Michelle Bailey did not expect to treat patients she knew. Coping with taking care of friends and family was not a class in nursing school.
Over her six-year nursing career, Bailey has worked in emergency rooms, clinical settings, and nursing homes. Having children come into the nursing home who were close to her son’s age was one of the experiences that discouraged her from working in an ER.
It is equally ironic and heroic that Bailey said her greatest moment in medicine came when she was treating one of the people closest to her.
Recently, Bailey’s mother Deborah Ecklund went into respiratory failure. Bailey was the first person on the scene. She used her training as an emergency medical technician — she has worked as an EMT in Marion the previous six months — to check her mother’s vitals and give her oxygen before an ambulance could arrive.
Ecklund struggled once she reached the hospital. She was read her last rites twice before she finally pulled through. She was cleared to go home to Lost Springs April 11.
Bailey said her mother probably would not have survived if she had not been there during the respiratory attack.
“I know her,” Bailey said. “She would not have gone to the hospital.”
It was Ecklund who inspired Bailey to enter nursing school and forgo a degree in accounting. More than eight years ago, Ecklund was diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially Ecklund told Bailey she did not want to aggressively treat the disease. However, Ecklund found the strength to continue and the cancer has been in remission ever since.
Ecklund’s treatment at the hospital, both good and bad, encouraged Bailey to try nursing.
In fact, she had always had the characteristics of a nurse. She was a helpful and caring child growing up in New Orleans. Bailey and Ecklund spent a lot of time together with Bailey’s father Howard Harrington working in the oil fields. Ecklund nicknamed her daughter “helpful Hannah.”
Bailey has also tried to learn from other nurses mistakes. When Harrington died in 2009 the nurse at that hospital told Bailey over the phone in a matter of fact way of his passing. Bailey vowed to apply a caring touch when treating someone else’s loved ones.
For one patient, she was the only nurse who actually talked to the dying man. She was not afraid, she did not avoid eye contact as the other nurses had. The family of the man pulled her aside and thanked her later.
“You have more than one patient,” Bailey said. “The patient and the family.”
Her approach has paid off. Another dying man embraced her with a lengthy hug. The affection made her feel like her job was worth the everyday struggles.
“He made me proud that I was able to take care of such an amazing person,” Bailey said.
Bailey has been a full-time registered nurse at Marion Assisted Living since December. She said her abilities in emergency care because of her work as an EMT and her caring bedside manner are her greatest strengths in the job.
However, she enjoys the environment of Assisted Living because both of her top abilities are seldom needed. She characterized the residents at Marion Assisted Living as healthier and more active than in nursing homes. Because of this, she can take more time to know residents, build relationships.
“In a nursing home, you get connected to the residents,” she said. “They become your family.”
Bailey’s own family has also increased recently. She and husband Brendan Bailey have been married since 2000. They are raising sons Ronnie, Jacob, and Carpenter and daughter Cheyenne in Ramona.
Ecklund married Merle Ecklund in December, and Bailey gained two step-brothers and sisters, a new situation for a former only child.