By Jena Simon, FNP-BC, MS, MA, RN-BC, CPON
I started working at The Mount Sinai Hospital as a nurse practitioner in the Comprehensive Program for Sickle Cell Disease on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2011. For me, starting on Valentine’s Day was an auspicious sign as I have loved working at The Mount Sinai Hospital ever since. In my role, I care for adults with sickle cell disease in both ambulatory and inpatient settings. I am also the Principle Investigator on a study regarding Vitamin D and its possible effect on bone re-mineralization in this population. Prior, I worked as a direct care nurse at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the hematology/oncology unit where I cared for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults with sickle cell disease.Briefly, sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that results in abnormally shaped red blood cells that can block blood flow, resulting in pain and end-organ damage. In fact, pain is the most common cause for hospitalization for patients with this disease.
I will never forget the first time I cared for a patient with sickle cell. In morning report, I was told by the night nurse that my patient had slept well and her mom just left for work. A few minutes later, when I rounded on her, I found a tiny little soul writhing in pain, alone, crying for help with tears streaming down her cheeks. For a moment, I thought I had walked into the wrong room, but I quickly realized it was up to me to help this child. That day was a crash course in learning how to manage sickle cell pain. It also taught me that as a nurse, I have real power to make a difference.
However, as time went by I also learned that caring for someone in pain can be frightening. Often what works for one person doesn’t work for another. Sometimes our past successes as clinicians are meaningless and we have to reimagine how we can help. It is also easy to become frustrated taking care of a patient in pain because our best efforts may be ineffective, making us feel powerless. When this happens it’s easy to blame the patient. Easy to say, “Well, I’ve done everything I can and yet nothing helps—there must be something wrong with the patient.” I’ll admit, I’ve felt this many times but, when this does happen, I take a deep breath and I try to start over.
As a nurse practitioner, I am always trying to figure out what works best for my patients but again, this isn’t always a straightforward process. Luckily, I am supported by a great team. The best patient care is delivered through coordinated teamwork, and at Mount Sinai, I think we do that best.
The Mount Sinai Hospital is a special place. Opportunity is everywhere. Each day is a new chance to be the type of nurse I strive to be through working on a research project or learning something new in Grand Rounds. Of course, each day is also a chance to listen and learn from patients, and a chance to give back to a community of patients that has given me so much.
With the creation of the Mount Sinai Health System, I hope to improve the care of individuals living with sickle cell disease system-wide. I also look forward to supporting my fellow nurses throughout the system so we can work together to provide evidenced-based and compassionate care.
Jena M. Simon is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner. Ms. Simon is currently a DNP candidate at Case Western Reserve University and a MS candidate at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the newly created Masters of Science in Health Care Delivery Leadership program. She also holds board certifications in pediatric nursing, pain management nursing, and pediatric oncology nursing.