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Communication: A nurse's secret weapon

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Dianne Bulluck

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Perianesthesia nurse Dianne Bulluck, RN, BSN, recently had a patient that tested her skills as a nurse.

“Being a good nurse isn’t just about anatomy, medicine and physical health,” Bulluck said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to be a counselor and psychologist. Calming a patients’ fears is an important part of being a good nurse.”

Her patient was Rocky Mount resident Lisa Mand, who met Bulluck the morning of her scheduled routine knee replacement at Nash UNC Health Care.

“I lost a lot of sleep leading up to the surgery,” Mand said with a laugh. “I was quite a basket case.”

Mand wasn’t worried about the surgery itself. She had convinced herself that the physical therapy was going to be more than she could handle and she doubted herself – not the doctors.

“I had heard real horror stories, in general, about recovery from knee replacement surgery,” she said.

Mand said by the time she was in pre-op, she was practically in tears with worry.

When Bulluck arrived to get Mand ready for surgery, she noticed Mand’s unease and set about making her feel better.

Bulluck said when you start interacting with a patient that is scared or worried, if you try to drill down to what is the source of their worries, you can usually solve the problem.

“I had convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to do the physical therapy afterwards – that this was all just a big waste of time because I would fail at the part I was responsible for after the surgery,” Mand recalled.

Once Bulluck realized this was where Mand’s fears stemmed from, she set about calming Mand and giving her information to challenge her fears.

“Talking to Dianne was like taking a spoonful of the best medicine,” Mand said. “She was so patient and calming and kind to me. She never dismissed me or my fears, but put in great effort to help me get my emotions under control and make the process less scary.”

Bulluck said she simply provided Mand with facts and information – exactly what Mand needed to put her fears to rest.

The Mands said they can’t imagine going through the surgery without Bulluck.

“She was that good,” Mand said. “I will be making sure she will be available when we do the other knee.”

Bulluck, who has been a nurse at Nash UNC off and on since 1980, and most recently for the last seven years, said she was just doing her job.

Bulluck and other perianesthesia nurses are responsible for caring for patients, before surgery, post-operation and in recovery. They are specially trained to recognize and treat issues related to anesthesia, as well as get patients prepped for surgery.

“Our team is like an investigative team before the surgery,” Bulluck said, “We go through all kinds of questions and gather information that can affect the surgery in some way. Most of our patients come in early so we can do this work and address problems that come up.”

Bulluck said issues can include many different things, like a super frightened patient or a patient who took some medicine the night before they shouldn’t have.

Bulluck credits the whole team of perianesthesia nurses for contributing to so many good outcomes for their patients.

“I really love my job,” Bulluck said, “It’s not just a job, it’s a passion, for all of us on this team. We work so well with each other – we really are a family. Any of my teammates would have done the same thing for a scared patient.”

Bulluck thinks the excellent communication between all the nurses is why her department is successful.

“It is a fluid and efficient flow of communication with the end goal of doing the best we can for our patients. I think that’s the key ingredient,” she said.

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