Meet the First Einstein Emergency Department Compassion Champion
Crystal Lehrman, BSN, never doubted that she was going to be a nurse.
“I was in Catholic school. In second grade, there was a question in my religion book: What do you think is the reason God put you on the planet?” she recalls. “And my answer was just, I felt like it was to be a nurse. Since second grade, I have never changed my mind. I wasn’t so much fascinated by the science part; it was more helping other people.”
Now a nurse in the Emergency Department at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and coming up on her third anniversary in September, Lehrman is living the professional life she wished for in her childhood. And according to her peers, she’s one of the finest examples of the kind of care rendered in the Einstein Emergency Departments every day and night.
Lehrman is the recipient of the department’s first Compassion Champion Award, honoring an emergency department employee who goes over and above the call of duty in caring for patients—and demonstrating a strong sense of compassion.
Megan Stobart-Gallagher, DO, nominated Lehrman following her participation in a recent cardiac resuscitation.
Dr. Stobart-Gallagher singled Lehrman out for staying past the end of her shift to attend to the patient in cardiac arrest, and worked with the resuscitation team to revive and stabilize him. Unfortunately, after a prolonged effort, the patient passed away, but Lehrman’s tireless dedication to the patient, including her efforts to care for the patient’s family, stood out. As Dr. Stobart-Gallagher noted in her nomination form: “We are so lucky to have her!”
Lehrman recalls the resuscitation vividly.
“The patient came in the door about 6 in the morning,” she says. “It was very unexpected. We had no prior knowledge of what was happening. We immediately pulled him out of his car and started working on him.”
What followed was a long battle to save the patient.
When a patient is having a heart attack, members of the cardiac catheterization lab team are called to assist with the care of the patient. In this particular case, every time the Emergency Department team was able to get a heartbeat, the patient went into arrest again.
“I was just so emotionally invested in that patient, and I just couldn’t leave until we got him to the cardiac catheterization lab, or we called the code,” Lehrman says. “Myself, my orientee, Dr. Stobart-Gallagher and the resident of that patient, not a single one of us left until, I think it was 9 or 9:30.” (That was hours after the end of their shift.)
To Elizabeth M. Datner, MD, FACEP, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Healthcare Network, Lehrman’s compassionate response to that patient best exemplifies why the Compassion Champion award was initiated. Dr. Datner has received a number of nominations.
Medicine is a stressful line of work, and emergency medicine is among the most stressful, Dr. Datner says. One moment, you’re caring for someone with a horrific injury; the next moment, you’re attending to a patient with a sore throat. And the pace is unrelenting, with not a lot of time between patients to take it all in.
“Part of the reason emergency medicine is so difficult is that it is so fast-paced and high-stress,” says Dr. Datner. “One of the things I’m focusing on is really recognizing our team members for expressing compassion and empathy to our patients. Caring for patients is why we are here. And, expressing empathy is invaluable for the wellbeing of our staff.
“One of the major issues we see in emergency medicine is a tremendous amount of burnout among providers. Burnout leads to disinterest, depression, and a lack of empathy. One of the things that is protective against burnout is really connecting with patients on a human level in order to remind ourselves about the reason we chose the medical profession in the first place—to help people.”
Lehrman says she feels “proud and humbled” to have earned the Compassion Champion award, and for her it really does reinforce the point that caring for people is why she became a nurse. She says she is far from unusual in that regard. The kind of compassion for which Lehrman was singled out is everywhere in the Emergency Department, she says, where teamwork is the standard, and everyone is treated with equal respect. “We work in such a stressful and sometimes very frustrating environment, and it can make you so sad, with all the negative things you see,” Lehrman says. “This award just kind of pushed me forward and made me realize why I do what I do, where I do it.”