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Sanford Worthington ER nurse receives Daisy award for her care, compassion

The Daisy award was established years ago as a way for patients or families of patients to express gratitude toward nurses who provide extraordinary compassionate care. Within the Sanford network of hospitals and clinics, the award is given to one deserving individual each quarter.

Tiffany Phomsatry
Tiffany Phomsatry is shown with the Daisy award she received, as well as a cake to celebrate her recognition.
Special to The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — An emergency room nurse at Sanford Worthington Medical Center has been recognized with the Daisy award for the care and compassion she provided to a patient who suffered a fatal heart attack earlier this year.

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Tiffany Phomsatry was presented the statue during a ceremony in the hospital cafeteria last month. She was nominated by both a son and daughter of the patient after responding to their initial call for more information surrounding their dad’s death.

The Daisy award was established years ago as a way for patients or families of patients to express gratitude toward nurses who provide extraordinary compassionate care. Within the Sanford network of hospitals and clinics, the award is given to one deserving individual each quarter.

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Sanford Worthington ER Nurse Tiffany Phomsatry joins members of Terry Heibult's family at the recognition event during which she was presented the Daisy award.
Special to The Globe

Within the nomination letter, Joby Heibult, of Worthing, South Dakota, said he called the Worthington hospital after his dad’s death to learn more about what happened. He was given basic information, but was unable to get a more detailed account.

Phomsatry was the one who stood by Terry Heibult after he was brought to the ER on Jan. 2. A veteran truck driver with more than 45 years of long-haul experience, he had collapsed at a local restaurant and was transported via ambulance to Sanford Worthington Medical Center.

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“The patient was alone — there was no family that was able to get here,” Phomsatry said. “My heart went out to him. I felt terrible that his family wasn’t here.”

Phomsatry could imagine what it must have been like for his family too. Did they worry that he died alone? Did they wonder if he was in pain?

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“I know what it’s like,” she said. The evening was emotional, and she left for home with tears in her eyes. She cried about it the next day, and the next day after that, too.

“When I heard that his son called and asked for a couple of details, I thought it was important to reach out and give them some closure,” Phomsatry said.

Typically, it would be the physician or the nursing supervisor who would speak to the family, but Phomsatry was the one who spent the most time with Terry Heibult that night.

“I think sometimes providing that emotional support not only to the patient, but to their family, goes such a long way,” Phomsatry said. “It was just important for them to get that closure, but it was also important for me.”

According to Terry’s family, Phomsatry shared with them that he wasn’t in any pain, and that she’d encouraged him to call his wife not just once, but twice, from the ER. She also distracted him from the busyness of the ER workers by talking to him about his family, specifically a photograph of a grandson in U.S. Marine attire tucked within Terry’s wallet.

“We are forever grateful for knowing how things transpired for our dad,” shared Marsha Pederson of Brandon, South Dakota, who also submitted a nomination letter recognizing Phomsatry’s efforts that night.

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“For someone who was only with him for an hour, it meant everything to our family,” Pederson wrote. “Tiffany went above and beyond to be there for our dad and to give him much comfort in his final moments. Tiffany was our dad’s angel that night. There aren’t any words to say how grateful we are for her. She went above and beyond not only for our dad but for our family. She knew that we weren’t going to make it in time and took it upon herself to be there.”

Phomsatry family
Tiffany Phomsatry is shown with her family at the awards ceremony, including husband La (back right) and their four children — Madden (in Tiffany's arms), Jayden, Marley and Mia.
Special to The Globe

Pederson, who’s worked for Sanford in Sioux Falls for the past 15 years as a manager in supply chain, said Phomsatry was deserving of the Daisy award for her compassion, knowledge of her job, her professionalism and care.

After being thanked by Joby after their initial phone conversation, Phomsatry was told the family felt so much better and were really thankful for the care he received.

She thought that would be the last she’d hear from the family, but then came news a couple of months later that she’d been nominated for the Daisy award.

Hearing of the nomination, Phomsatry felt humbled. She’s been a registered nurse for 17 years — 14.5 at Sanford Worthington’s ER — and she knows any one of her coworkers would be deserving of recognition.

“I didn’t do anything above what any of my other coworkers would have done,” she said. “It was really nice that they … took the time to nominate me.”

On the day of the award presentation, Phomsatry was able to meet Terry’s family, who made the trek to Worthington to thank her in person for the way she took care of their father. Joining them were Sanford leaders from Sioux Falls, numerous coworkers from Sanford Worthington, and Phomsatry’s family, including husband La and their four children, Jayden, 15; Marley, 11; Mia, 7; and Madden, 18 months.

Being recognized for her efforts, said Phomsatry, is a good reminder of what is important — the emotional needs of the patient and the family.

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“A lot of times we focus on the physical needs of the patient,” she said. “It’s just a good reminder that their feelings — how you make people feel — is as important as the other things too.”

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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