For 27 years Deidre Buckley, RN, NP, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Fireman Vascular Center's Brain Aneurysm and Arteriovenous Malformations Program has made it her life mission to help patients like the 34-year-old mother of four who was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in April.
"By the end of the visit, she realized she was going to get through," says Buckley.
For this reason, the Boston Globe recently recognized Buckley’s outstanding work in its honorary feature. Selected from nurses nominated from across New England, including 23 from Mass General, Buckley stands out as continually going above and beyond the call of duty.
"It's something so unique, that you are able to give to others on a daily basis, sometimes without even knowing it," says Buckley.
Using education as a clinical tool
In recent years, tremendous progress has been made in treating brain aneurysms. Both neurosurgical and minimally invasive endovascular procedures, such as coiling and stenting, provide new options for patients to consider. Buckley spends much of her time explaining the Fireman Vascular Center’s treatment options and even shows patients pictures of their aneurysms.
"I tease out what knowledge they have and then go from there in terms of teaching," says Buckley. "I feel I'm able to allay some of the fears they might have at the time."
Unruptured brain aneurysms affect approximately six million people in the United States, but far fewer (eight out of every 100,000) experience a ruptured aneurysm, the life-threatening condition that may lead to stroke. For all patients, Buckley explains the aneurysm's severity and the appropriate line of treatment.
"It’s such a frightening disease, but the treatment for [brain aneurysms] has advanced in the past five to 10 years," says Buckley. "To educate people is just so important, and that's where nursing plays a role - providing people with options that they can understand."
Focusing on support for patients
In 1991 Buckley started the Brain Aneurysm/AVM Support Group at Mass General, an educational and emotional forum for patients battling this condition. Hemorrhage patients, especially, benefit as they talk through issues such as memory loss, depression, difficulty concentrating and even embarrassment.
For years, there was little information available to brain aneurysm patients. The newly diagnosed talked to friends or searched the library looking for guidance. Buckley quickly recognized this loss, and in 1994 she cofounded, a nonprofit organization that provides support networks and educational resources to patients, family members and the medical community. Today the foundation provides over $145,000 to support research discoveries in the field.
When you first meet Buckley, you would never know she has made such groundbreaking contributions. Down-to-earth, she simply enjoys her job.
"Every day you have the opportunity to make a difference, and every day is different," explains Buckley. "I always come in with a plan, but it always changes. I think that’s a good thing, especially when you know a patient is comforted or a family member is less anxious."