Former Travel Nurse Discovers New Possibilities at VITAS
Never underestimate the power of a milkshake.
Patrick McGrady, RN, learned this early in his career, when he helped a hospice patient who had bladder cancer. “She was very nauseous but milkshakes always made her feel better,” he recalls. “So I found myself going out of my way to make her a milkshake whenever she wanted it, even if I felt like I was making them for her every five minutes.”
It was Patrick’s first experience with hospice and highlighted the power of compassionate care that goes above and beyond. When he bumped into the patient’s daughter a few days later, she thanked him for making “the best milkshakes” for her mom.
“With all my patients since then, I always say, ‘I want to make them the milkshake,’” he says. It's a shorthand expression that means ”providing compassionate care and comfort to my patients and treating them as if they’re a family member.”
Setting Down Roots: Patrick’s Path to VITAS
That compassionate approach has served Patrick well throughout his career. “I like to help people, and I’ve always been very proficient in the sciences,” he says. “I wanted to get to know people and have in-depth conversations.”
For much of his career, Patrick was a cardiovascular ICU travel nurse. After a 13-week assignment in South Florida, he realized he wanted to stay put and look for leadership opportunities within nursing.
“I love being at the bedside, but I realized I could provide a lot of administrative support with my background,” he says. “I wanted to work for a company where I could grow.”
Possibilities and Present Leadership at VITAS
VITAS was a perfect fit. Patrick joined VITAS as a team manager in Broward County, Florida, a little over two years ago and was promoted to patient care administrator (PCA) less than a year later.
Developing the nurses around me and helping make them the best nurses they can be is my primary role.
“My general manager said they promote from within, and it really is true,” he says. “I got that opportunity, and I’ve definitely paid it forward. One of my field nurses just got promoted to team manager.”
Myriad opportunities for mentoring and continuing education abound for nurses at VITAS, and present, approachable leaders like Patrick enjoy teaching and mentoring.
“The ability to pass my knowledge forward is a very important part of my practice,” he says. “Developing the nurses around me and helping make them the best nurses they can be is my primary role.”
PCA: A Leadership Role for RNs at VITAS
At VITAS, the PCA acts as the chief operations officer for a VITAS service area, ensuring the clinical, financial, and operational aspects of hospice are running smoothly.
“I'm kind of the last stop for a lot of the clinical questions, and I also like to teach, so that's a part of my role, providing that support to the nurses,” he says.
But it’s not just the nurses. Patrick also supports the social workers, chaplains, and everyone else on the team. “I get to put on a lot of different hats and support a lot of different people,” he says. “That's my favorite part—helping my team members provide support to patient families.”
Patrick manages to stay connected to patients, too, making rounds daily while also providing support in the field as needed.
“I love being out in the field. That keeps that idea of hospice and compassionate care in my head,” he says. “We can get bogged down with the administrative duties of hospice, but I try to keep in mind that all of my nurses are providing compassionate care on a daily basis.”
Making a Difference for Patients, for Colleagues
Patrick aims to keep perspective and apply a can-do attitude to all aspects of the work each and every day.
“Making a difference at VITAS means owning your role, doing what you're supposed to be doing, and having a positive attitude,” Patrick says. “The work we're doing is causing a positive ripple throughout the community.”
That positivity can trickle down to the team, too. “One of the VITAS values is that we take care of each other,” Patrick says. “I’ve seen that in action. It’s really special knowing that if I had a problem and needed to take some time off, people would help out.”
Ultimately, the commitment, compassion, and can-do attitude Patrick and his team members demonstrate make a difference.
It all comes back to the milkshake. “What motivates me to get up and come to work on a daily basis is the fact that the very small things that I do on a daily basis really matter to people,” Patrick says. “That makes me feel great, knowing that I affect people's lives in such a positive way.”