Nurses are at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic and each day they run the risk of coming into contact with coronavirus, yet they show up to give it their all because helping others is part of who they are.
Last month Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed May 6-12, 2020 North Carolina Nurses Week.
“Even under normal circumstances, nurses have tough jobs with long, tiring shifts,” said Gov. Cooper. “It takes so much strength, skill and compassion to be a nurse, and I am thankful for our dedicated nurses who are making great sacrifices and saving lives every day, but especially during this pandemic.”
Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor said nurses are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 and their efforts should be recognized and applauded.
“Nurses have been frontline soldiers in the war against COVID-19,” said Taylor. “They are first responders that the community should recognize and express gratitude for all that they do.”
Jessica Brooks, Registered Nurse at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) has been a nurse for 11 years and said working as a team is what drives the success in the ED.
“We get them where they need to go in a timely manner and knowing that by us being here in this small community, we are making a difference and saving lives,” said Brooks. “Nursing to me isn’t just my job, it is who I am. I remember deciding I was going to be a nurse when I was in the 6th grade. I think I have always had a nurturing personality wanting to care for others. As a child I remember taking care of any injured barn cats of my grandpas, or bottle feeding my cat’s 1-week old kittens after she was killed.”
Sonya James, RN at HCH’s ED, said a good day is knowing her patients are satisfied with the care they received. (James is pictured on the left at the top of the article, along with Jessica Brooks.)
“I became a nurse because ultimately, I love helping people and wanted a more direct bedside approach to patients,” said James. “I feel now that my nursing career is like my ministry, so to speak. I way in which I can demonstrate compassion and kindness to patients in need.”
Director of Nursing for the Eckerd Living Center Emily Bowers became a nurse in 2007 after her first year at the ELC. She found her calling after caring for her grandmothers scraped-fragile skin or holding their hand when they walked on uneven ground or climbed the stairs.
But Bowers said caring for residents at the ELC is more than just healthcare.
“At ELC, we are not only caregivers, we have become friend, pastor, hair stylist, confidant, daughter/son and much more,” said Bowers. “Our residents have not had physical contact with the outside in more than two months. We have cried with them when they are feeling lonely. We have learned to smile and find humor through our loneliness. We won’t stop encouraging, caring and supporting if COVID-19 comes. We will work tirelessly to treat them not only physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well.”
In terms of personal protective equipment (PPE), Bowers, Brooks, and James said they have everything they need to safely and properly care for patients or residents. They also said if there were a surge in cases, they have full confidence in the preparatory measures in place.
“We have everything we need in order to do our jobs,” said Bowers. “Also, our community has been very gracious making masks in case we ended up with a shortage. They have also made ear savers and headbands. We had enough for all staff. The thoughtfulness of our community has been amazing!”
Even with all the necessary PPE and precautionary measures in place, Brooks said patients being tested for COVID-19 in the ED are often scared, and she does her best to put them at ease.
“Knowing that you are being tested for COVID and hearing everything on the media definitely frightens patients,” said Brooks. “I just explain everything to the patient, from why I am wearing all the PPE, or about the significance in their oxygen saturation, or what to expect with timeliness of testing, or when signs/symptoms to watch out for and when to return to the ER. Our hospital has taken extra-protective measures not allowing patients to have any visitors. I know that the patients are fearful being sick in the ED and not having anyone by their side, so I do whatever I can to comfort them whether it be calling a family member or running outside to update them on what is going on.”
James said honesty and communication with patients is key.
“I am an avid listener and answer all the patient’s questions honestly,” said James. “I also reassure the patients that we will take care of them, treating them here or possibly stabilizing and transferring he or she if needed. The communication is key to caring for any patient and results in a more positive experience for the patient and families.”
Bowers said the Governor’s recognition is justified.
“Nurses are rockstars,” said Bowers. “They deserve to be celebrated and appreciated. Nursing is a sacrificial profession. I particularly think that my long-term care nurses are extra special. They have chosen to spend their career with our elderly. They know the value that geriatric nursing has. They are superheroes and deserve to be recognized and feel appreciated. I admire my colleagues.”
James said it’s an honor to be recognized, but it’s also a team effort.
“I feel honored to be in a profession, which dedicates a week for recognizing us as nurses, however I also know that it takes all the ancillary-team members to properly care for our patients,” she said. “We have a great crew of healthcare providers here at HCH!”
Brooks said the recognition is appreciated, but she does it because it’s what she was meant to do.
“I do appreciate the fact that we have a week dedicated to nurses, but I am no hero,” said Brooks. “I am just here doing what I love and what I was called to do.”
Bowers said the community has been incredibly supportive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would like to say, thank you,” said Bowers. “Thank you to our families, volunteers, friends, churches, community leaders, businesses, musicians, community members for bringing us food, cards, puzzles, flowers, jewelry, virtual concerts, and much more! Your love and support mean so much to us! Thank you for recognizing us!”
Photos courtesy of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital