It’s National Nurses Week, and I can’t think of a better time than now to honor these special people and celebrate their selfless work. In an effort to show our sincerest appreciation, I interviewed two nurses to better understand their role in society, their unique struggles, and how we can make them feel valued. This is what they said…
What made you decide to become a nurse?
Katelynn is a nurse in the ER, she’s 27 years old, and has been a nurse for 5 years. One of the first times I met her she told me an incredible story about a summer she spent in Haiti providing medical care for villages who go years without having access to any. She’s smart, vibrant, beautiful, and captivating when she speaks. I get the sense that she’s the type of person who can do anything she puts her mind to, and she’s inclined to put her mind to everything. When I asked her why she decided to become a nurse, she said, “I wanted a fulfilling career of helping people, and not a job that is behind a desk … a job that requires me to critically think and solve problems, but also touch people’s hearts during the most vulnerable times.”
Carmine is the second nurse I interviewed. He’s 37 years old, is currently working as an RN supervisor, and has been a nurse for 9 years. He’s married with three kids and is very involved in his community. He himself has overcome some incredible odds, and it’s pretty apparent he has a drive and passion to see others do the same. He’s the kind of guy that everyone wants to be friends with, and he makes everyone feel like a friend. When asked why he became a nurse, he said, “I am not sure that there was a well thought out process to become a nurse. I think most nurses know that it is what they want to do. I really think that I just had an ah-ha moment. I love people.” He said he felt led to caring for people in a time that they most needed help.
I don’t know about you, but these are the kind of people I want taking care of me and my loved ones should we become ill. They’re the ones I want problem-solving for me in my most critical moments and rooting for me if I’m the underdog. These are the nurses that make this quote by Carolyn Jarvis true, “The character of the nurse is as important as the knowledge she possesses.”
How are you feeling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
When I asked Katelynn and Carmine about how they were feeling in the midst of this pandemic, they both felt uneasy over the unknowns. Katelynn said, “…will I have the supplies necessary to care for my patients today? Or will I be exposed by a patient and expose someone in my family, a friend, co-worker or another vulnerable patient?”
Carmine shared his concerns and included, “You don’t want to take things home to your family and to feel the weight of that responsibility is pretty heavy. Working in a supervisor role has also put me in a place of having to be strong at work for those around me because it really made a lot of staff very anxious. To the point that we had a lot of hospital staff quit … The reality, though, is that as nurses we do this every day. This is a new disease, yes, but we take care of patients every day with very infectious diseases. From TB, to multi-drug resistant bacteria, to HIV, to other crazy bugs, we are trained to do this. I think that because this has been so highly publicized it has put a lot of people on edge.”
How can we show appreciation to nurses?
Katelynn asked first and foremost for prayer, “…about the uncertainties that are before us related to protection, health, peaks, treatments, and supplies. My ER has had such incredible appreciation by strangers in the past month. More people and patients have told us ‘thank you for working’ than ever before, and working in the ER, we rarely receive any kind of gratitude. I recently had a sweet person in front of me in the drive thru line at Chick-fil-a. They saw my stethoscope around my mirror and paid for my meal after a 13-hour shift. Little things like this mean the world to us—I never expected this, but it made my heart so happy. If you have a friend who is a nurse, or works at a hospital, send them a $5 Starbucks gift card and tell them to get a coffee before their shift—little things like this keep us going, and let us know people are rooting for us.” She also shared that her parents are lighting a candle outside of their house at 7:00pm every night as a sign of gratitude toward the nurses who are changing shift across the nation.
Carmine stressed the importance of trying to understand their perspective as being beneficial to all. He said, “Well I think the really hard thing right now that all of us are facing is the feeling of isolation. As nurses and healthcare workers I think we are feeling that to a different degree. Some nurses are sleeping in different rooms from their spouses to prevent infection; others are having to learn to not hug their children in fear they will give them something. I think just understanding the emotional and physical strain this has put on all of us. Working short staffed and in ways we never have has been challenging … following the guidelines of what the CDC is recommending . We have also received so much food at the hospital and that has been great and really has shown how much we are appreciated. But as I talk to other nurses, you can really begin to hear the heart of nursing coming out of them. We as a hospital have been receiving all this food and other things, but we are working. We can provide for our families right now while others are struggling to put meals on the tables for their families. So appreciation helps, but remember there are others out there in need as well.”
If you could hear one thing from a patient every shift to make you feel appreciated, what would that be?
When I posed this question to each of them, their responses were short and simple. “Thank you,” they said.
Not very demanding for people in a very demanding job.
The heart of a nurse is the heart of a hero. This is true every day, a global pandemic only highlights it. Therefore, let us remember how their grit and grace have inspired us and continue to thank them for their service, during National Nurses Week and beyond.
“To do what nobody else will do, in a way that nobody else can, in spite of all we go through; is to be a nurse.” —Rawsi Williams
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Feature image credit: Heart photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com
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