‘Not the Time To Be Stoic’: Methodist Hospital Nurse Allows Patient To Express NeedsPublished: Dec. 30, 2022
Following surgery in September to repair a blockage in her urethra, Dolores Chalupa* spent three days at Methodist Hospital. She’d never stayed at the hospital and wasn’t sure what to expect.
During the first night, her night-shift nurse – Joe Wolff, BSN, RN – asked her to rate the pain she was experiencing. Dolores told him she was “OK” because the pain was tolerable.
“With no prior experience, I didn’t want to be ‘that patient,’” she said.
She said she came from a family where you don’t complain about anything, but Wolff wanted to assure her that it was his job to make sure she received the care she needed.
“He said, ‘This is not the time to be stoic. If you’re not comfortable, let’s do what we need to do to get you comfortable.’”
Dolores said those words helped her feel like she could actually tell Wolff how she was feeling.
“He came in and saw my trepidation and insecurity about being vocal about any needs. And he put me at ease to go ahead and ask for them. And I never felt like I was asking too much, being bothersome or interrupting.”
Wolff always knew that he wanted to have a job in health care. His aunt and uncle spent time as nurses at Methodist Hospital. He also volunteered at the hospital as a teen.
“I wanted to find an opportunity that would give a lot of human interaction and where I could see someone progress,” he said.
Wolff has worked at Methodist Hospital for nearly eight years. He spent five years as a phlebotomist before transitioning into a nursing role in March 2020, then moving to the Short Stay Unit in June 2021.
He finds it very rewarding when he can help a patient manage their pain.
“I not only see them progress, but I can be a part of that process in helping someone recover from whatever ailment they’re dealing with.”
Wolff said many patients start out the way that Dolores did. She wasn’t showing any visible signs of pain, but he knew she just had surgery.
“I’m not going to be impressed if you say you’re not having pain and you actually are,” he said. “If you’re having pain, that’s normal, because you had surgery.”
Wolff said he tries to help patients feel relaxed by initiating conversations about their family or hobbies.
“I try to make patients feel as if they’re not in the hospital.”
Before being discharged, Dolores asked one of the floor supervisors if there was a way to recognize staff members. She was given information about The DAISY Award – a national honor given to extraordinary nurses.
The care she received from Wolff and the rest of the staff at the hospital didn’t surprise her. She’s had plenty of interactions in an outpatient setting at Methodist while receiving treatment for endometrial cancer at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center.
“I tell everybody about Methodist and how the nursing staff is second to none,” she said. “They’re absolutely wonderful.”
But she wanted Wolff to have the chance to receive special recognition.
“He was always friendly, upbeat and positive,” she said. “Even when I had to call him at 3 in the morning for something that I thought was minor, you never got the impression that you were interrupting him or taking him away from something else. He was completely focused on me.”
After one of Wolff’s shifts in October, the attention shifted to him.
Wolff was wearing his jacket, sweats and backpack and was ready to head home following an award ceremony he’d been invited to.
He was genuinely surprised when he heard his name called to be recognized for The DAISY Award.
“It left me mostly speechless,” Wolff said. “And all you can say is thank you.”
*For privacy purposes, the patient requested that their real name be omitted from this article.