As we all work to flatten the COVID-19 curve by staying home and taking precautions when we do need to go out, our healthcare providers are busy helping those of us who need medical attention. It has perhaps never been a better time to thank nurses and show appreciation for their dedication to personal and public health during National Nurses Week.
The Speakers for Nurses organization said this year’s theme is “compassion, expertise and trust.” LincolnHealth nurses Lori Grinnell and Deb Burch said recognition truly comes through prudence and understanding for the guidelines provided to the public during this pandemic.
Said Grinnell, “What gives us the greatest satisfaction is when we have patients who are understanding and are willing to follow instructions in how they can best take care of themselves; patients who are considerate and thoughtful and forward thinking and patients who call ahead and tell us what's going on first; patients who are willing to follow instructions in our office and know that we're doing everything we can to protect them, not us – it's mostly to protect them.”
Grinnell has been a nurse for over 40 years, first with St. Andrews Hospital, then as school nurse for the Boothbay Region Schools and then onto LincolnHealth. She recently moved to the Family Care Center where she now works as a triage nurse. Her favorite thing about being a nurse is the patient interaction even though most of that is done less face to face and more safely over the phone. “People are genuinely appreciative of what you do for them on a daily basis. I think pride comes in knowing that you see an issue from the beginning to completion and sometimes the outcomes aren't always positive, but in between time you know that you've done the best you can for a patient.”
Grinnell said she and her husband planned a trip to Ireland in mid-March and spent four days there before the Irish government asked them to go home. Upon reentering the United States, Grinnell said they were met by healthcare workers who advised them to self-quarantine. “(Ireland) was just like the U.S. There was one case and then there were hundreds of cases and then there were thousands. It happened as quickly there as it did here … and if we didn't leave then, we would probably still possibly be there.”
When Grinnell returned to LincolnHealth, everything had already changed. Schedules were completely different with nurses adapting to 12-hour shifts from 8-hour ones and nearly all appointments with patients were being conducted over the phone or by video conference.
“A lot of our calls are longer and we spend a lot more time just listening on the phone. The tone is more of reassurance for patients rather than urgent healthcare needs. There are so many ‛worried well.’”
The “worried well” are people who have become so anxious and stressed from isolation or worries about the pandemic, they begin showing varied false symptoms, Grinnell explained.
Asked who she would like to thank this National Nurses Week, Grinnell said nurses are thanking patients for keeping calm and doing the best that they can to stay healthy and to reach out when something is wrong. As far as colleagues – Grinnell said she cannot thank any one person.
“I think every person I've worked with in 40 years has helped get me to where I am today. I say to all those healthcare workers: Know that you're bringing something of value to everybody you cross paths with every single day. Everybody from the bottom up has something of value to offer to everybody.”
Burch has worked as a nurse for 15 years and has been with LincolnHealth at St. Andrews Village for nine years. With a degree in marketing and management, Burch said she came into her field due to a lifelong passion of helping as many people as possible
Said Burch, “My favorite thing about my job is answering a call. I'm not sure when my day will come to an end, so this is real – if I can help it, no one, absolutely no one will die alone ... So, the best thing is holding their hands, rocking them, praying with them. It makes me most proud. I would hope someone would be there to hold my hand as I pass from labor to reward.”
Having recently lost her husband, son, brother and nephew, Burch said she does not know how she continues to smile, but tragedy has done nothing but push her to continue helping as many people as possible. Comfort and happiness are the most important things when approaching a patient, said Burch.
“You can tell that glow when you see it, judging from what you have done. The result is that you're expecting to see satisfaction. And when there's that satisfaction with your patients, the whole world is smiling. That's my belief.”
Burch said she is grateful for the nurses and healthcare providers she works with at St. Andrews Village – everyone is affected by the tragedy of distancing from loved ones at risk. “My heart aches for all of them, those who can't get to touch their loved ones, hold them, hug them. However, they must know that it's in their best interest that we do what we do and that we keep them and their loved ones safe.”
Healthcare workers need to be encouraged to continue fighting the good fight, to continue providing the outstanding work for keeping everyone healthy and happy as can be, said Burch.
“I can only hope when someone else is being helped in such a way, when someone is aching, ailing, depressed I can only hope they can see … when it comes from the heart, you do not need to impress anyone – you do your job and you will do it well.”
Said Grinnell, “This is going to change the way we go about our daily lives. This is going to have a huge impact … but it will get better. I truly believe this will get better.”