Welcome to CompassionateCombat.com! My hope for this space is that it becomes a dynamic Thank You card for the nurses that have been giving of themselves during this Pandemic. There will be a place for nurses to tell their stories, for patients and family members to tell their stories. A place to donate to nurses organizations to help pull them through this incredibly exhausting time.
Donate to the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund for Nurses here.
If you have a story that you'd like to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The He(Art) of a Nurse
By definition, nursing is both a science and an art, neither of which I believed I was cut out for over 30 years ago when nursing first entered my world, sitting by my father’s hospital bed, watching nurses take care of him. I was in my early 20’s and my father was battling terminal cancer. I looked upon those nurses as heroes, angels, and the possible hope that they could cure him. After my father passed, my family heard that a night shift nurse we never met sat with my father many nights just talking with him, comforting not only his physical pain, but his emotional pain as well. I was so grateful for this nurse’s compassion, for her taking the time to be a vessel for my father’s emotion and fear as he faced his mortality. Emotional pain he spared his family, but trusting this nurse with what he needed to share. This brought me great peace during my time of great loss, and I think it was then that I heard my calling.
Over the years I studied and practiced the science of nursing through books, training, lectures, and a diverse career, but the subtle development of nursing art happens with each personal interaction, each sharing of emotion, and each human experience with those we serve. The art of nursing is described as the intentional creative use of oneself, based upon skill and expertise, to transmit emotion and meaning to another. It is a process that is subjective and requires interpretation, sensitivity, imagination, and active participation (Jenner,1997). This is the quiet part, the voice inside, the honed intuition, the spirit and compassion that each nurse carries while delivering care. This is the part that gets depleted quickly though, and renders us burned out and empty, as we are not often as good caring for ourselves as we are for others.
Under normal circumstances we can rally together to support a fellow nurse that has had a particularly tough assignment, an unexpected emergency, or a heartbreaking outcome. Under normal circumstances, nursing is demanding enough, but we keep showing up because it’s our calling, and we’re healers. The pandemic, however, takes every last reserve we may have, and then takes more. Under extraordinary conditions, nurses all over the world are leading the fight against a virus we only learned about a year ago. It’s fierce, it’s unpredictable, and it kills. Nurses are the soldiers called upon for this war, and we need to understand what’s at stake for them. Nurses follow the science, but we lead with our he(arts).
- Lilly McAteer, MBA, BSN, BHA, RN
Jenner C.A. (1997). The art of nursing: a concept analysis. Nursing forum, 32(4), 5-11. Retrieved Jan 21, 2021 from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6198.1997.tb00970.x
For 15 years I have gotten up, put on scrubs, threw my hair in a ponytail and walked through a locked, sliding glass ER door. Over those 15 years I was honored to have an impact on many people's lives. People from all walks of life. I have held the hands of dying patients as they took their last breath, comforted family members after the loss of a loved one, held onto a screaming mother after the loss of a child (a sound that you will never forget), held onto a young girl after losing her mother in a vehicle accident and accompanied doctors to deliver news no one ever wants to hear to hopeful waiting family members. I have been a part of saving many many lives and also worked fast and furiously on just as many, only to lose them in the end. Age, social status, gender and race does not matter, death does not discriminate.
I have witnessed everything from the good, the bad and the ugly over the course of my career. Things most people only read about, I have lived it. We get people at their lowest points of their lives. If you are seeing my face it is because something terrible has happened. It is my goal everyday to treat every patient with kindness, compassion, respect and empathy. This has not always been as easy as it sounds either. I have learned a great deal as I have grown older, and found ways to empathize with people. What also makes it difficult is many patients seen in the ER are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, mentally ill, or just mad at the world. I have been hit, spat on, kicked, had blood and body fluids thrown on me, verbally assaulted and physically threatened. You name it has probably happened or I have probably been called it. People are different in my world. Regardless, I still put those scrubs on everyday and walk through those locked, sliding glass doors.
January 2020 my hospital started gearing up for Covid. Guidelines, that seemed to change daily, were put out by our "Covid Team". My coworkers and I were constantly doing research on this virus and watched a Covid tracker board grow daily. Our part of Texas was not being hit as hard as the rest of the world at that time. My hospital sits in the West Texas Chihuahua Desert flanked by Davis Mountains to the north, the Chisos Mountains to the south and the Glass Mountains to the East . We cover an area of 3 counties wide and see a high number of illegal immigrants brought in by Border Patrol. We are also 90 miles from Mexico and see many patients from there as well. The hospital I work at is an award winning, Joint Commission accredited acute care facility with a Level 4 Trauma and designated Emergency Department according to their website. ( I love this hospital and my coworkers. I have worked at many hospitals both large and small and this is hopefully my forever home).
The Covid patients we were seeing initially were older people with co morbidities and very ill. My care for these patients did not change, other than I was having to wear more PPE. Also a key change was the no visitor policy, this made it even more scary for our patients. They were terrified but I was not and I tried to make that evident with my interactions with these patients. I continued to try and make them as comfortable as possible by touching their hands for example, so that they knew I was not afraid of THEM. I know that they had to feel so isolated and alone and I could not imagine how that felt. I just kept thinking that this could be one of my family members, treat them how you would want them treated. Over time it got much worse. We ran into the same problems as every other hospital in the USA. Short on PPE, supplies on back order, reusing masks (which I did for 3 months) and improvising to make PPE and supplies last. I was shocked that everything I had been taught about PPE in school was now out the window. How did this happen? Through it all no matter what I still went out of my way to provide personalized care to these patients. I got up everyday, put on scrubs and walked through those locked, sliding glass doors.
We are not only treating Covid patients in the ER, but also our regular ER patients (heart attacks, strokes, diabetics, traumas and non urgent walk in patients). Our hospital became overwhelmed quickly. We were dealing with other issues on top of it such as transportation issues for our transfers, transfer problems due to larger hospitals being at capacity and staffing issues. We handled it like champs though and kept coming back. I was scared of just one thing. I did not want to carry this virus home to my family. My husband of 20 years, who works in the oil field and is a volunteer firefighter) has an autoimmune disorder and my youngest of 4 children is still at home. I also have high risk parents and grandchildren to protect. In order to protect them we decided to have a no physical contact policy. Like so many other families, we did phone calls only with everyone outside of our household. This is a very difficult but necessary situation. I did everything possible at work to prevent carrying it home to my direct family.
October 19th, 2020, I had 2 hours remaining of my 6th 12 hour shift. My phone rang, it was my 18 year old daughter, who is a Senior in High School, never calls me when I'm at work except for emergencies, All I heard was "I have fever and body aches so bad that I can not get out of bed". Time froze at that very moment. All the chaos, call lights, ringing phones, patients yelling, EMS crews giving report all went silent. This kid never complains, never gets sick so I knew it was serious. 7 days ago before I started this rotation, I woke up the day before work and had lost my taste and smell. It was also October and I have crazy allergies (if you have allergies you will understand), no fever, no other major symptoms of Covid. I chalked it up to my allergies and went to work. Standing there with the phone in my hand, I became very worried about it. My next thought was in regards to my coworkers. I made a call, got swabbed and and a hour and a half later the lab called with positive results. I was devastated. Not because I was positive but because I exposed my entire crew (one whom was pregnant) to Covid. I mean, we are in tight quarters and no matter how much pre caution you take, a nurses station is like a giant petri dish. I apologized and they reassured me that we are all exposed everyday and not to worry, get better and come back. I walked out of those locked, sliding glass doors with every intention of returning in 2 weeks but first I need to get home and take care of my baby. I proceeded to make the 2 hour drive home to my family. That was the longest 2 hour drive I think I have ever made. I was absolutely devastated that I had exposed my family. The one thing I did not want to do and was so careful not to do. I did it. I had a million questions and regrets racing through my head. How did this happen? It did not feel real until I walked in the front door of my home and saw my daughters face. It became very real at that moment. My husband and daughter both tested positive the next day. This was the beginning of a very long, crazy journey for my family. My daughter recovered quickly, I recovered not long after her and my husband finally recovered a short time later. Total time down 14 days. It seemed as if life was going to return back to normal. Day 17, I became very ill again. This time I felt worse than I did a few weeks ago.
October 19th, 2020, the day I tested positive for Covid. 1/31/21 is todays date and I am still fighting Covid. It has snuck in like a thief in the night and robbed me of my health, livelihood and family life as I knew it. You never know what you are missing until it is gone. I have now become a statistic like so many other people across the world, all because I continued to put my scrubs on and walk through those locked, sliding glass ER doors during a pandemic. I am a mystery at this point in time, I am considered a "Long Hauler" with a multitude of symptoms that have prevented me from returning to work and my daily life. Most days I can hardly walk to far without being extremely short of breath and a number of other issues. I have seen a Pulmonologist that had no answers and will see a Cardiologist next week. I was a healthy, active woman prior to Covid and here I am. Unsure of my future. I have not been able to return to work and lost my insurance. I am currently on a waiting list at several inpatient post Covid facilities, like thousands of others. Until then I will continue to see specialist and treat the residual effects Covid left behind. These symptoms are just as determined to hold onto me as I am of getting rid of them. . Please follow my journey on Facebook at Covid 19 Long Haulers Support Group Nhóm Facebook Thank you for taking the time and investing yourself in this journey with me.
Thank you for being the rainbow in our cloud
Shanna, Russell and Ashlee Blackburn
Thank you for your recognition of nurses and the opportunity to contribute to your project. Being a nurse during the pandemic has been interesting for sure. I teach nursing for Austin Community College and I was also a practicing labor and delivery nurse at the beginning of the pandemic but have since retired from bedside nursing after 33 years of being an OB nurse.
As I’m sure this is true for most everyone, the hardest aspect of being a nurse especially at the beginning of the pandemic was the unknown. It wasn’t known for sure if the Covid 19 virus spread by droplets or by aerosol and that made a big difference on how nurses protected themselves and patients when providing care. New information came out every day about what PPE (personal protective equipment) should be worn and when. Labor and delivery is a joyous time shared with family but Covid changed that. If the mother was positive for Covid, a big concern was spreading the virus to the newborn and having to separate the mother and baby after birth. Also, can you imagine being in labor, having to breathe through contractions with a face mask on? Or be cared for by professionals if full PPE during such an intimate time? Then there was the issue of patient’s laboring without their family members due to a "no visitor policy" except the significant other. Sometimes their significant other couldn't be with them because they had a possible exposure or were positive for Covid.
As a nursing instructor, the biggest concern is providing students with rich learning experiences caring for patients while taking all necessary precautions to protect the student’s from potential exposure to Covid. Coordinating what nursing units the students can go to is a challenge when several nursing units are designated for positive Covid patients only. We (instructors) have to be flexible and creative to meet the student’s needs.
While I know I have mostly mentioned some of the hardships Covid has brought, I will say, that participating in Covid vaccination clinics is very rewarding. Students have also had the opportunities to administer Covid vaccines. The public is so appreciative. Knowing that you are lessening the spread of this virus is gratifying to say the least.
- Ann Hearn
What an amazing project you're working on! As a nursing Director, the first thing that pops into my mind related to the pandemic is "How can I keep our staff safe and healthy while caring for our patients?" At the beginning of the pandemic, all healthcare facilities were faced with a similar problem - mainly the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our doctors, nurses, techs, admissions representatives, cleaning and maintenance staff...right on down the line. PPE was found, conserved, and guarded like gold! I can proudly say not one member of our department contracted Covid despite interacting with literally thousands of Covid-positive patients over the course of the last year. This is the thing that thrills me!
- Carol Campbell
What's it like to be a nurse during a pandemic?"
The best way I can answer this question is- it is like a moving target and once you learn how to do your job and feel confident- that target moves. This past year I have had the largest learning curve that I have had in my 35 years of being a nurse. Through it all - the most important thing I learned is to rely on the basics and learn to be flexible because it will change over and over again. I believe I have learned more this past year than I have in my entire nursing career. One of the most important things is to rely on your co-workers and family for support.
Hope you are well, Hugs to all,
Claudia McClellen, RN
I knew so early on that I wanted to grow up and be a nurse. When I was 5 years old, my Mom read a book to me called “Nina the nurse”. I knew I wanted to be a nurse. My dream came true and I’ve never looked back. It is a honor to take care of patients and be a beacon of light for them in some of their most vulnerable times.
I love nursing because it is a beautiful blend of art and science. One of my most memorable times was taking care of some of the first HIV/AIDS patients in the mid eighties. I continued to use touch and kindness when most health care workers were too afraid. Patients who have COVID 19 need this touch and kindness too. ️
- Linda Copenhaver
Being a nurse during a pandemic is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life. Sure, it is both mentally and physically exhausting, and unbearably sad at times...but this is the reason that I became a nurse. To truly get to make a difference and care for people when they are at their sickest. I am so grateful to be able to tell my future grandchildren about participating in something they will see in their textbooks!
Cassandra Ott, BSN, RN
Thank you for your support of nurses. I honestly walk down a long hall each morning to see my patients and I have a lot of self-talk during this walk.
Why am I here? What is my purpose in these people's lives? How can I get them to trust me, to know I truly care about them, and most importantly, how can I get them to care about themselves?
Note: I work at a hospital in San Antonio near the east side where the majority of our patients are poor, unfunded, African Americans.
- Nancy Lough
The days are long and hard! But keeping up the good fight!
- Rose Fitzpatrick
Nurses are, of course, tired. And frustrated. We're also experiencing some of the kindest moments of our lives - patients who sincerely give thanks, or recognize that we haven't stopped for a year. Being seen is so important, for anyone who offers their services.
The pandemic has been a roller coaster. Working flat out every hour of every day. Trying to keep up, hoping mistakes are not being made. Mental exhaustion. So much is because patients are experiencing anxiety and frustration like never before, which is present in every call, every encounter. There are so many questions, and while we usually have most of the answers, now we're just like everyone else: what is new or changed today? How do we get that information? And try to find the new words, the efficient, the comforting, the empowering words, to articulate what's happening today. Tomorrow, we start over.
- Brenda Myers
First some background, I've been a RN for 24 years, mostly critical care and the last 5 years as an associate professor teaching nursing. So, my role as a nursing educator moved from in person teaching to online teaching when the pandemic first started, including moving any hands-on teaching in the hospitals online. New software to learn, new syllabi to write, new ways of teaching. The nursing faculty shifted and worked together to accomplish this. Talk about teamwork. Then as the pandemic continued, we shifted again and put precautions in place for any in person learning, such as IV skills and also in moving toward having hospital learning hands on again. Masks and face shields are hot and uncomfortable for 8 hours, but we do it. We do hard things and keep pushing forward.
I've seen my nursing peers do hard things too. I've seen them volunteer to go to other states and local hospitals to help on covid units. They raised their hands and said "pick me". Yes, during a deadly pandemic. Nurses rise to the challenge and put themselves in harm's way to help others. They always have, just now people are starting to understand what nurses really do. During this they have been put into positions no nurse wants to be in, helping families say goodbye using IPADs. Dying is an intimate journey that should occur between patients and their families. When nurses respond to codes and help with saving someone's life the expectation is that we help and actually save lives. So many losses and not enough wins is hard. This takes its toll even on even the most caring and dedicated of nurses. I've checked in on those who have been working covid units and I've seen overtime their spirit and moral lessen. When asked mentally how they are doing, I'm met with "ok", but with a sadness behind their eyes I've never seen in my 24 years as a nurse.
Nursing is a hard job under "normal" circumstances, but my peers keep showing up in the hardest of circumstances. They shift to change, roll with the punches, and rise to the challenge. I'm proud of the students who signed up for nursing school during a pandemic and said "pick me". I'm proud to teach the next generation of nurses. I'm so very proud of my peers and being part of one the most trusted professions.
- Christal Moore
Working as a nurse during the pandemic has been very stressful. It's like standing on a beach and watching a tsunami come with each wave. You can't run or help anyone. It's frustrating see friends and loved ones choose not to wear a mask. The politicians frame this as a liberty issue but they have never seen a person drown in their own body fluids
As a Nurse Educator I feel very guilty for not being in the hospital taking care of patients.
I try to invest my knowledge and passion into my students to do my part. I tell them, this is not an ideal way to go to school, but we will get the job done to prepare them for what lies ahead.
- Jennifer Hale