"I think just remembering that the people you're caring for are people and really acknowledging their dignity as human beings. I feel that if you do that then these things just come naturally," said McAdams, the $25,000 John F. Beard Award winner Friday at Medical College of Georgia's 181st Commencement. The award is given annually to the MCG student who best exemplifies compassionate care.
McAdams, 23, was among the 156 new nurses MCG produced this year as part of the more than 840 degrees it handed out Friday. Several classmates, faculty and fellow nurses wrote in to support her nomination, most citing different examples of McAdams' exemplary patient care. One patient family, the Mauldins, sent her a thank you in the form of a poem.
"I pray that the people in your life appreciate what it's like to be in the presence of someone as special as you are," it read in part. "You have the kind of gifts that are given to so few."
The young mother had just given birth to a premature baby and was having a hard time getting around, which had not attracted much attention from the staff.
"I just really helped her get ready throughout the day," McAdams said. "I made sure that she had a walker because she was too unstable to walk on her own. I just helped her with her normal everyday care."
Another time there was a disheveled, smelly patient who would not respond to staff and was largely being ignored, classmate Chrisje Ceyssens wrote. McAdams came in, bathed her and started talking to her and the patient perked up and even began eating. McAdams was inspired by "the truth of what a little dignity and love can do for a person," Ceyssens wrote.
"To see the way she interacts with patients and their responses to her touches my heart," Staff Nurse Leslie Zumbro wrote. "Being a nurse is not a job to Mary Kate; it is a mission of love."
Though she knew she had been nominated, the Augusta native "didn't really plan on winning," McAdams said. "I just know that there are a lot of people in the medical field who are compassionate. It's pretty much part of our job description. I didn't know if what I had done was up to par with what everybody else does."