COVID Patient’s Family Honors First Benefis DAISY Award Winner

Kirsten Kaste, RN, became “an extension of our love” to the family of Sam Paladichuk as she cared for him on the COVID floor at Benefis Health System. 

Sam’s family successfully nominated Kirsten to become Benefis’ first winner of the DAISY Award, an international recognition of extraordinary nurses. Benefis will present the award quarterly.

Kirsten is known for being helpful, calm, happy, and a passionate advocate for her patients. She puts her heart into her job.

Kirsten joined the Benefis team a year and a half ago. She works in patient flow, which usually means she sees patients for 12 hours at most. Working on the COVID floor, however, means she can get to know her patients, something she appreciates.

She could have said no to caring for COVID patients. She said yes. She’s at peace about the work and her risk, trusting in the protective equipment and her calling.

“These people need someone they can talk to,” she said. “It’s scary how quickly COVID can turn. They need to be educated about what may happen, and having those real conversations is hard. I want families to know their loved ones are going to get the best care, not only from me but no matter who their nurse is. Everyone really cares.”

Working the night shift means feeling invisible sometimes. The night often is the best time for families to connect with patients and the care team. It’s slow and quiet.

shelly rulon in hospital

Nights were hard for Sam, an Army veteran, a retired mover who drove 4 million accident-free miles, a grandpa who was always a source of encouragement and inspiration. He could tell his body was failing, but his mind remained sharp. He understood the visitor restrictions, but he also missed his family.

Kirsten calmed Sam, who died in November. She was proactive in keeping him comfortable.

“She made herself available to Sam and us, who longed to be there with him,” his family wrote. “She accepted calls during the middle of the night and never rushed the time. She asked what he liked and what she could visit with him about. She actually took the time to get to know him and spend time talking about his favorite subjects.”

Kirsten is a Great Falls native and C.M. Russell High School and Montana Tech graduate.

“I’ve learned a ton this year, and it’s been an experience I will take with me forever,” she said.

Tears came to Kirsten’s eyes as she saw Sam’s family at her award ceremony, and Sam’s sister, Juanita, joined via video chat to express her gratitude again. To them, Kirsten is “truly a shining star.”

“She exemplified what it means to provide family-centered care at Benefis,” they wrote.

The DAISY Foundation is a not-for-profit organization recognizing nurses and the incredible care they provide. The foundation was established in memory of J. Patrick Barnes, who died at age 33 from an autoimmune disease. More than 4,500 healthcare facilities and schools of nursing present DAISY Awards.

To nominate a Benefis nurse who has touched your life for a DAISY Award, visit Benefis.org/DAISYAward.