Straight from the Heart

If kindness had a face, it would look exactly like Cricelia Smith. For the past five years, Cricelia—known as Cris—has lovingly tended to patients at Walla Walla General Hospital (WWGH) in southeastern Washington.

“I get to help people every day,” she beams. “If my patients are happy, so am I.”

Workdays begin with a staff prayer. And every day, Cris, a certified nursing assistant, does her part to fulfill the hospital’s mission of restoring peace, hope and health as Christ did.

Cris is full of smiles as she makes her rounds—recording vital signs, taking patients for walks, combing their hair or putting lotion on dry feet.

“I need more hours in the day,” she laments. “There’s never enough time to do everything I want to do for my patients.”

Cris carries the most important lessons of her youth with her always: Do what you say you’re going to do, and know you are loved. Today, Cris teaches those lessons to her own children and demonstrates them to her patients.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” says Cris of her career choice. “I could go to school to become a registered nurse, but that would take time away from my family.”

Cris adds that being an RN would also require her to give shots and perform other duties that, while necessary, can cause patients discomfort.

“I tell my patients, ‘I’m the good one! I won’t hurt you,’” Cris says with a laugh.

The occasional difficult patient doesn’t dampen Cris’ cheerful outlook. One woman—suffering from dementia—elicited sympathy from Cris even when she grabbed Cris’ hair so fiercely that neither the RN nor Cris could loosen the patient’s grip. Cris finally tickled her tormentor and was immediately released. Of the experience Cris says that she didn’t want to hurt the patient, so she thought of a way out that would not cause the woman any pain.

Cris believes that every health-care provider should have to be a patient at least once because it will help him or her learn things—little things—that make a huge difference in the patient-care experience.

Cris’ devotion to her job was evident when she was eight-months pregnant and began experiencing signs of labor. When her co-workers urged Cris to go to OB for an exam, she told them she wanted to finish her rounds. Her colleagues insisted on escorting her to OB where Cris’ daughter arrived within hours.

“My family and my patients are the center of my world,” says Cris. She glows as she speaks of her husband, children and job at WWGH. “There’s nothing I want that I don’t have.”

For Cris every day she’s at work is the perfect day. “I take care of my patients from my heart,” she says. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

March 01, 2006 / Adventist Health

Terri Croghan writes for the CMBell Company, WWGH’s marketing and communication firm.