Nurse practitioner praised for going extra mile for patient near end of life

Michelle Booth-Kowalczyk and Emily Hill

"Extra mile" highlights the stories and actions of staff praised by colleagues for living the Mayo Clinic values. Read the story of a nurse practitioner who organized a wedding ceremony for a critically ill patient.

The outlook wasn't great for a critically ill patient who arrived at Cardiovascular Hospital Services at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Given the patient's multiple comorbidities, surgery was not an option, and the patient had taken a turn for the worse.

Hospice care seemed like the next logical step for the patient.

However, the patient told Emily Hill, D.N.P., a nurse practitioner who had spent many hours with the patient, that before any decisions were made regarding hospice, the patient's wish was to marry her long-term partner.

Hill, with the help of Jeffrey Geske, M.D., Cardiovascular Medicine, and other staff on the unit, quickly organized a wedding ceremony for the patient, complete with cake, flowers and personalized readings from Caila Rinker, Chaplain Services. The ceremony was performed in the patient's room, which was full of staff the patient had come to know well during her stay.

"I am always impressed when our staff go above and beyond," says Michelle Booth-Kowalczyk, Hill's supervisor.

Booth-Kowalczyk says that while this isn't the first time Hill has gone above and beyond, she really did go the extra mile for the patient whose situation was dire.

After working a 13-hour shift, Hill left work after 8 p.m. to make a trip to Hy-Vee for the cake and flowers. When it didn't seem like the store could accommodate the request to have the cake ready at such short notice, Hill didn't take "no" for an answer.

"She helped inspire the Hy-Vee staff to be part of the magic," Booth-Kowalczyk says.

Inspiring and caring for others is second nature for Hill, Booth-Kowalczyk says.

"Emily is such an advocate for our patients. She truly sees them as people, not patients," she says. "When I hear her speak of her patients, she talks about them in such a human way that really illustrates how she sees them. And she does these things not for kudos or recognition but because she cares so deeply for others."

Hill's caring nature and nursing background in Hematology have been a gift to the Cardiovascular Hospital Services team since the unit sees its share of patients who have exhausted other treatment options.

"The extra touches, the strong advocacy, the high bar she holds herself to is partly from her nursing career and partly just who she is as a human," Booth-Kowalczyk says. "She has a very big heart."

Hill sets the bar for putting the needs of the patient first, she says. And she inspires her team, as well.

Booth-Kowalczyk says she is honored to be a part of the team.

"We have outstanding staff who consistently do amazing things," she says. "I feel very fortunate that we have a group of colleagues who continually raise the bar. They feed off each other in a building, positive way."