Hospitalist Creates Bond with Patients Through Compassionate Care

Originally published in the Rocky Mount Telegram

Julie SFor 12 hours a day, seven days a week, every other week, Julie Szczypkowski is one of 16 hospitalists at Nash UNC Health Care who takes care of patients admitted for inpatient care. Chances are, if you, a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker or friend have been hospitalized at Nash UNC in the last two years, Szczypkowski may have had a hand in the care provided.

Szczypkowski, a board certified adult nurse practitioner, works for Sound Physicians - the group of hospitalists that Nash UNC Health Care partners with to provide medical care to admitted patients. Hospitalists are board certified physicians and advanced practice providers who specialize in the medical care of hospitalized patients. Their expertise in hospital medicine and their around-the-clock presence in the hospital helps provide more efficient and specialized care.

Szczypkowski said for hospitals today, hospitalists are a great choice for providing high-quality service to patients.

“Starting in the early 2000s, hospitals realized that rather than have patients and the hospital rely on doctors from the community to care for patients in the hospitals, it made more sense to have in-house medical professionals. So the role of hospitalists became the norm for inpatient care, instead of each patient being followed by their primary care physician while in the hospital,” Szczypkowski said.

Szczypkowski typically works on the third, fourth and fifth floors, as well as in the step-down cardiopulmonary surgical unit.

It’s been noted by many of Szczypkowski’s coworkers that she works to heal patients not only with medical procedures, but also with her interpersonal skills.

Szczypkowski said finding a bond with her patients is an important facet of the health care she offers them.

“From the very beginning of my career in medicine — when I was a nurse — I realized that by taking the time to build rapport and a relationship at the bedside, I could provide better care,” Szczypkowski said. “Compassion, kindness and understanding a person’s story are important parts of achieving a positive medical outcome.”

Nurse Cathy Hecox said she can see the difference Szczypkowski’s commitment to communication and compassion makes for patients.

“I have witnessed her with patients’ family members during very stressful and emotional times and Julie is always understanding, patient and respectful. She is who I would choose to care for me or my own family,” Hecox said.

Hecox added that it’s not just patients that Szczypkowski listens to — it’s everyone she works with as well.

“Julie always makes extra rounds to check in and see if we need anything and always listens intently when we explain an issue we have with a patient,” Hecox said. “She is always happy to make an extra trip up to the floor to lay eyes on the patient herself.”

Szczypkowski said of all the care she offers patients, having difficult conversations with patients and families about end of life care is the hardest, but the most important. She has the unique ability to connect with patients and families in such situations and has a passion for providing the compassionate care and support needed during those times.

“I just really feel that everyone deserves a peaceful death,” Szczypkowski said. “Helping a patient and family members come to terms with that and talk about it is a hard thing to do, but I’ve seen it time and time again and there is so much more dignity and peace about it if everyone can be on the same page and advocate for what the patient wants.”

Nash UNC nurse Sheri Orvis said that Szczypkowski is helpful and comforting when patients and families are faced with making those decisions.

“It’s very reassuring for the family and nursing staff to have Julie on the floor during a difficult time. As staff, we appreciate her taking time out to talk to the family while they are making difficult decisions,” Orvis said.

Szczypkowski said the best way for medical care givers to provide the best end of life care is for the family to have these conversations before a patient is in the hospital.

“I think these conversations are difficult, but very important for families to have. There are many different avenues for these discussions that fit different people better. I think having open conversations with one’s primary care provider is a great place to start,” Szczypkowski said.

Szczypkowski said overall, there is no real secret to how she relates to patients.

“I think the foundation for all good health care is compassion and kindness. Yes, you want someone who offers the very best in medical skills,” she said. “But for me, accompanying that knowledge and skill with encouraging a patient is what brings out the best outcomes.”