Published on January 15, 2021

Silver Cross Nurse Hans Schulte Receives DAISY Award for Compassionate Care during Pandemic

Hans daisy cartSilver Cross Nurse Hans Schulte Receives DAISY Award for Compassionate Care during PandemicHans Schulte says he loves working with people on their health, starting from when he was a fitness trainer to becoming a nurse on the front lines during a pandemic.

“I felt I needed to make that personal connection deeper, more clinical,” said Schulte, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse for the past four of the nine years he’s worked at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. “I felt kind of a calling.”

Although he’s seen and learned much after asking for the move to the ICU, Schulte said the pandemic has changed everything about how he and other front-line workers interact with patients.

Except for the compassion that led him to want to work with people at their most vulnerable in the first place. And one case in particular recently earned him an international award honoring nurses who provide skillful, compassionate care.

In their nominating letter for the DAISY Award, Susie Wolf, daughter-in-law of James Wolf Sr., explained how Schulte took time while working with other critically ill patients to provide comfort to the family in their father’s last days. It also reveals how difficult it for family who are separated from their loved ones during care:

“Our father was admitted to the Silver Cross ICU on March 26 and passed away on April 6, 2020, as a result of complications related to COVID-19. His name was James John Wolf, Sr. He was 72 years old. Within hours of being admitted, he was placed on a ventilator and sedated. We were never able to speak directly with him from the time he was admitted until the day he passed away.

“The loss of a loved one is always sad. The loss of a loved one during the COVID-19 global pandemic is nearly impossible to explain. It's likely we don't have a word in the English language to capture it, but some combination of surreal, heartbreaking, helpless, and devastating come to mind. Our father was our family patriarch and anchor. He was a phenomenal dad in every sense, having raised four boys with strong morals, consummate integrity, and respect for each other and all others.

“Hans Schulte was our father's nurse in the days leading up to his death. … From our first phone conversation with Hans, we instantly knew our dad was in good hands. Over the three days Hans spent with our dad, three things stood out that make him very deserving of this award:

“In these unprecedented times, with not being able to visit our father or have eye-to-eye conversations with his caregivers, Hans spent time updating us on our dad’s vitals and any other relevant information since our last phone update. He anticipated our questions and never made us feel rushed. We understood that he couldn’t pick up the phone every time we called, and we tried to keep calls to a minimum. We were confident that he would call back every single time, and he did.

“Second, we could tell that Hans is an excellent nurse. His knowledge and expertise were evident each time we spoke. He explained new medical interventions being considered and helped paint a picture of what was going on, intuitively knowing that we needed to be able to visualize our dad’s treatment and care.

“Third ... Hans left an indelible mark on our family through his compassion, empathy, patience and kindness.

“In the 11 days that our dad was in the hospital, we were able to gather immediate family on the phone four times to have a ‘conference call’ with our dad. Of course, we knew our dad wouldn’t be able to respond to us, but we believed he could hear us. Hans helped us with three of those four calls by being in our dad’s room and projecting the call over speaker phone so we could offer words of encouragement, and ultimately say our final goodbyes. No one should ever have to say goodbye to a loved one this way. It feels distant, disconnected, cold, and painful. But Hans made this so much better for us.”

Reflecting on what it Means to be a Nurse During the Pandemic

Jim Wolf Reading Nomination
Jim Wolf Reading Nomination to
Hans Schulte. 

He could tell from the first call, the Wolfs are a strong, close-knit family who cared deeply about their dad. It wouldn’t be long before he got to know the family, and he always was prepared to have the information they yearned for, in as positive a tone as he could muster, even if the news wasn’t good.Relaxing after one recent 12-hour shift, Schulte said he feels the sting of each COVID case, and there have been many since March, with a sharp rise again this past November.

“To be able to do that is innate in nurses,” Schulte said. “I can’t explain it. But you just do your best to make sure the patient and the family are at ease. Making time for the Wolfs when I wasn’t caring for other patients always was a priority.”

Those “conference calls” he helped set up were “inspirational,” he said, reinforcing just how close and loving the family is, even if they were just a for a few minutes each time. “I knew he had a family who cared deeply.”

“When he found out that it was time to say goodbye, Hans was there for us and for our dad,” the Wolfs said in the DAISY Award nominating letter, submitted only two days after their father passed. “He helped us with our final call, and most importantly, he stayed with our dad as he took his final breaths on this Earth. Our dad passed away quickly and peacefully, and we believe it was because Hans was right there with him.

“When he called to give us the news that Dad had passed, we could hear the emotion in his voice. To know that our dad was not alone, and to know that Hans helped him in his final moments, the words ‘thank you’ will never be enough. Hans showed a level of human compassion and connection we never dreamed possible in such horrific circumstances.”

“It was tough,” Schulte said about that call. “But I could tell Jim Jr., my patient’s oldest son, was at peace. And I remember watching his dad take his last breath. It gives new meaning to what being is nurse is about.

“All the other nurses do this as well. We in ICU all have had our time when we broke down and just cried. Mine was during Thanksgiving. Silver Cross provided a crisis management team to help us cope.”

Susie Wolf said they appreciated the efforts of all the Silver Cross health care workers. But they wanted to find a way to single out Schulte’s care and compassion.

“How do you say ‘thank you,’ when thank you isn’t enough?” she said. “He was there for dad when we couldn’t be.”

Thanking Hans for the Care He Provided

She researched the DAISY Award, and confirmed with several nursing friends it is a high honor for nurses. Not only did they nominate him for the award, they started a social media campaign asking followers to create “thank you Hans” signs. They received so many, they created a poster they presented to Hans during the DAISY Award ceremony at Silver Cross.

They got to meet him briefly, and safely, at the award ceremony at Silver Cross in late 2020.

Schulte is humbled by the award, though somber for the reason, and thankful to the Wolfs. Seeing first-hand the effects of COVID-19, he hopes people take the virus seriously.

“The virus is no joke,” he said. “It can be very bad. Please stay safe.”

For more information or to nominate a Silver Cross Nurse for a DAISY Award, visit www.silvercross.org

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.