition worsened, she says, “Shawn asked me to be there for her dad and just stand in for her family and to make sure he wasn’t alone. It was an honor. This is what we do. This is why we’re here.” Finally, as her patient entered his last hours, HIDU staff set up a teleconference to allow Steubinger’s children and grandchildren to see him one last time and say goodbye. Later, when Steubinger met his end, Kentner was at his bedside.

For more details on this story, see the KHOU-11 website or view the video on the HIDU at the Methodist Hospital site.

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