Nurses at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise are used to caring for patients every day, typically helping them transition from a hospital stay back into the real world.
“Rehab is an environment where we focus on patients regaining their function and mobility,” said Shelly Jensen, chief operating officer at St. Luke’s Rehab. “We rarely see crisis events.”
But a crisis event did recently happen at St. Luke’s Rehab. And the quick actions of Shawnelle Callaham, her fellow nurses and staff members resulted in a positive outcome — and a saved life.
While serving as the charge nurse recently, Callaham noticed some concerning trends with a patient’s vitals.
“It was just one of those gut feelings where you’re thinking, ‘Something is off.’”
It wasn’t just Callaham who noticed.
“There were a few of us saying, ‘Hey, something is going on here,’” she said.
Callaham reached out to the patient’s provider, and he ordered a chest X-ray.
Marissa Houser, a nurse who works alongside Callaham, began to prepare the patient to be taken up to the next floor for the X-rays. Callaham decided to go to the patient’s room and assist Houser.
“As I got to the room she just said, ‘Shawnelle, come in here.’ And I could hear in her voice that it was not good,” Callaham said.
That’s when Callaham, Houser and other members of the St. Luke’s Rehab staff went into action.
“I checked for a pulse, and I couldn’t get a pulse,” Callaham said. “I hit the code blue button and asked Marissa to help me get him to the floor.”
Another nurse joined them and verified that she couldn’t feel a pulse, either.
“At that point, I was like, ‘We have to start compressions,’” Callaham said. “I’m a body builder, and I literally lift weights for fun every day. … I hit him hard with one really good compression … and as soon as I did he finally took a normal breath. Then his eyes popped open and he took a really deep breath.”
Weeks later, that patient — Brad Cammack — has improved considerably, and he is grateful for the actions of Callaham and the rest of the staff.
“I was lucky she was there,” Cammack said. “She knew what to do and she took quick action, and she did everything right. She was just amazing, and she’s been following up with me and making sure everything is OK. Everything has been going good. Hopefully, I can go back to work in a few weeks.”
Cammack’s experience – both at St. Luke’s and St. Luke’s Rehab – gave him a new appreciation for nurses.
“I didn’t realize until I got to the hospital and rehab how difficult their job was,” Cammack said. “I was just amazed at all the stuff they do and the great help they gave me. I was blown away … .”
Brett Gustafson is a nursing manager at St. Luke’s Rehab, and until very recently he was Callaham’s immediate supervisor. In the past few years, he has watched Callaham blossom.
“Since she joined St. Luke’s she has become a super confident nurse,” Gustafson said. “She has taken on the charge nurse role and has really showed up as a real leader on the floor.”
Gustafson is justifiably proud of the care that Cammack ultimately received as a St. Luke’s Rehab patient, not just from Callaham but from the entire nursing staff that had encounters with him. And it's a fitting feeling, as May is National Nurses Month, with May 6-12 being recognized as National Nurses Week.
“Nurses, in general, they are saving the day every day,” Gustafson said. “We choose these big moments like this to recognize them, but our rehab nurses are doing heroic events daily.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.