All in the family

(left to right) Dana DiS­ante, Peggy Lawson, and Nancy Pokorny all work in Al­bert Ein­stein Hos­pit­al and are all re­lated. Peggy and Nancy are sis­ters, and Dana is their neice, Fri­day, May 10, 2013, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Nancy Pokorny re­calls her mom lob­by­ing her on a ca­reer choice.

A 20-year em­ploy­ee of the Al­bert Ein­stein Med­ic­al Cen­ter ad­mis­sions of­fice, Peg Duffy asked her daugh­ter, “Why don’t you go in­to nurs­ing?”

Pokorny star­ted as a candy striper, wear­ing one of those pink and white pin­a­fores as a Little Flower High School stu­dent. She was as­signed to the ma­ter­nity ward.

After con­sid­er­ing oth­er ca­reer paths, she ul­ti­mately stud­ied nurs­ing at Gwynedd-Mercy Col­lege.

Pokorny, a Fox Chase res­id­ent, has be­come an Ein­stein lifer, work­ing there in nu­mer­ous ca­pa­cit­ies for 42 years.

Young­er sis­ter Peggy Lawson, of East Tor­res­dale, has been an Ein­stein nurse for 20 years. She’s as­signed to the emer­gency de­part­ment.

“I wanted to fol­low in Nancy’s foot­steps,” she said.

Dana DiS­ante, their 25-year-old niece, works in the ER. The Mor­rell Park res­id­ent has been at Ein­stein for six years.

Pokorny, Lawson and DiS­ante were among the 1,800-plus nurses at Ein­stein and es­tim­ated 3.1 mil­lion across the coun­try re­cog­nized re­cently dur­ing Na­tion­al Nurses Week.

They seem to love their work and ap­pre­ci­ate thank yous for everything from get­ting a pa­tient a pil­low to sav­ing a life.

“It’s a very de­mand­ing job, but it’s very re­ward­ing,” Lawson said.

In her years at Ein­stein, at 5501 Old York Road, Pokorny has worked in the ER, the med­ic­al/sur­gic­al unit and psy­chi­atry. She’s been in­ter­im dir­ect­or of Bel­mont Be­ha­vi­or­al Health, part of the Ein­stein net­work. Today, she is a nurs­ing ca­reer spe­cial­ist.

Back in 2000, when she was a nurse re­cruit­er at Ein­stein, she had a let­ter to the ed­it­or pub­lished in the Times, titled “Three cheers for our nurses.”

Pokorny said the themes of that let­ter carry over to today. She de­scribes nurses as care­givers, coun­selors and pa­tient ad­voc­ates.

Nurses have spe­cial bonds with pa­tients, she said, eas­ing their pain, suf­fer­ing, con­fu­sion, an­guish and frus­tra­tion. They are with people at birth, through child­hood and adult­hood and, most fre­quently, in their seni­or years.

A re­cent Gal­lup tele­phone sur­vey asked Amer­ic­ans, “Please tell me how you would rate the hon­esty and eth­ic­al stand­ards of people in these dif­fer­ent fields — very high, high, av­er­age, low, or very low?”

A list of 22 pro­fes­sions was provided. Nurses were ranked “high” or “very high” among 85 per­cent of re­spond­ents. They’ve led the sur­vey for 11 con­sec­ut­ive years, los­ing to fire­fight­ers after the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Car salespeople fared worst in the sur­vey, be­low only mem­bers of Con­gress.

“We really feel like we make a dif­fer­ence,” Lawson said.

Nurses don’t wear the tra­di­tion­al dress, ap­ron and cap any­more — scrubs are more com­fort­able and easi­er to wash — but have al­ways played a role in life and death de­cisions. They don’t merely empty bed pans and stick a ther­mo­met­er un­der a pa­tient’s tongue.

“We have a lot of re­spons­ib­il­ity,” DiS­ante said.

As an Arch­bish­op Ry­an stu­dent, DiS­ante vo­lun­teered at Ein­stein in the ER and the neonat­al in­tens­ive care unit.

“I liked the ER be­cause it was fast-paced. Every­body worked as a team,” she said.

DiS­ante re­cently earned a mas­ter’s in fam­ily nurse prac­ti­tion­er from La Salle, and she be­lieves all her ex­per­i­ence at a busy hos­pit­al such as Ein­stein made the course­work easi­er.

“We’re al­ways learn­ing,” she said.

Lawson was drawn to the nurs­ing pro­fes­sion when she was a candy striper at Ein­stein as a St. Hubert stu­dent.

“I saw nurses form re­la­tion­ships and bonds with pa­tients and their fam­il­ies,” she re­called. “It wasn’t just tasks. It was bridging gaps and a lot of edu­ca­tion.”

Nurses see it all in the ER, Lawson ex­plained. She’s seen wounded po­lice of­ficers and the men who have shot them in ad­ja­cent op­er­at­ing rooms. She’s also seen vic­tims of child ab­use. 

“You have to be pre­pared for the un­ex­pec­ted,” she said. “Every day is something new. It’s busy. There is a lot of trauma here.”

In her role as a nurs­ing ca­reer spe­cial­ist, Pokorny thinks she has an easy pitch to pro­spect­ive em­ploy­ees.

“There are so many dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ties in nurs­ing,” she said. “There are a vari­ety of shifts, and every single day is dif­fer­ent. You can con­tin­ue your edu­ca­tion and learn all you can.”

Pokorny en­cour­ages nurses to read and re­search so they can de­vel­op best prac­tices and im­proved work flow.

Nurses, she said, must be nur­tur­ing and non-judg­ment­al. They see pa­tients move from the ER to the OR to the ICU.

There are happy days and sad days. Nurses put their arms around pa­tients and fam­ily mem­bers to cel­eb­rate the birth of a baby or to con­sole them after the loss of a limb or a life snuffed out by gun­shots.

“We see lives changed forever,” Pokorny said.

Pokorny, Lawson and DiS­ante entered the nurs­ing field in three dif­fer­ent eras, but the ba­sics of the job have stayed the same. They and their col­leagues want the best for pa­tients in their care.

“We have great team­work,” Lawson said. “There’s a fam­ily feel­ing here at Ein­stein.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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