Paying it forward: Trinity makes patients - globally and locally - feel better
As a young girl Patricia "Tricia" Thodos walked with her friends along Montesano Avenue in Waukegan, Illinois, to their classes at Jack Benny Middle School, named after a long-ago comedian. While most of her friends likely had no clue as to their future plans - teach school, study science, or act in movies - Thodos knew with unwavering certainty the life she wanted for herself.
Her goal was to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a nurse.
"I have never grown out of wanting to be just like my mom," Thodos, 40, says. "She is still, at age 64, the best nurse I have ever known."
Eighteen years into her chosen profession, this petite, curly-haired nurse from East Moline absolutely oozes enthusiasm and passion toward her field. Originally a pediatric nurse, ("I loved working with kids," she confides) she then moved to the operating room where she specialized in plastics, general and ophthalmic surgery cases. For the past decade she has worked at Trinity Moline as an ambulatory surgery and operating room nurse, adding urological, gynecological and laser cases to her repertoire.
In addition to her Bachelor of Science degree, she has successfully completed her studies to be one of only two Registered Nurse First Assistants at the campus, where she acts as what is essentially a "second physician" during specific operations.
"It's very gratifying being an important part of a surgical team," said Thodos. "Options to specialize are quite varied for nurses today."
Shy and self-effacing with an easy smile, Thodos is fervent about her love of surgical nursing, a love she carries beyond the walls of the hospital. Her idea of a vacation is to accompany a doctor to the Republic of Tanzania in East Africa and spend a couple of weeks helping people not in a position to help themselves.
"It's a transforming, eye-opening experience," she says quietly. "We provided medical care to people who have, almost literally, nothing. There was no operating table so we had to build one. The encounter gives one a perspective I wish everyone could experience."
Nursing for Thodos is, perhaps above all else, about involvement. It's about graciously and humbly injecting oneself into the health-care needs and intimacies of fellow human beings, an often daunting task.
It's moving along a hallway next to a scared patient who is about to be hooked up to an assortment of wheezing, pumping, and beeping devices, all the while keeping in mind how frightened the patient is likely to be. Questions are answered, assurances are offered, and understanding is achieved, before ever entering an operating room.
One of Thodos' many responsibilities is "to make absolutely sure the patient fully understands his or her specific surgery, so we go over it as often as necessary." And once a surgical operation is finished? The patient will see Thodos again, and likely again. Patients are the nervous planets around which the health-care field revolves, a simple notion not lost on Thodos.
Nurses serve as the link between the patient and all else. A human being like Thodos who can offer empathy and professional competence adds to the success of the procedure. In an ever-changing and chaotic world, the kind of intimate care that patients value and hold dear is still out there, still achievable, and wholly available.
And as long as nurses like Tricia Thodos walk the halls of Trinity, that kind of care will be around for a very long time.