The Back Story

Culture of caring reflects true nature of nursing

Twanda Gillespie

To ease someone’s suffering is a powerful skill. Parents feel this when they comfort their child, good friends experience this when assisting each other, and nurses can feel this every day in the work they have chosen.

The Culture of Caring recognizes the power of relieving someone’s suffering, and reminds all nurses that this is within their power – to varying extents – with each and every patient. Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital Clinical Nurse Specialist Twanda Gillespie, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, has wrapped her arms around this principle, sharing these skills with patients and the nurses with whom she interacts.

“I have a genuine concern and love for people,” says Gillespie, who has been a nurse for 10 years, the past two at HFWH. “I feel Culture of Caring is all about making a true connection with our patients, our colleagues and ourselves. I always try to be mindful of how my interaction with others can affect them in either a positive or negative way. It’s about giving others the same dignity and respect that you want to receive. I love the Culture of Caring concept of ‘unavoidable’ versus ‘avoidable’ suffering. I am always looking for ways to support the staff to reduce suffering and improve the patient experience.”

Putting into practice the AIDET +1 model is both intuitive to Gillespie and an effective tool to help her support all nurses. In particular, Gillespie is drawn to the ‘A’ in AIDET – Acknowledge the Backstory.

“We all have a back story that has molded us in one way or another, and we bring those experiences to our current situations,” she explains. “Taking time to understand someone’s back story can give us insight beyond what we see currently, and that insight will help us to be more compassionate and attune to our patients and their families.”

This connection is what breathes life into Gillespie’s chosen profession. She cherishes the opportunities afforded to her to be there for people and to help them with her wisdom and compassion.

“I have always been drawn to helping others,” she says. “As nurses we have the privilege be present during the most vulnerable, fearful and sometimes cheerful occasions of peoples’ lives. It is not always easy but it is a rewarding and humbling experience. The thing that thrills me about nursing is there is always something new to learn, and there are always new challenges.”

This outlook on her profession and impact on patients is what makes Gillespie a great role model, says Nurse Administrator Melissa Foreman.

“Twanda is constantly communicating with her unit,” Forman says. “Her compassion and caring for the staff and patients is evident not only in this work, but in her involvement in other aspects of nursing management, such as Shared Governance. She always has a can-do attitude no matter what is on her plate, and she is respected by all.”