A global pandemic has underlined the ways that nurses have been not only health-care providers, but also health-care heroes.
This week, May 10-16, is National Nursing Week and Island Health is taking the opportunity to tell some of the stories of how nurses are answering the call in unprecedented times.
Kathy McNeil, Island Health president and CEO, said in a press release that “there have been many shining examples” of nurses showing perseverance, resilience and teamwork. She said it’s important to remember that through it all nurses have not only fought the virus in the workplace, but also faced pandemic challenges in their personal lives.
“Now, more than ever, nurses deserve recognition and nursing week presents the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for the nurses in your life,” McNeil said.
Lizzy Hannah, a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, said in the release that early in the pandemic, nurses “watched in horror” at the case numbers and deaths in other parts of the world and were terrified about what might happen on Vancouver Island.
“There was the fear of catching the virus ourselves, questioning whether we were wearing adequate personal protective equipment, praying we were not bringing the virus home to our families,” Hannah said.
While the Island hasn’t been as hard-hit by the virus as many other places, it has not been immune to critical illness and death. Nurses have been the ones who have provided comfort and care, Hannah said, holding the hands of intubated patients and facilitating “heart-breaking” goodbye Zoom calls with their family members.
“Despite the unease, moral distress and exhausting work, I believe that our team has risen above and beyond,” Hannah said. “Our leaders, physicians, and nurses have continued to show up despite the fear and fatigue, providing the same level of excellent care we always do.”
The Canadian Nurses Association’s theme for National Nursing Week this year is ‘We answer the call,’ meant to represent the many roles that nurses play in patients’ health care. An example of answering the call, noted Saanich public health nurse Jen Slade in the press release, is the immunization program that has brought nurses out of retirement to administer vaccine doses.
“The life-long role of the nurse as mentor, teacher and advocate for health … exists beyond nursing practice,” said Slade. “These attributes translate into our every day and do not leave us when the shift ends or with retirement.”
Diane Maille, a public health nurse in the Cowichan Valley, answered the call as well to work at an Island Health immunization clinic, pivoting from her regular duties providing breastfeeding support, newborn and post-partum assessments and immunizations to babies and children.
“It feels good knowing in a time of uncertainty that I can contribute in my role as a nurse to help my community stay safe,” she said in the release. “The best part of being a nurse is knowing I have helped someone.”
Island Health expressed in the press release a wish to celebrate nurses and honour the “profound contribution” they make to health and wellness. Krista Allan, Island Health’s chief nurse executive, said this week is a chance to honour the work and dedication of nurses.
“All of us have a role to play in supporting and advocating for the health of our communities, and in supporting all nurses everywhere, “ said Allan. “Nurses are the backbone of our health system.”