After an unprecedented year in healthcare, National Nurses Week means a little more this year, as nurses were thrust into the frontlines of the COVID19 pandemic. While others stayed home to stay safe, nurses layered on PPE [personal protective equipment] and cared for hundreds of thousands of people impacted by the Coronavirus all while balancing their regular duties.
“Over the past year, COVID-19 has challenged healthcare professionals across the country, sending shockwaves across the rural care community,” said JR Eller, Nurse Manager, MSN, RN, NE-BC at Angel Medical Center. ”Healthcare providers confronted an unknown opponent, unlike anything before. The nursing staff here at Angel Medical Center met this crisis head-on. Not only did they survive, but they thrived. Every day, nurses and staff members donned the personal protective equipment, providing the essential care needed to our patients and community.”
National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. These permanent dates enhance planning and position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event. As of 1998, May 8 was designated as National Student Nurses Day, to be celebrated annually. And as of 2003, National School Nurse Day is celebrated on the Wednesday within National Nurses Week (May 6-12) each year.
“Watching the majority of patients overcome and recover from COVID-19 has been nothing short of amazing,” said Eller. “Listening to patient stories and engaging families solidified the care AMC provided, ensuring we were available when needed. For those families who lost a loved one, our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. COVID-19 will not defeat us, as its time too shall pass.”
Nurse Tate Jacobs works in the ICU and on the Medical Surgical floor at Angel Medical Center.
“When COVID started, I was an oncology nurse at Mission so I was terrified that I would bring it into the hospital. In September, I transferred from Mission to Angel and dove right into caring for COVID patients. The scariest time for me was when the ICU was full of COVID patients that all required oxygen, bipap, vapotherm, and ventilators,” said Jacobs. “Now a year later, how do you feel? After a year, I feel more confident when taking care of COVID patients because I have learned so much in such a short amount of time but I also take COVID very seriously after seeing the number of sick patients and deaths throughout the year.”
Tate said that while caring for patients throughout the year, it was also important to ensure she took care of herself and her family.
“Being a COVID nurse has been mentally and physically exhausting,” said Jacobs. “After caring for these highly contagious patients, I worried every day if I would bring it home to my family. I love to hug my loved ones but I have been hesitant this year. I am so blessed to have such a supportive husband (Kevin), and parents (Tommy and Sally) who have been by my side. I have kept my faith and prayed harder than ever.”
Reflecting on the past year, Jacobs said that each day was a whirlwind from beginning to end.
“A typical day as a nurse in a COVID unit looks like a tornado touched down. There are yellow protective gowns hanging on all the doors and masks, and gloves, everywhere,” said Jacobs. “Monitors alarming all the time, phones constantly ringing from scared family members and new updates every day.”
Jacobs said that with more and more people getting the vaccine, she and her coworkers are waiting for the day that they can work without having to wear a mask for 13 hours straight, but says she doesn’t that will happen anytime soon.
“I also want to thank everyone at Angel for coming together as a team and family,” said Jacobs. “From EVS deep cleaning every nook and cranny to nutrition who makes specific trays for those who can’t taste and don’t want to eat, Tom for keeping our supply room stocked, and JR for managing the floor at all times. It takes a village. I can honestly say, I love where I work and who I work with. COVID is real and has killed so many people. Love one another because tomorrow is never promised. Nursing is not easy, but it is the best decision I have made in my life.”
Audrey Rogers has worked as a nurse for the last three years and currently serves as a Team Lead MedSurg/ICU nurse. Rogers said that like Jacobs, she is waiting fo the day for normalcy to return to her life.
“I am beyond ready for some normalcy,” said Rogers. “I want everyone to remain safe and smart, but I think not having to wear masks would be the first step back to normalcy. It is awesome to see the Covid numbers go down in the hospital. It gives us all hope.”
After more than a year of working with COVID19 patients, Rogers said there are things she won’t ever forget.
“The main thing that has affected me has been having to watch the patients be sick alone due to visitor restrictions,” said Rogers. “It is very sad and heartbreaking. Although I understand that it is necessary to cut down on the spread of Covid, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch.”
Just as everyone else celebrates nurses after such a difficult year, Rogers said she will also be celebrating her coworkers, who have gotten her through the pandemic.
“My coworkers are the best,” said Rogers. “They are the only way I have gotten through this thing. They are more than willing to help, they are supportive, they have worked extra shifts, they have come in early and stayed late, we have taken extra classes for more education, prayed for each other, prayed with each other, and we have yet to give up or give into anything thrown at us through it all. Angel Medical Center has some of the best staff around.”