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Where Nurses Mean the World: Deb Alder

Jan 15 2020
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Meet Nurse of the Year Finalist Deb Alder

Deborah Alder, BSN, RN, CPN, loves children, seeing patients and families get the care they need, and sharing things she’s passionate about. Most of all, she loves those moments that make nursing a calling, not just a career choice. Like when a little girl leaving the hospital tells a nurse, “I love you! I want you to come home with me!”

It’s all in a day’s work in the pediatric emergency department of Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital.

Caring for kids

Deborah has worked in emergency medicine for nearly 16 years and in the pediatric emergency department (ED) since it opened in 2010. She teaches a nursing course sponsored by the Emergency Nurses Association and works regularly with colleagues to identify best practices for providing care.

However, her best-known accomplishment may be her work to develop a sensory cart for children with autism spectrum disorder. The cart contains a variety of items such as weighted lap pads, fiber optic wands, sensory chew tubes and assorted textured fidget balls to name a few. The items can be used throughout the child’s visit, even during procedures.

Deborah feels it’s important to meet her young patients where they are.

“In the pediatric ED, we are ready to use these tools that will allow us to create the best experience for our patients and families,” she explains.

The sensory cart improves communication and cooperation while providing a calm, soothing environment and needed distraction. It also allows the health care team to perform the tasks necessary to care for the child.

“Even though we are nurses, we know we are not immune to our children becoming patients too. We would want and expect to receive the same outstanding care for our children that we would give to our patients,” she adds.

Not only does this cart improve the patient’s and family’s experience in the ED by making the visit less traumatic, it can decrease the length of time they spend there and even make an overnight visit unnecessary.

Deborah also believes in the power of community.

“Patients heal better when they have their loved ones supporting them and around them,” she explains. “If a teenager wants their phone beside them, that’s fine,” because it’s the way they can reach their circle of friends, their community.

A prestigious honor

Deborah’s work to create the cart and train nurses how to best use it is one of the reasons she was named one of two finalists for the 2019 Press Ganey Nurse of the Year Award, a highly respected recognition program.

The award states that it “recognizes the contributions of an outstanding direct care nurse who has gone above and beyond in his/her role and demonstrated care innovation, transformation and collaboration that supports an exceptional patient experience.”

“Deborah is an exceptional nurse,” says Alyssa Leimberger, magnet program manager for St. Mary’s Hospital. “It’s very gratifying to see her recognized for all the work she’s put in — and that she does for patients every day.”

As for Deborah, she never expected her cart, which she introduced in 2018, to garner such attention.

“For it to now receive the spotlight that it has, it’s kind of earth-shaking,” she says.

Read more about some of the amazing nurses at Bon Secours.


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