Emergency Department Nurse Honored With DAISY Award

Heather Cartee, RN nominated for life-changing care

It is not often that Tiffany Bombard, NRP, MD gets to work with Heather Cartee, RN in the Emergency Department at CVPH. When she does, however, she is thoroughly impressed.

“Heather leads from the front,” Dr. Bombard noted in an email nominating Heather for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. “She ultrasounds impossible IVs, stocks linen and thinks on her feet about medications and situations. She is happy. She works hard. She is a fantastic team player who encourages and inspires the people around her.”

Impressive as that is, what Dr. Bombard watched Heather do to help one patient on a night this past January will stay with her for a long time.

A developmentally delayed teenager who was 6’5” and athletically built arrived at the ED after getting into a confrontation with police. Dr. Bombard said the teen had been asking police to shoot him. Still distressed inside the hospital, he was accused of threatening staff and picking up and tipping the bed in his room.

As staff came together to determine how to handle the situation safely, Heather managed to catch the patient’s eye, and they connected as she smiled through her mask. Dr. Bombard said she watched as Heather joked with the once angry teen, earning his trust. Heather’s connection helped him calm down and begin to work appropriately with the rest of the staff.

“I wanted him to feel safe,” Heather said, reflecting on how the night unfolded. “I looked him in his eyes so that he could trust me. He was a big guy, yeah, but he had a soft heart.”

Later that night, the patient’s stepfather left the bedside, and according to Dr. Bombard, he became agitated again and was briefly physically restrained.

Heather heard this, came into his room and got his attention. Dr. Bombard described what happened next.

“She soothed him. She hugged him. She HUGGED him. What a gamble, but she had judged the situation perfectly. It was exactly what he needed. He melted. He actually smiled,” Dr. Bombard remembered. “The next thing I knew, the two of them were working out math problems using a dry erase marker on the window of the room.”

“He was just scared,” Heather said. “He was afraid of being in the hospital overnight. He just needed someone to care about him and be there for him.”

Dr. Bombard credited Heather with changing the patient’s life, noting that the teen made it through the night safely while being restrained for a very limited time.

That turned out to be a big deal, because the ED team learned that the patient’s legal guardian was an institution in New York City, which he said had abused him. Dr. Bombard said that had they been forced to restrain the teenager for a longer period of time, the psychological harm to him would have been enormous.

It’s not the first time this team has witnessed Heather changing a life, and Dr. Bombard knows it will not be the last time.

“We could all be a little more like Heather. She puts her heart into all that she does. She teaches me something every time I work with her,” Dr. Bombard said.

CVPH Chief Nursing Officer Carrie Howard-Canning, MSN, MBA, RN, CNS-BC, CENP praised Cartee as a shining example of the nursing team at the hospital and the commitment from each nurse to provide compassionate care for every patient.

“Our organization is as strong as our nursing staff. Each individual who works in the nursing profession brings hope, humanity and courage to the lives they touch daily. The DAISY Award gives us an opportunity to celebrate one another,” Howard-Canning said.

Heather was presented with a certificate commending her as an extraordinary nurse. She, like all honorees, also received a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful and meaningful sculpture called “A Healer’s Touch,” which is hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Zimbabwe.

Afterward, Cartee explained that while she was honored to be named a DAISY Award recipient, her true reward comes from the impact she has on her patients.

“This is why I got into the health care profession, to help patients and their family members during what can be the scariest times of their lives when they’re sick either mentally or physically. As nurses, we’re here to help our community feel safe and help them through the hardest times,” Cartee said.

CVPH launched the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in 2018 as a way to recognize and reward licensed nurses for making a meaningful difference in the lives of their patients. Nomination forms and boxes are located at each of the hospital’s main entrances and on the CVPH website. Nurses may be nominated by patients, families and colleagues. A committee reviews nominations and awards a deserving nurse each quarter.

The award is part of the DAISY Foundation’s mission to recognize the extraordinary, compassionate nursing care they provide patients and families every day. The DAISY Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization, established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes by members of his family.  Patrick died at the age of 33 in late 1999 from complications of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a little known but not uncommon auto-immune disease. (DAISY is an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.)  The care Patrick and his family received from nurses while he was ill inspired this unique means of thanking nurses for making a profound difference in the lives of their patients and patient families. More information is available on the DAISY Foundation website.

To recognize a caregiver in any profession, visit The Foundation of CVPH’s page to learn more about the Honor a Caregiver program and how your generosity can support our patients, our employees and the entire community.