Building a blessing: Night-shift nurses use carpentry skills to help patients

Jordan Bridgeman, left, and Tim Phillips, registered nurses at Blessing Hospital, volunteered to disassemble a wheelchair ramp from a local home and reassemble it at the home of a Blessing home care patient. (Submitted Photo)
Posted: Dec. 24, 2012 7:58 am Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 9:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Tim Phillips and Jordan Bridgeman work with their hands by day and heal with them by night.

The night-shift nurses at Blessing Hospital supported themselves during nursing school at John Wood Community College with carpentry. When the Blessing Caring Club asked for employee donations, Phillips added his carpentry skills to his yearly contribution.

Just as the duo can drive throughout the area and see the condos and homes they helped build the past five years, the two nurses have seen how their patients within the community have thrived. Quincy's intimate size often reminds the two of the good they do in their work. The nurses help their patients heal for a living, but they wanted to give off the clock, too.

The Caring Club provides a way for Blessing employees to give more of themselves to their patients. In the past, Sue Winking, administrative coordinator of major gifts, has seen the employees' monetary donations provide medical necessities such as canes, toiletries and air conditioners to patients who cannot afford those items.

"You don't realize how great you have it until you see what comes through our office," Winking said.

Earlier this month, Ann Awerkamp Dickson, administrative director of Blessing Foundation, had a patient who needed a wheelchair ramp. Fortunately, the foundation also had a ramp donation in line and a staff nurse eager to work with his hands.

"Tim is just the angel in the middle," Awerkamp Dickson said.

The spare ramp had once assisted another patient from his front door to the ground. When he died, his wife asked the foundation to find a use for it.

"It was a healing process for her," Phillips said. "She didn't need the ramp anymore because it was for him."

Several miles away, another family struggled to lift a wheelchair-bound woman up and down her front-porch steps. With little persuasion required, Phillips recruited Bridgeman to help move, adjust and assemble the ramp at its new location. After working a 12-hour shift at the hospital, Bridgeman gave another five hours of a long day to this Blessing patient.

"There's wonderful generosity going on every day behind the scenes that nobody knows about," Awerkamp Dickson said.

As nurses, the two review home situations before discharging patients. They ask about home amenities, but often they're met with concerns.

"To meet someone's need outside the hospital, that's what you really strive for as a nurse," Bridgeman said.

While they can provide basic needs inside the hospital, they can't always fix how many steps a hobbling patient may take from the bedroom to the bathroom at home. The nurses can teach how often to take medications, but they can't ensure the patients can afford to have the prescriptions filled.

"A lot of time, during a shift, you know that the individual that you're taking care of has those issues," Bridgeman said. "A lot of times, you can see the poor home dynamics and the hygienic needs that those patients come in with."

The Blessing Foundation manages and encourages charitably donated funds for the Blessing Health System. Once Blessing care managers identify a patient's need and all other resources have been exhausted, the foundation will often provide for the patient. These contribution help patients maintain their health and often prevent return visits to the hospital.

"The biggest thing we do every day is keep people out of the emergency room," Awerkamp Dickson said.

In this case, ramp donation and nurses' time made all the difference to the recipient. With five hours of donated time and $40 in adjustment materials from the foundation, this patient has a more accessible path from her home to her doctor appointments.

"These guys are the real thing," Winking said. "They didn't get paid to do this. They just took their own time to do this. People are just so kind and giving."