McLain provides comfort and a steady hand in UAB’s ED

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The patience to listen, the attitude to deliver care with humility, facing fear and anxiety with kind words and a gentle touch — all are important attributes for a nurse. Sometimes — oftentimes — the care they provide goes unnoticed.

matt_mclain_webFaye Fitzpatrick Hester brought her elderly mother through UAB’s Emergency Department several times this past year after falls, and she wanted to ensure the care provided to her family by Charge Nurse Matt McLain didn’t go unacclaimed.

Frances “Teetah” Fitzpatrick made three trips to the emergency department in 2010. McLain was her nurse on her first and third visits. Hester and her daughter, human relations representative Kelly Mayer, say McLain provided comfort, steadiness and a reassuring hand and went above and beyond the call of his position. As a result, McLain has been named July’s Employee of the Month.

Teetah, as she was called by family and friends, was frightened and severely injured when she had her first fall early in 2010. McLain comforted Teetah and got to know her, Hester and Mayer very well. That was especially important in December 2010 when Teetah was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with life-threatening complications brought on by her previous falls.

McLain was passing through the ambulance bay when he saw Teetah sitting on an ambulance stretcher. McLain remembered her instantly. “Kelly’s grandmother was kind of feisty,” he says. “She was someone you remembered.”

McLain immediately went to Teetah, got her placed in a room, completed her initial workup and started her IV. Then he went to the waiting room to find Hester and bring her back to get a detailed description of what happened.

Hester was more than impressed.

“I find it amazing that Matt recognized Teetah, remembered her nickname and then made it a point to find and check on me,” says Hester. “It is comforting to know that there are caring individuals such as Matt in this world who care so much about their patients. India Alford, nurse manager of the emergency department, Matt and the entire staff of the emergency department need to know the positive impact they all have on families like mine.”

Mayer says when she made it to the hospital to be with her mom and grand-mother, the first thing Hester mentioned to her was McLain’s thoughtfulness.

“When I got there, she said, ‘You won’t believe what Matt did,’” Mayer says. “She felt like she was being taken care of — like family was around. She wasn’t just another name or number to Matt.”

Co-workers say that’s just McLain’s personality. Alford has known McLain for a number of years — all the way back to his days as a student nurse. She says he has shown many times what it means to be a caring and compassionate nurse.

“He always goes above and beyond in taking care of families and the patient,” Alford says.

Alford says McLain also diligently shows empathy and caring to staff, too.

“Recently when a staff member’s house burnt, Matt was one of the first to give monetary donations and ensure that the staff member had what she and her children needed,” Alford says.

Terri Poe, administrative director of emergency services, says Matt is consistently a dynamic and professional leader of the emergency department team. He is always energetic and positive and passes that energy on to the clinical and clerical staff he works with each shift.

“Matt’s strengths are communication, attention to detail, teamwork and leadership,” Poe says. “He provides ongoing communication to all patients, family members, staff and physicians and proves to be an excellent listener.”

As the charge nurse, McLain often has the daunting task of accompanying the emergency department physician to speak with a patient’s family to let them know their loved one has passed away.

Routinely, McLain will give the family his number so that they can call back with any questions or concerns in order to alleviate any fear or anxiety.

“It’s very difficult to have to go and give them upsetting news; many families don’t want to believe it when you tell them,” McLain says. “But I try to think if it were my family member that had passed, what would I need at that moment. If I keep that in mind, usually I’m able to be of some help to them. But sometimes anything you say really does no good because they’re in such shock. That’s a very difficult part of the job.”

The most difficult time was when someone he knew came to the ED after a car accident. She was 16 and the niece of a high-school friend. She passed away in the Trauma Burn Intensive Care Unit a few weeks after the accident.

“I think it’s everybody’s worse nightmare to work in the ER and have someone you know come in,” McLain says. “Going to talk to her family and tell them about the serious nature of her condition after the accident was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It was really hard when I actually had a personal connection with the family outside of work.”

McLain says his co-workers all help one another get through the difficult times. The Childersburg native works three days a week, including every Saturday and Sunday, and he says his weekend baylor crew is a very supportive bunch.

“I have a great group of co-workers,” McLain says. “We all have to help each other to get everything done. I think that has kept me in that position for seven years this January — the camaraderie and the teamwork in the ER. It keeps many of us there. We pull together.”

McLain, a 2005 UAB graduate, is on track to complete his nurse practitioner degree in 2013.

To nominate someone for the honor, send at least three letters of nomination to Leticia Waldon at