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5 Nurses Reveal How The Pandemic Reminds Them Of Their Purpose

"I know nursing is my calling."

Human Interest

This article is in partnership with National Black Nurses Association.

The year 2020 came with its share of loss, but it didn't leave us without important lessons in its wake. As we navigated the reality of rallying against insurmountable odds during unprecedented times, we were reminded of the blessing of good health, the gratitude of life's simple joys, and the impact of stillness and slowing down. Another bit of beauty found in the ashes of the year was the appreciation for the heartbeat of our front line workers who turned out to be everyday people. They were the teachers in our children's classrooms, the cashiers at our nearest grocery stores, and in the healthcare field, they were the doctors and the nurses.

Undoubtedly, nurses weathered the storm and still continue to do so amid COVID. They worked long hours and went above and beyond to ensure that patients feeling isolated during these times due to the infectious spread of this novel disease felt less alone in the hours that could have left them at their loneliest. It is these reminders that emphasize the depth of nurses as light workers, as healers, but most of all, as essential workers in our healthcare industry.

Still, sometimes it is easy to feel that the hardest roles are the most thankless. To remedy that, we are spotlighting 20 nurses that have been making their battle cry heard on the front lines through purpose and dedication. On behalf of our partnership with the National Black Nurses Association, xoNecole spoke with 5 Houston nurses about what they do, why they do it, and how they pour into themselves after pouring into others. Here's what they shared.

Honoria C. Bush, RN

Courtesy of Honoria C. Bush

Title: Emergency Room Registered Nurse

Length of Time She's Been a Nurse: One year on February 21, 2021

The difference between working in a pandemic versus other times in her career:

"I actually started my nursing career right at the beginning of the pandemic in February 2020. I previously worked in the ER for two years prior as an ER tech. Being faced with using my training in the midst of a pandemic was an entirely different challenge. I used this learning experience and strived to absorb all of the on-the-job training that I could. I learned to move quickly but to also pace myself so that I wouldn't burn out so easily. There were times that I felt I couldn't make it through the shift without crying as our COVID numbers and the work demand rose higher, but I have an amazing team to support me and our patients are a constant reminder of why I chose this field."

How it has felt to be even more of a support system to patients amid COVID:

"I believe I have become more confident in my patients' care. I have had to not only be a nurse, but also take the extra step of being the patient's family member, prayer partner, and a shoulder to lean on. After my brother contracted COVID-19 and was placed on the ventilator and ECMO, the ICU nurses made sure that my mother, sister and I were able to FaceTime him every night. One nurse even went out of her way to research on YouTube how to braid black textured hair and cornrowed my brother's hair. The special treatment that I and my family received impacted how I treated my patients. I had one patient who was older and lived with her daughter. Naturally, having tested positive for COVID, she was nervous about everything.

"Anytime I walked in the room, she thought the worst. This sometimes caused her to hyperventilate, thereby affecting her oxygen demand. After noticing this, I contacted the patient's daughter to see if it was OK if I FaceTimed her throughout the day when the patient became anxious. I figured just seeing her daughter's face may make all the difference in the world. The patient and the daughter were calmer about the patient being alone and they entrusted me with the patient's care. It was at that moment that I knew I might not be able to remove the virus from the patient but I can try my best to bring some type of normalcy to them as they are afraid and in an unfamiliar environment without those that love them."

What she does for mental health and wellness during a pandemic:

"I believe I have learned to listen to my own body. In the beginning of the pandemic, I was eager to work as much overtime as I could to assist with the high work demand my department was experiencing. Wait times were longer, and my day depended on so many variables, 'Will my patient survive today' or 'will there be another patient that will code during the shift due to the virus?' Some nights all I could do was shower and go straight to sleep. Days and nights began to run together. Then things shifted both personally and professionally. After my own brother lost his battle due to COVID complications, I became the family member that was confused and didn't understand how a person can appear OK one day and then next day, I had to witness a healthcare worker pounding on your loved one's chest to resuscitate them through FaceTime.

"After my brother's death, I have been more intentional with listening to my body and not working too much. I also took the opportunity to seek professional help and meet with a therapist weekly to discuss what I see every day, not only with my own COVID patients but also with losing my own brother. I had to learn that taking care of myself is not selfish but, rather it helps me to be a better nurse who can serve others better."

How her purpose as a nurse has been solidified:

"I know I was meant to be a nurse. It's my God-given purpose. I wake up ready for work, ready for the shift and eager to help my patients in any way I can. The pandemic has shown me that my purpose is to serve others. My manager always says, 'You can teach a nurse skills, but there's no way to teach them how to care. It comes from within.' To those families who have lost loved ones to this disease, I sympathize with you and I encourage you to be hopeful that things will one day get better, but until then, be safe, know that it's OK to be fearful, but use that fear to motivate safe behaviors; wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. We are truly in this together and we're better and stronger together!"

Chanelle Dozier, RN

Courtesy of Chanelle Dozier

Title: Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse

Length of Time She's Been a Nurse: Three years

The difference between working in a pandemic versus other times in her career:

"The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has always been a place of high stress. As a nurse, you have to be able to balance the stress of caring for the fragile infants. The pandemic was a whirlwind of constantly changing policies."

How it has felt to be even more of a support system to patients amid COVID:

"I am trusted to care for infants that are very precious, fragile, and lastly adorable. It is already extremely difficult for families when they leave their baby in our care. However, sprinkle COVID-19, visitation policies were forced to be even stricter than the previous occasions. It was extremely hard seeing a couple, trying to decide who would be the primary visiting parent.

"As the nurse, being able to help the parent do something as simple as FaceTime was rewarding to me. Also, giving thorough updates over the phone [and] hearing that sigh of relief in their voice made my night."

How her purpose as a nurse has been solidified:

"Working through this pandemic has not been easy on any terms. There have been many times of uncertainty, change, and stress. I am still thankful that I get to go to work and make a difference for the families and infants. I am thankful for all my coworkers that rally together to support each other."

Dr. Lola Denise Jefferson

Courtesy of Dr. Lola Denise Jefferson

Title: House Supervisor at Kindred Sugar Land Hospital

Length of Time She's Been a Nurse: 32 years

The difference between working in a pandemic versus other times in her career:

"We have always had to use Universal Precautions but now it is detrimental. You must wash your hands, you must use gloves when necessary, you must wear a mask at ALL times, and no more close contact. I am a touchy feely person. I love the personal touch of a human being. The patients are human beings who are scared and need a touch with eye contact from a human being, their caregiver. It makes me so sad that we have to be six feet apart to remain healthy. I love to smile and my patients and staff cannot see me smiling at them. That is a problem for me. Smiling is a big part of me and I am not able to show that I am smiling to assure people that it is going to be all right."

How it has felt to be even more of a support system to patients amid COVID:

"Our ICU is on the first floor. We roll the patient's bed in front of the window and the family stands outside of the window. The family members wave to the alert intubated patient. One day, I was rounding in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and I witnessed the joy of the family on the outside of the window of the intubated family member. That gave me immense joy! I started waving too! The family started jumping up and down when they saw me. So I started jumping up and down! This brought such a deep, warm feeling inside of me because I started picturing to myself that that could be me and the patient could be my mother! I was in the moment! I became tearful but I held back the tears. This pandemic is awful."

What she does for mental health and wellness during a pandemic:

"I am eating healthier. I am getting adequate sleep and trying to add exercise. I pray and ask God to heal our land. When you become a health professional, you fully realize that someone greater than us, is looking out for us!"

How her purpose as a nurse has been solidified:

"I love nursing! I love caring for people. All people. I love educating anyone who asks about the COVID-19."

Chioma Alikpo

Courtesy of Chioma Alikpo

Title: Med-Surg Nurse at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital

Length of Time She's Been a Nurse: One year, six months

The difference between working in a pandemic versus other times in her career:

"Prior to the 2020 pandemic, the main difference is the level of acuity and an unfamiliar treatment plan. As a new nurse, it was strenuous to navigate through these challenges but I was able to develop my nursing skills and utilize the help of my peers to treat our patients affectively."

How it has felt to be even more of a support system to patients amid COVID:

"I was empathetic to my patients' lack of support. I used my caring and loving nature to provide therapeutic communication to assist my patients through their toughest times."

What she does for mental health and wellness during a pandemic:

"I practiced the art of self-care by reading books, writing and getting adequate amounts of sleep. Also, my prayers and family gave a sense of comfort during these challenges. These [things] allowed me to keep my mental health intact to provide the highest care."

How her purpose as a nurse has been solidified:

"I have an important role to play in life and I knew I was called to do this job. Not only are they my patients but they are moms, daughters, uncles , grandparents and sons. I have an active duty to heal and bring them back to their families."

Debra Raven, RN

Courtesy of Debra Raven

Title: RN at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital

Length of Time She's Been a Nurse: 24 years

The difference between working in a pandemic versus other times in her career:

"This pandemic has really weighed me down. Many times it has left me feeling mentally drained and defeated. These times are in no comparison to pre-COVID times, yet I rise every morning with God's grace ready to save lives."

How it has felt to be even more of a support system to patients amid COVID:

"I have bought color books [and] crayons for patients for distraction. I have stayed with patients and held their hands. I have worn many hats. I've been a teacher, counselor, mother and friend to these patients. I always go out of my way for my patients and wouldn't change anything."

What she does for mental health and wellness during a pandemic:

"I gravitate to prayer to keep me sane through these trying times. It has always worked for me. I also have a workout program to de-stress."

How her purpose as a nurse has been solidified:

"I know nursing is my calling. I wake up every day for new challenges in saving lives and continue to give 100 percent of me all the time."

For more information about the National Black Nurses Association, visit their website, www.nbna.org.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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