Long-term Nurses Lead with Empathy and Passion

Nurses play a vital role in patient care

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

As nurses progress in their careers, they learn a lot about the healthcare industry and the skills that are hard to teach in a classroom. In a field fraught with burnout—particularly in the past two years—enduring in healthcare for decades represents an important accomplishment worthy of recognition.

“It’s definitely becoming more challenging, especially in the last several years between the extreme changes in healthcare, the pandemic, and everything going on with nurses being short-staffed,” said Jason Paulisczak, a bachelor’s trained, board-certified nurse working on contract for Medical Solutions at Mercy Hospital.

Working at Mercy for about a year brings him back to his hometown of Buffalo, a homecoming he has enjoyed. Paulisczak earned his associate degree at Alfred State 22 years ago. He completed his bachelor’s at Keuka College and became board certified in 2010.

In his more than two decades of nursing, Paulisczak has learned to provide patient-centered care while not trying to “pour from an empty cup,” meaning that he must recharge emotionally in order to meet patients’ emotional needs.

“We want to do all we can in helping our patients and getting them better,” he said. “That’s why we got into this: to help people. I want to be the best nurse I can be.”

While burnout has resulted in excessive turnover in recent times, Paulisczak has emphasized to other nurses that self-care is necessary to provide the best care possible.

“You need an outlet that helps you and you need to be mentally healthy to be there for your patients,” he added.

For Robert J. Dorman, who earned a doctorate in nursing practice and works as a part-time flight nurse for Mercy Flight Central, the biggest change in nursing over the course of his career is advances in technology.

“I think that nursing needs to do a good job in keeping up with that,” Dorman said.

A Brighton resident, Dorman is an associate professor and director of the traditional undergraduate nursing program at Roberts Wesleyan College. Dorman believes that the pandemic highlighted and accelerated a few changes in nursing, such as the shift towards sooner hospital discharges.

“Patients that used to be on a regular floor are now being cared for at home,” he said “Those that were in ICU were on a stepdown unit.

Those in ICU, we’re doing so much more for them. The acuity in the hospital has increased. That’s overall, since 1993. In the last two years, the patients on the floor are so much sicker than when we first started.”

Dorman completed his bachelor’s in nursing in 1993 at the University of Rochester. He liked emergency medicine and critical care. But once he started nursing that shifted to pediatrics. He continued earning credits and eventually completed the doctor’s degree in nursing practice in 2017.

Though he has been an instructor for decades, “I’ve always done something clinical because I never wanted to lose my skills.”

Working as a nurse certainly bears a high risk of burnout.

Remembering the times when his patients experience a good outcome helps Dorman keep nursing. As for his teaching responsibilities, he focuses on the “enthusiasm of the students as they’re sometimes trudging through their degree program and then the triumph when they finish.”

He encourages nurses to avoid burnout by “taking a breath and reaching out to talk with someone. If you need a break, do something for yourself. You’ve got to be good to yourself before you can be good to others.”