That moment a nurse never forgets

  • Kerry D. Bruning, RN, BSN, MBA
  • 05/05/2016

Every nurse has at least one eye-opening experience that changes them forever. One of mine happened in a pediatric oncology unit almost 20 years ago.

I was taking care of a seven-year-old boy, Jack*, who was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Weakened by intense radiology and chemotherapy treatments, he had been unresponsive for several days.

Despite his illness, Jack was an optimist. He was raising money to buy a bicycle so he could ride home from the hospital one day. Jack made and sold buttons for 50 cents each to help reach his goal.

When I was doing rounds one night, I dropped two quarters in the jar next to his bed and took a button. I pinned it to my scrubs and gave the jar a shake to let Jack know he was one step closer to that bike, though he wasn’t conscious at the time.

Kerry wore Jack's button as a patient safety reminder when administering medication.

Kerry wore Jack’s button as a patient safety reminder when administering medication.

The next night I was in Jack’s room, with a medication I had checked and was ready to give. The previous medication was still infusing, so I put the bag I was holding back in the fridge to administer later.

When I came back to get it, I didn’t realize the pharmacy had delivered another bag and pushed Jack’s medication to the back.I grabbed the wrong bag.

As I stood over Jack’s bed to begin administering the medication, he woke up – for the first time in a week. He looked at my pin and asked, “Hey, did you pay for that?”

After I proved to him I had indeed paid, I looked up at the bag I was about to spike. It had another child’s name on it. I could have killed him.

I’ll never forget that night, and how fortunate it was that Jack woke up at that exact moment. For the rest of my hospital career, I wore his button. It was my patient safety reminder – to double-check the “five rights” and beyond with every medication.

Thankfully, safety nets have evolved since then. The technology we have to help with medication administration is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about what we do at Allscripts.

Because of these experiences, every one of us is willing to do whatever it takes to improve patient safety. I’m so grateful for everything nurses do every day to care for patients.

Nurses all have stories that have impacted their careers. I share mine to celebrate and encourage nurses during International Nurses Day (May 12) and Nurses Week (May 6 – 12) in the United States. Please consider sharing your own story, either about your own experience as a nurse or how a nurse may have helped you, in the comment section below.

* Name changed to protect privacy

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About the author

Kerry Bruning has been with Allscripts since 2010 and is a Director of Marketing for the Payer Life Sciences team. Prior to this role, she led a team of professionals supporting the global hospital and health systems solution, Sunrise. Their mission is to raise awareness of the uniqueness of the Sunrise EHR, which was developed around the concept of providing decision support to clinicians. Prior to her role with Sunrise, Kerry worked with other large and small EHR vendors in multiple capacities, from demonstrations to implementation, training and solution development. Kerry became passionate about IT technology in health care during her experiences in hospitals. As a pediatric nurse as well as a nurse manager, she learned how EHRs could help or even hinder clinicians in their goals to provide the best care to their patients. She also learned the extreme importance of patient and family engagement in their health care and the impact engagement can have in health outcomes. Outside of work, Kerry relaxes with her husband and horses, and champions causes for animals, as well as children who can benefit from relationships with animals.

8 COMMENTS on That moment a nurse never forgets


Paul Minton says:

05/05/2016 at 9:06 am

There was a series of events that took place at the hospital where I worked that inspired my career at Allscripts. At the time of these events I was working as a staff nurse in the emergency department as well as the primary clinical IT support for the Allscripts ED product. I received a call at 3 AM by the ED Nursing Director asking me to turn off a popular functionality in our EDIS that provides the capability of carrying forward previous medication and allergy history.

The reason that I was given to do this was based on the fact that a patient that was admitted to the floor from the ED had been receiving the wrong medication for two days. The patient’s mental condition had deteriorated to such a degree that a neurologist was called in to examine the patient. When interviewing the family, the neurologist asked how long has your mom had seizures for? The family member replied that their mother has never had a history of seizures.

This was perplexing to the neurologist because after being admitted, the physician on call prescribed a seizure medication that had been listed as being a patient’s home medication in the ED record. After the medicine was discontinued, the patient recovered without any disabilities. The root cause analysis for this sentinel event showed a series of human errors that led to this negative event. Although it was determined that the EHR was not involved with these errors, I turned off the functionality to ensure our nurses manually verified all home medications upon every transition of care.

From that point on I started to think that there has to be a way to improve patient safety while utilizing the time saving features that our EHRs provide. I figured the best way to do this was to be on the front lines of Healthcare IT and joined Allscripts to work on clinical decision support tools that would help compensate for potential human errors while not slowing down our clinicians.


Donna Heckelmoser says:

05/05/2016 at 9:07 am

Nursing. It’s in my genes, my DNA. From my RN Mom, I became interested in the profession as a young girl. As I grew up and read stories about healthcare and the difference nurses could make, I became even more enthusiastic over my chosen career. And it has paid off in ways I could never have imagined.

My bedside career brought me to a variety of people in need. I have seen the very best of life and the human spirit, along with feeling the depths of despair and loss through serious illness and death. All through the journey, I was able to educate patients and families in a variety of ways that helped them through their illness, and enabled them to see the positive in life. Some said I had a knack for helping people see the light and experience those famous ah-ha moments!

As I look back, what I brought to the bedside, and what I continue to bring to Allscripts, is a passion for helping people learn, and to see the positive. I look for ways to inspire, and help people get out of their own way. I pay it forward by the caring, authentic connections I make at work, along with the organizational discipline to get the job done – instilled in me from Nursing.

Nursing has shaped my perspective in amazing ways, and I am so grateful! My motto is, every day I wake up breathing unassisted is a good day! How about you?


John Scruggs says:

05/05/2016 at 10:30 am

Great story Kerry – thanks for sharing. We are kicking off a demo next week in Texas, we are going to borrow you’re story to tell — why we do what we do…..

Faisal Mushtaq says:

05/05/2016 at 12:16 pm

Thank you Nurses.


Terri Schuda says:

05/06/2016 at 8:47 am

My moment a nurse never forgets comes from another perspective … ever present in my mind is how one nurse’s kindness, empathy and compassion will impact someone forever (even if that nurse never knows it!). While experiencing a devastating loss in our family, a nurse was there for me – even though she was swamped with other duties and tasks, she stayed and supported, often without words. I know she remained long after her shift ended to finish charting … and catch up on everything else that went by the wayside.

If through presenting the power of the Allscripts solutions, I can help an organization implement workflows that will allow ANY nurse to spend even one extra minute at a bedside or with a family – and perhaps have an experience like mine – my career choice is validated. All in ….


Hana says:

06/11/2016 at 6:29 pm

WOW! Him waking up at the exact moment probably saved his life and gave you a “new life” as it opened your eyes to what could have happened thus making you a better nurse. Amazing! It’s one of those stories that give me the goosebumps! Thank you so much for sharing this, Kerry!


Michelle Tracy says:

07/06/2016 at 1:21 pm

One moment that could have gone horribly wrong took a completely different route and changed her whole life. Stress, lack of sleep, personal problems, all these and many others influence all nurses and she was so lucky to have that one powerful reminder.

Kerry Bruning says:

07/06/2016 at 1:31 pm

I was, Michelle. Without that very special intervention, both of our lives would’ve been drastically changed. Thank you for recognizing that and for your comment.


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