Registered nurse since 2011, Christopher Edouard, opens up about the significance of patient connection and understanding. He has had his fair share of stories to tell, but the lessons from them are priceless. Christopher believes that self-reflection and education are critical to prevent misinformation and mistreatment.
Can you tell us a story about what early experiences brought you to choosing a career in the medical profession?
I became a nurse practitioner as a response to my lifelong battle with Type 1 diabetes mellitus. I was diagnosed at nine years old when I was admitted to a hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis and acute kidney failure. This was a difficult experience for a kid my age. I was overweight and had to face other embarrassing symptoms. This all turned itself around for me as my desire to learn how to care for myself led to my desire to use my knowledge to care for others like me. Struggling with diabetes for over twenty years, led to my development in medicine and my empathy-based approach to care.
Today, I’m at a normal weight and manage my diabetes expertly. I run and meditate and barely need insulin. This journey to better health is one I love to be a part of when it comes to my patients. When they improve, or are better able to manage their health challenges, their success becomes part of my own journey to better health in body and mind. It’s like a circle that closes and that rejuvenates me. You might say that I live for my patients.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you in your career in the medical field?
I have been a part of many interesting stories in my 11 years in the health field. I know, for example, what it’s like to work to give hope to a woman wondering who will care for her children fearing she has cancer. In that case, I worked hard to cut through red tape to secure for that woman an appointment with an oncologist. With the onset of the pandemic there have been many other interesting cases continuously presenting themselves at our health center, where I work daily.
As one example, there was a patient who recently came to our facility by way of public transportation. This patient had undergone open abdominal surgery two weeks prior to coming to our facility and had a vacuum-assisted closure (VAC), which allows for the decreasing of air pressure around a wound to help healing. A VAC entails putting a foam bandage over an open wound, while a vacuum pump creates negative pressure around the wound.
Well, the VAC had come out of place resulting in the wound discharging fluid onto the floor which was obviously disturbing to the patient. This patient was also coughing and had a fever, and therefore potentially afflicted with COVID-19. The staff and I, immediately took appropriate professional action, while careful not to alarm the patient or make them feel more uncomfortable than they already were. We provided an evaluation and expertly cleaned the wound, cared for this patient, and sent them to the hospital for further evaluation.
We were able to discover a deep abdominal infection, a post-surgical complication that lead to sepsis. When the patient returned to our facility, they explained that due to our patience and understanding we were able to save their life. In cases like this, it’s not just about providing professional care, but about connecting with the patient letting them know that we are there for them.
That is just one recent example. In my work at our facility, there are many such cases where we face patients who arrive with medical issues that have already become serious, and we find a way to connect with the patient emotionally, letting them know that we are in this together, while providing them the professional medical expertise they need to get better. This is difficult but very rewarding work.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out on your career? What lesson did you learn from that?
Once, a female patient arrived at our facility to be evaluated for a sexually transmitted disease. A significantly older gentleman had arrived with her, and so we assumed it was her father. Fortunately, we were able to get through some awkward moments that ensued. The lesson here is to always ask, and never assume.
To #DareToCare means to survive and thrive in today’s medical world. How do you take care of yourself? What’s the routine you must do to thrive every day?
The key to self-care, which in my field allows us to better care for others, is maintaining one’s personal and mental health. Exercise, adequate fluid hydration, nutrition, and relaxation is key to preventing burnout. Working seven days a week as a type 1 diabetic is taxing on the body. So, I’ve learned to find the time for relaxation, music therapy, which is about really taking the time to tune into the music one loves, or if you are a musician, taking the time to play, and exercise to provide the strength to keep pushing forward daily. When you are as busy as me, sometimes this means scheduling time for these activities and being disciplined and committed to giving yourself these freedoms and allowing for these therapeutic activities. Helping yourself is fundamental to helping others. They are not mutually exclusive commitments.
I write a series of letters to my God-daughter in my latest book. In that same vein, what are 5 things you would tell your younger self?
- You cannot save everyone
- Go slow and do your best to not make mistakes
- Always take care of your mental health
- Appreciate your blessings
- Work to live, don’t live to work
How can medical professionals reclaim heart-based healing amid pandemic, political, and other pressures?
For me, it’s prayer! During these difficult times with the pandemic, I have experienced multiple deaths, an increased patient load, longer work hours, lack of sleep, anxiety, and severe stress. Self-reflection, and for me and many others, prayer reminds us why we are here and why we care for others. Praying daily gives me the strength and clarity to put aside my own political and personal dilemmas, and focus on empathetic and professional care for my patients.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your work as a healthcare professional? Can you explain?
The American Family Physician Podcast, released biweekly by the AFP with updates to evidence-based guidelines for providing high quality patient-centered care, has been a very valuable resource for me. By adding to my treatment knowledge base, it helps strengthen my confidence in my work, and when you’re more confident it’s easier to be more empathetic with your patients. Knowledge really is power, and for me, that means the power to connect with my patients so I can better serve them professionally.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence in the healthcare community. If you could inspire other doctors and nurses to bring change to affect the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Said another way, what difference do you see needs to be made for our collective future?
It is absolutely critical for health care providers and educators to do more to keep the public informed about health issues. My team of health care professionals, for example, routinely leads public health conferences online, at churches and for other community institutions to keep the community informed about improving its health. This also means keeping the community up to date with changing annual health guidelines, giving them access to community resources, and since the pandemic, providing COVID-19 counseling. We must take the time and make that extra effort to educate others and prevent misinformation.
How can people connect with you?