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National Nurses Week 2020: 7 Nurses Share What It Means to Be a Nurse Today

Hand holding a red wooden heart

2020 brought us the “Year of the Nurse,” and what a shocking year this turned out to be — for nurses and all healthcare professionals.

Now, as we celebrate National Nurses Week — a week centered around the birthday of Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820) — we acknowledge that it was Nightingale whose revolutionary practices influenced the quality of care given to patients, and whose work you are implementing and improving upon each day.

Today, amidst the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Nurses Week brings us a picture we never imagined. We’ve seen over 200 nurses and doctors die from the disease, a PPE shortage, appointments with patients moved online (and held in-between homeschooling your children), and thousands of furloughed nurses waiting for their practices to open again. The parties and potlucks of years past don’t quite seem to exemplify the sacrifices you’ve made and hero-status you’ve so humbly earned.

The respect the world has for you is immeasurable. The word “nurse” will never be viewed the same. So in honor of Nurses Week — and in honor of Florence Nightingale, whose valiant work you’ve taken to the next level of modern nursing — we salute you and shine a spotlight on some of your sacrifices.

Berxi was honored to interview nurses all over the country, each of whom generously shared their daily struggles, triumphs, and even silver linings in these unprecedented times.

“I’m still recovering and out of work.”

Shantay Carter headshot

Shantay Carter, BSN, RN

“I work nights on a Med/Surg unit, specializing in Orthopedics and Trauma. Before contracting Covid-19, my shifts were pretty standard: Accepting admissions and post-op patients, doing patient assessments, etc.

Needless to say, things have been turned upside down. I’m still recovering and out of work. Physically, my experience with Covid has been draining— severe body aches, pain, and a lack of energy. Mentally, it's like a roller coaster. I've had to learn to keep my emotions in check and try to stay calm, because the more I give in to the fear and anxiety, the worse my breathing gets. Every day I fight to stay positive and to tell myself that I will get through this. So far, it’s true; each day I am getting better and stronger. Hopefully, I will be able to return to work soon. My focus now is on boosting my immune system and taking this time to fully recover, so that I can be at 100% and give 100% to my patients when I go back. It’s truly made me realize that at the end of the day, our health is our wealth.

This year, National Nurses Week should be monumental. We are the unsung heroes of healthcare. So many nurses have lost their lives during this pandemic and it can’t go unrecognized. Nurses have to be uplifted, supported, respected, and celebrated while risking their lives everyday. 2020 is ‘The Year Of The Nurse.’ I actually think we should get more than a week— we need a whole month to celebrate our profession, our contributions to healthcare, and the role we played during this pandemic!”

“My dad passed away due to a heart attack in the middle of this crisis.”

Krizelle RN headshot

Krizelle, RN

“I have been an ICU RN for about 3 years now. As an ICU nurse I expected that I was going to be affected by the current pandemic. I knew eventually I was going to take care of patients who were critically ill due to the virus.

I was wrong and I underestimated it. Not only did it affect me greatly as a nurse, but it also tested my judgement, values, and beliefs as a human being.

My dad passed away due to a heart attack in the middle of this crisis. He was in the ICU for a couple of days prior to passing away. It was tough having a family member sick in the hospital (Covid-19 related or not) where you could not even see or visit them due to visiting restrictions and precautions.

As a nurse, I understood it, but as a person it was hard to deal with. I woke up the first morning crying because I could not stand the reality that my dad was in the ICU alone. No one to hold his hands. No one to tell him that it will be okay.

Now, working directly and caring for patients positive of Covid-19, my heart hurts knowing that these patients are away from their loved ones. It's scary and overwhelming to say the least. It also shows how we as nurses and other healthcare staff are so essential to these patients. No, not necessarily our abilities to manage their drips or administer medications. But more so our presence...the ability to BE THERE with the patients and to provide comfort and compassion in their darkest moments. That’s what gives me the most pride when it comes to being a nurse.”

“I’ve learned nursing is truly a vocation.”

mary carson | national nurses week

Mary Carson, RN

“As a (middle) school nurse, I’m usually at my desk by 7:30 each morning to see kids for a variety of reasons: daily medications, anxiety, tending to bumps and bruises. All of that has come to a screeching halt due to Covid-19. Now, I pretty much worry about those kids from my house! I touch base with the families and reassure them that I'm available through email and phone calls.

My middle schoolers are blunt, honest, and smart; they challenge us, they ask questions, they want to know what’s happening. As a nurse, part of your role is also being an educator. So when all of this first started, I had to be really mindful of the facts. It’s a delicate balance to mine the resources and information coming at you, all the while trying to make sure kids are at peace and not getting anxious.

It's been an adjustment to be ‘at the ready’ 24/7 working from home, while also trying to take care of my own family. The number one thing all of us healthcare providers are trying to do is stay home out of respect for our fellow frontline workers. Both my brother-in-law and sister are frontline workers, and knowing what they’re going through, I feel it’s my obligation to honor them.

This year, the meaning of National Nurses week has definitely deepened. Through the years, I’ve learned nursing is truly a vocation — it’s not something where you can simply clock in and then go home and separate yourself from it. Nursing is in the core of who I am and I couldn’t imagine being in another profession. I love the connection with the families I work with, and have also really come to love that both my mom and sister are nurses and we get to share stories and help each other work through difficult experiences. This year more than ever, I’m truly proud to say I’m a nurse.”

“I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

jayme driver | national nurses week

Jayme Driver, BSN, BA, RN

“This year, National Nurses Week means so much more to me and all my colleagues as we go to work day in and day out not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if and when the surge is going to hit. The outpouring of respect, thanks, and appreciation we have gotten since the beginning of this has melted our hearts and truly makes our jobs so much better during these trying times.

Day to day has become strange to say the least. We are waiting on a surge that may not come. The whole census is down and we are struggling with being dressed head to toe in the hottest PPE known to man for 12-hour shifts. Breathing is hard in our N95 masks and our hands are raw from scrubbing. Our patients are sick and we are mentally exhausted. However, I wouldn’t change it for anything knowing we are here on the front lines caring for and protecting our community.”

“It took a deadly virus to get people to appreciate us.”

tedah chan | national nurses week

Tedah, ERT, RN-certification expected June 2020

“Things at work are far more hectic, and we as nurses have to exercise more caution than ever. We all have families, and some of us are immunocompromised or have a loved one at home who is. We are always scared of contracting Covid because we see how it can affect people at such a fast and deteriorating rate. With a strict no-visitor policy in place, it breaks our hearts to have a patient dying alone during a time like this. We end up staying with the patient until they pass so they don't feel alone. So much has changed because of Covid and it's scary to think that this can last much longer than we expected. It comes in waves, so we can’t really predict when it will get busy or slow.

National Nurses Week does have a bit more meaning this year. I feel like we are being more appreciated. Although we did get some recognition in previous years, it's sad to say that it took a deadly virus to get people to appreciate us and realize the type of work we do every day. In my community, the amount of support and acknowledgement that we’ve received is just unbelievable. Our city set up a parade for us outside of our hospital that consisted of police, EMT, firefighters, the mayor, etc. It was such a touching moment knowing that they have our back and appreciate us during this tough time.”

“Let's stand tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty.”

ermina besario | national nurses week

Ermina Besario Tagaan, RN

"What is it like to be a nurse today? Well, with 40 years of varied NSG field experience under my belt, I had my eye on retirement and thought my career was mostly behind me. Then, Covid-19 happened. Now I'm once again rejuvenated and tested to function like the rest of the younger generation full of energy, working grueling 12-hour shifts to battle the culprit of the health disaster and economic downfall we're facing.

Physically exhausted and emotionally battered from having to separate from my family during this pandemic, I was faced with the dilemma of just quitting or enduring the hazards of being a warrior. I opted to stay wounded in this war because my conscience says this is the time when we as nurses are needed the most. When this drama comes to an end, someday I can shout and yell with the rest, "Been there, done that!"

As we continue to play the vital role of saving lives, nurses are undoubtedly justifying the “2020 Year of the Nurse” celebration as planned before we got hit by this catastrophe. Nurses comprise more than 50% of the frontline workers around the world helping to flatten this pandemic curve. Let's stand tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty, because the unwavering support of the people who coined the word HEROES for us keep us alive and kicking..."

“We don't know when this game will finish.”

Joanna Nela Perez headshot

Joanna Nela Perez, RN

“As a nurse, the past two months have been filled with extreme anxiety. When the pandemic first started, I wanted to do everything in my power to do more, to volunteer at testing sites and do extra hours at work...until the reality of the national PPE shortage sunk in.

You can't win a fight without the proper gear. When I heard about Oscar Valera, an amazing New Jersey teacher who is using his 3D printer to create face shields for healthcare workers, I reached out and was so happy to secure a donation from him for our staff. I am truly so grateful for Oscar and all the selfless people who are helping healthcare workers however they can.

Unfortunately, lots of hospital staff members are still battling Covid-19 with limited PPE. Doctors and nurses are being asked to reuse their N95 masks. At this point, there isn't enough PPE and the masks are being sent out to be cleaned by UV lighting. Most of our floors were understaffed before the pandemic, which is creating a lot of anxiety for the nurses on how we can win this fight. For two months, it's been a struggle to fall asleep each night despite my exhaustion, worrying about how I can beat the pandemic on my next shift.

It feels like a game at times, one where each week that passes without getting the virus feels like a level completed. The thing is, we don't know when this game will finish, or when our lives can return to normal again. I haven't seen my niece and nephew since all this started. The positive side is that it has humbled me to cherish all the little things in life and to be grateful for all that I do have. When all of this is over, I won't take a hug from a family member for granted!”

Final Thoughts

Once again, from all of us here at Berxi, we thank you for the devotion you’ve shown your patients and the dedication you’ve given to your profession.

For tips on growing and protecting your career, follow us @myBerxi

Berxi is not affiliated with any of the featured nurses. All views expressed here and elsewhere are their own.

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Last updated on Jan 09, 2024.

Originally published on May 05, 2020.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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