Auburn nurse Cheryle Baker stands for what’s right
Cheryle Baker has been a nurse for 22 years. She spends her nights helping some of the most critically ill patients at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center’s intensive care unit. Baker says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“In the ICU, you are either going to save a life and make a difference, or you are going to help a family let go of a life and make a difference,” she says. “It’s gratifying when you can ready a family on a personal level and help them understand disease progression, so it makes sense and eases the transitions.”
An example of such a transition happened a little while back. Baker was caring for a patient who had no chance of recovery. The patient was part of a rather large family, many of whom were estranged from one another. The patient had no power of attorney, and there was no consensus on a care plan.
The options? Let him go or do everything possible to keep him alive, despite the dire prognosis. Over the next 24 hours, Baker contacted 35 family members, helping each of them understand the prospects for her dying patient.
“I was able to educate, explain and help them come to terms of letting go of this young man,” she says. “He was able to pass with peace and dignity. The family had no regrets. In the end, the family passed phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.”
Baker is the kind of nurse who displays a level of compassionate care for her patients and gentle realism for their families. It’s part of what makes her an exceptional nurse.
It earned her Auburn’s January 2020 DAISY Award.
The DAISY Award celebration took place in the early morning, just after shift change. Baker, who works the night shift, had to be convinced to stay for the award ceremony. She had a long night and was ready to leave.
“Oh, just hang out to see who gets the award, then you can leave,” said her manager, Laura Nunn. “It won’t take long.”
When Chief Nurse Executive Lucy Norris announced the winner, Baker’s surprise was evident. She teared up and gave hugs all around.
“This caught me by surprise,” she says. “A family will sometimes bring you coffee or a treat, but they don’t write it up. I’ve always wanted this award. It means exceptional nursing.”
The DAISY nominator wrote that Baker exemplifies the finest of AMC’s nursing staff:
“Cheryle was wonderful and would always be one step ahead of anything I needed. She was compassionate and direct, which I really appreciated. When I was cold there would be a warm blanket for me or a cup of tea. Cheryle took time to talk openly and candidly with me and I really appreciated her friendly and compassionate manner.”
Rose Atkins, Auburn’s clinical director, says this perfectly describes Baker.
“Cheryle always puts patients first,” Atkins says. “She has endless energy. She is a nurse’s nurse. We are very lucky to have her here.”
Her manager, Nunn, agrees.
“Cheryle provides compassionate care to the patients and families here in the ICU,” Nunn says. “She is dedicated to the profession of nursing and serves as a great role model to residents and new staff in the unit.”
In her youth, Baker lived as an Army wife, moving from town to town. When her marriage fell apart, she found she had little education and a young son to care for.
“I was in the bathroom crying, wondering what to do with myself,” she says. “Then a magazine fell and on the open page was an ad that said, ‘Be a CNA.’”
She followed the advice of the fates and went to school to be a certified nursing assistant and eventually worked her way up to be a registered nurse.
As an RN, Baker loves working in the intensive care unit. It prompted her to obtain a certification for critical care registered nurse (CCRN). She later earned a bachelor’s degree and started a degree toward a nurse practitioner. She ultimately decided she wanted to stay involved with bedside nursing and focus on doing the right thing for her patients.
Her idol is Major Margaret Houlihan, the head nurse of the hit 1970s television series “M*A*S*H.”
“She didn’t take anything from anybody,” Baker says. “She especially stood up for what was right. I try to do that every day.”
The DAISY Award is presented at MultiCare hospitals in Puget Sound and Inland Northwest regions, and honors licensed nursing professionals in more than 2,000 health care facilities worldwide for outstanding patient care, clinical skills and extraordinary compassion in nursing.
About The Author
Melissa Campbell is the communication specialist for MultiCare Auburn and Covington medical centers. You may reach her at [email protected].More stories by this author