Huong Le

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Patience pays off
Behavorial health nurse connects with patients through positive attitude, willingness to listen

As a child, Huong (pronounced HOON) Le’s dream was to run a restaurant. While other girls played with dolls, she played with her pots and pans, creating imaginary meals for her family and friends.

But that’s just one side of her now, the 32-year-old admits.

“I’m also a nurturer,” she says. “I guess that’s why a friend of mine urged me to enter the nursing program at Wichita State University.”

As a student nurse, she so enjoyed her weeks at Via Christi Behavioral Health Center that she decided to make that specialty her career. She’s worked at the Via Christi facility in Wichita for seven years.

“I loved interacting with all my patients, but especially those with behavioral health issues,” Huong says, adding that her innate calm and patience comes in handy on the job.

"When a patient is aggressive or anxious, you have to stay calm and remember that they’re here because they need help, and that’s what I’m here to provide. You can’t react or take their behavior personally.”

Huong recalls one instance, just six months after starting at the center, when she helped defuse a potentially volatile situation with a patient. The tall, physically imposing man had been angry and aggressive all day. He didn’t know he was going to be transferred to a state facility for more seriously mentally ill patients.

“I understood that would make him even angrier if he didn’t know about the move in advance, so I decided to be honest with him,” says Huong. She respectfully explained where he was going and why, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise.

“Before I was done, he had calmed down and we were joking with each other about it all, and he went without any further problems,” she adds.

Nursing, she says, is all about that sort of understanding and empathy.
“We have to show our patients that we do care, that this is not ‘just a job’ to us.”

Q&A with Huong
I go the extra mile for my patients by…being respectfully persistent, encouraging them to follow through on treatment they need but may be reluctant to accept.

Not many people know…I love to take road trips by myself. It’s a great time to gather my thoughts and resolve issues on my mind.

One thing that makes for a great work day is…when I can turn someone’s bad mood around by being upbeat. Whenever anyone asks me how my day is going, I always say, “Fantastic!” because when you can say it, you can believe it.

My advice for people entering the health care professions is…listen to your patients. It will help you understand what they’re going through.

I know I make a difference in the lives of patients and families when…they say thank you for the care you provide them. That never gets old!

The most important thing my patients have taught me is…don’t take things for granted. At any time, any one of us could be in their shoes.

If I couldn’t be a nurse, I would…operate a no-kill shelter for stray dogs. I’m always rescuing dogs out on the street then trying to find people to adopt them.

I am inspired by…my parents, who escaped Vietnam on a tiny fishing boat, carrying me and my sister. Our boat capsized and my sister didn’t survive. Despite that horrible experience, my parents carried on, working hard to build a new life for our family in Wichita. They inspire me to work hard, too.

One word that describes me…Persistent, a good listener, a team player
I am most proud of…where I am right now in my life.

My most recent accomplishment…is going back to college to work on my master’s degree after almost a decade out of school. I’ll graduate in 2015!

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Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 7-13

One out of four adults will experience a mental health problem this year.

People with serious mental illness live about 25 years less than average — because less than 1/3 of adults and 1/2 of children with a diagnosed mental illness receive the treatment they need.

In a community without mental health care, the results often are lost jobs and careers, broken families, increased homelessness and welfare, and much more expensive costs for hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, police and even courts, jails and prisons.

— From the National Alliance on Mental Illness

For information about Via Christi Behavioral Health services call 316-858-0333.


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