NORWAY — In honor of International Nurses Week, Stephens Memorial Hospital has used the last several days to shine a light of appreciation on its entire nursing staff. Given the strains put on frontline health workers over the last year as they uniformly fought against the pandemic, it is particularly important in 2021 to thank them.
“It’s been a tradition for many years to celebrate the week,” said Margaret Burns, RN PhD and SMH’s Chief Nursing Officer. “I’ve been at the hospital for six years and it’s near and dear to my heart. We have expanded a bit beyond nurses to the whole nursing staff.”
The celebration began last Thursday, with the gift of a lantern handed out to the 250 employees that make up the hospital’s nursing department.
On Monday the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses was presented to to Kara Merrill Frost, RN, who works in SMH’s medical surgical unit.
The Daisy Award was started eleven years ago by a California family who lost their son to an autoimmune disease, as a way to honor the nurses who cared for him around the clock during his final two month stay in the hospital.
Frost was nominated by two of her colleagues, who wrote: “Kara identified a patient who needed extra teaching regarding understanding and management of his diabetes. She involved the patient’s wife, pharmacy and even created laminated visuals that the patient was able to comprehend and repeat back accurately; involving doses of insulin, when to administer, blood glucose levels, and symptoms related to highs and lows. The patient and wife stated ‘Kara TRULY cares. She has taken the time to make sure we understand how to manage diabetes. Kara is so amazing with teaching us what we need to know in a way we can understand. Kara is an angel, so patient with us, making sure to answer all of our questions.”
“I am so honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Frost afterwards. “Being a nurse is so rewarding as it teaches you something new every day and allows me to provide quality care with compassion, to my patients and their families in their most vulnerable times. I always strive to provide the type of care I would want for my loved ones.
“I have always known I wanted to be a nurse. I am grateful for the support of my family, friends, and co-workers and I am beyond thankful for a career that allows me the opportunity to help others. However, most days, it’s my patients that help me.”
Burns spent the last few days making extended rounds throughout the hospital to personally thank the nursing staff and present them with chocolates. The hospital is also presenting a zoom workshop for staff to participate in.
“We are showing Compassionate Fatigue, which is apropos to what we’ve experienced with COVID,” Burns said. “It’s been a hard year, lots more PPE, people giving vaccinations. Whatever was requested, they [nurses] delivered care in a different way.
“We’ve been very judicious in taking care of each other. The support of the staff, directors really spent a lot of time caring for the people within the [work] environment.”
“Marty and her team put a reinvigorated emphasis on emphasis on rounding, making personal connections with the team across all shifts,” said SMH President Andrea Patstone. “There has been a greater investment in getting out on the floors and personally expressing gratitude, and trying to understand people’s needs, and responding.
“COVID has been a very dark time, but if there are any silver linings we might point out, one is the underscoring of how important it is to take care of the team and be in tune to their needs. We’ve always done that – and done it well – but now I think we’re doing it better than ever before.”
With part of the hospital being carved into a negative pressure wing to accommodate and care for COVID patients, separation of staff was a difficult transition hospital wide, changing the work flow for nurses and isolating those who worked in the COVID wing from their colleagues. The continual need to put on and take off personal protective equipment for the nurses in that wing and the emergency department has been especially draining.
“Being vigilant all the time with the PPE and making connections with patients when half your face is covered, it’s a much more challenging environment to be working in now,” Patstone said.
“I can’t say enough for my physician colleagues,” Burns added in closing. “They were primary and in the midst of it. We have a stellar group of physicians and wonderful chief medical officer to thank. It’s very much a team sport in terms of making sure all hands are on deck and everyone understands where we go under the guidelines.”