Featured | Nursing

Each day at Vidant Health, incredible nurses go above and beyond to care for the patients and families of eastern North Carolina.

In February, Vidant Medical Center (VMC) volunteer Frank Crawley had a moving experience with nurse Felicia Parker at Vidant Cancer Care that he felt compelled to write about.

“What you don’t know is you did something to me that day,” Crawley said to Parker, as the two met again exactly a month after their interaction. “You moved me to do some things that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. That’s to write about some things having to do with this hospital and how much it has meant to me.”

This National Health Care Volunteers week, we are proud to share the below story written by Crawley after his experience at VMC.

“On the morning of Feb. 15, 2022, a call came to Patient Escort to bring a wheelchair to the Cancer Center, room 418, to transport a patient to the Dental Clinic. I took the call. When I arrived, I knocked on the door, opened it, greeted the occupants and announced that I was there to take the patient to the Dental Clinic. Lying in the bed was a frail, elderly man. Standing by his side was his wife, who immediately said there was no way her husband was able to make the trip to the clinic in a wheelchair. 

I left the room and located the nurse assigned to room 418, whom I later learned was Felicia Parker. She and I both entered the room. Ms. Parker explained to the patient’s wife that her husband desperately needed dental work. The wife seemed very concerned that her husband lacked the strength to make the trip, that his blood pressure would drop and that he could have a seizure, particularly if taken in a wheelchair. She said that he might be able to make the trip in his bed. The soft-spoken Ms. Parker explained that the bed was too large to transport into the clinic. Additionally, she said that to alleviate the wife’s concerns, she would accompany her husband to the clinic, assuring her that every precaution would be taken. First, she explained that we would exchange the Staxi for a Stryker wheelchair, carry an oxygen tank with us, along with a blood pressure/heart rate attachment to monitor her husband’s vital signs. 

The wife began to weep quietly. She walked into the bathroom and continued to sob, fearing for the welfare of her husband. Ms. Parker followed her to the bathroom. She spoke softly, lovingly to the patient’s wife, hugged, consoled and reassured her that we would take every precaution to see that her husband made the trip to the clinic without incident. Still hugging, Ms. Parker told the patient’s wife that she would call her once we reached the clinic. I was so impressed at that moment with the love, patience, caring and empathy Ms. Parker showed her — far beyond what I had expected to witness that day. With the wife comforted and reassured, Ms. Parker and I located a Stryker chair, added an oxygen tank and a vitals’ monitor. Next, Ms. Parker said that she was raising the bed to a sitting position so that the patient could sit upright for a few minutes and adjust to the change in position. Doing so, she explained, we would be able to see whether his blood pressure and heart rate would respond favorably to the positional change. Next, Ms. Parker and I moved the Stryker chair next to the bed and slowly moved the gentleman’s feet off the side of the bed. All went well — at first.

Within seconds of moving his feet off the bed, there was a sudden drop in the patient’s blood pressure and a change in heart rate. Carefully but quickly, Ms. Parker moved the patient’s feet back onto the bed and slowly lowered the bed. She immediately left the room and called for backup help — not calling for a “code blue” but the next level below, as I heard her say. Within a few minutes, the room was filled with attending physicians, nurses and aides. I quickly moved back, stepping out of the room to allow Ms. Parker and the medical staff space to work. Within what seemed like only a few minutes, the patient’s vital signs were restored to normal, and the room was calm again. Ms. Parker then turned to the patient’s wife, hugged and comforted her. 

With the room restored to calm and the father’s vitals stable, Ms. Parker came to me and thanked me for my help.

“No,” I said. “Thank you for allowing me the privilege to witness, firsthand, nursing at its very best.”

Not only was Ms. Parker highly competent, as evidenced by the technical skills she displayed, she also possessed that rare ability to sincerely comfort, console and empathetically connect with the very distressed patient’s wife. Empathy is near impossible to teach. Neither can it be faked. Deeply moved and with tears in my eyes, I hugged Ms. Parker.

“Never had I expected to report to volunteer duty Tuesday morning and see the loving, compassionate face of Jesus on display,” I said.

That day was most rare and wonderful, and I knew it.

After writing down his experience, Crawley shared this with the volunteer team and eventually it found its way to Parker. When she received the email, she had her daughter read the story to her sons. Parker said she was moved by him sharing his experience with her and her family.

“It’s nothing that I gave a second thought to – it’s just what we do every day,” Parker said, who will celebrate three years in the system in June. “Sometimes we kind of don’t look at what we do, how it impacts others. Especially, we feel like it’s just something that we’re just supposed to do. You’re supposed to get up, you’re supposed to greet people when we see them. We don’t think anything of it. That’s what it was for me. It was just, ‘Hey, what you do does matter.’”

Crawley said he has been volunteering at the medical center for nine years. Previously, he was an education professor at East Carolina University.

“In the busyness of life, and I think it has a lot to do with my age, I look for those moments that I can connect with people or when I can see them connecting, because I believe that’s what we were born to do,” Crawley said.

“We do a lot of things for which we get paid and it’s difficult to find something in you down deep that in that busyness,” Crawley said. Then looking at Parker, he continued, “I know you had lots of other patients, but in that busyness to console the woman who wasn’t your patient. You saw something there that was a greater need and you met that need. That was just powerful.”

We are so proud to have experiences like this unfold along the halls of Vidant hospitals each day. Thank you to the care teams, volunteers and team members who serve eastern North Carolina. If you are interested in joining the Vidant team, visit our Careers site.