Making a Difference: The LPN Connection

When it comes to your care, clinical skills are just part of the equation at The University of Vermont Health Network-Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH). Our nurses, which include Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Registered Nurses (RN), and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), also hope to make a difference through the connections they strive for with every patient and in every setting throughout the organization.

“A lot of those patients come back, and you build that foundation with them. So, they’re happy when they’re with you, and they trust you,” Lori Brandmeier, LPN at CVPH Pulmonology said of the patients she sees regularly receiving treatment.

From the exam room in our physician practices to the bedside in the hospital, Lori has cared for patients in many settings over her 15 year career. She has found numerous ways to connect with each person, from a hat or a t-shirt the patient is wearing to offering a shoulder to cry on.

 “I came back to work in December, and one of my patients told me she missed me. And she started to cry. She hadn’t really opened up with me before. But she started telling me what was going on in life and why she felt so horrible. And it only took that one interaction to get us there.”

Lori added that those connections can be critical to getting at the heart of what the patient’s needs are, which leads to better care.

For Kaitlyn Connor, LPN, part of the CVPH Orthopedics & Sports Medicine practice, it’s about letting the patient talk and helping them feel more comfortable.

“I like to listen. For instance, one woman was just talking to me about her dog. And my mom had just gotten that kind of dog. So we were able to talk about that, and I think she felt more comfortable because of that,” Kaitlyn recalled. “I do like to listen and interact. I think that was my biggest reason for becoming an LPN.”

Kaitlyn just recently started working in Orthopedics and said thanks to the help of her colleagues, she is adapting to the different work involved as an LPN there. She got her start as a CNA in our Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and spent a lot of time with the residents. Kaitlyn said she eventually wanted to be more involved with their care which lead to her decision to return to school to become an LPN.

“As a CNA, I fell in love with my residents, the care, the interaction and just wanted to do more from there,” she said.

That interaction became incredibly important when COVID-19 reared its ugly head more than two years ago. Kaitlyn and members of the SNF team did what they could to help residents stay in touch with loved ones through video chats on iPads and keep them busy through the isolation.

“It was hard on us to see how much they missed their families and go through that isolation. But we did the best we could, interacted with them as much as possible and provided activities. Once families were able to start visiting again, that helped a lot,” Kaitlyn offered.

“COVID has been exhausting. As nurses, it’s just been really hard to see some of the effects on our patients. People coming in who were well but then got sick and passed the following week, because that’s how COVID can be,” Lori admitted. “But, we keep coming back. Our patients need us, and we want to support our doctors who are working nonstop.”

As challenging as the pandemic has been, both nurses are grateful for the meaningful moments they have with their patients that are making a difference.

“There have been so many moments, it’s hard to pick one,” Kaitlyn said. “But for instance, there was one resident I can think of that when I came in to go take his finger stick, his face would light right up, and he’d smile and say good morning to me. Those little things mean the most.”

“If I’ve helped one person, my day is made,” Lori added. “When I see someone who’s been so sick and they come in and they’re breathing much better, I know I’m where I need to be and where I want to be.”

She also shared just how different each shift in the physician’s office can be as an LPN. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that includes contacting patients with updates from their physicians and preparing charts for each day’s appointments. During the visit, she collects patient information, checks vitals, educates patients and helps conduct a variety of tests. There have even been times when she’s had to rush in to help care for a patient suffering a medical emergency. Through all of it, Lori said being an LPN showed her just how strong she can be for her patients, her family and herself. And she looks forward to making those special connections with her patients every chance she gets.

“There are so many memories of nursing that make me smile. When someone comes up to me and says, ‘Hey I had you as a nurse. You’re so much fun, you’re awesome!’ That makes me smile. Those that know me or meet me know that I live to make you laugh.”