By J.C. Amodea
Today, more than ever, we have experienced the impact of nurses worldwide. While citizens scramble to self-protect with face coverings, nurses place themselves in harm’s way every day, on every shift. Who has that type of courage and grit?
Celebrating their dedication, May 6 is set aside as National Nurses Day, marked annually on the birthday of the English nurse, Florence Nightingale, recognized as the founder of nursing. In 1990, the American Nurses Association declared a week-long celebration, declaring National Nurses Week to extend to May 12.
We chatted with two local nurses – one in the early years and the other in the later years of their career.
How do nurses view their jobs?
Alyssa LeClair has worked at Solaris Senior Living of North Naples, Long Term Care/Skilled Nursing Facility, and always knew nursing would be her profession. Inspired by her mother, a nurse, she feels that she makes a difference in the lives of the geriatric residents under her care.
“Many view nursing homes in a negative light, but some really love it and prefer to be there. Many elderly persons live with their adult children who leave them home while they go to work, and they get so lonely. In a long-term care facility, they have more social interaction, make friends and participate in activities. We see them flourish and love it at Solaris Senior Living,” says LeClair.
“For those without family or whose family cannot visit frequently, we are there for them every day. We get to know them and almost become like family to them. We are their number one contact, spending more time with them than anyone else. We are there for them from smiled-filled ‘good mornings’ to whispered ‘good nights.’”
LeClair says that nurses celebrate when they make progress in therapy, have a birthday or are independently able to complete a task for the first time since a stroke or accident.
“We encourage them, support them, guide them, and provide education to help them better understand their care. Our residents are everything to us and we really do everything we can to go above and beyond for them,” she added.
Her greatest challenge is going through a resident’s passing. Since close relationships develop during routine daily care, nursing becomes an emotional roller coaster.
“I find comfort in knowing that I was able to keep that person comfortable and was there for them in their last moments. We offer a lot of support to their family members as well. People are understandably extremely emotional during that time, so taking the time to listen first, helps. Before I speak, I listen to what they have to say,” LeClair explained.
“I acknowledge their feelings, then provide education on the situation. It is challenging to bear the weight of those feelings and then have to make critical decisions regarding their loved one’s life; it can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s definitely important to meet the emotional needs of everyone involved so they can make informed decisions and feel good about the decisions they’ve made. I try to be very clear and provide as much information as they want or need.”
How has the pandemic effected nurses?
A Naples critical care nurse, who worked at NCH for 27 years, never called in sick, and always did her job, hit the wall when circumstances faced by many on the front lines of the current pandemic are forced to make hard decisions to ensure their own safety and that of their family.
Working on an as-needed basis, Jana Boger is able to pursue her second love – music. A tuba player, she performs with her pianist husband as “Sounds of Yesteryear.”
When assignments led to care for COVID-19 patients for whom she initially treated without protection as they were not yet diagnosed, Boger was forced to question her job. Over 65 and considered at-risk, Boger has an 80-year-old husband who had cancer three times, has chronic kidney disease and a seizure disorder.
“I can’t expect to get a change of assignments and not get assigned to COVID patients just because I’m over 65. So, for my safety and my husband’s safety, I resigned from my position and retired. When a vaccine is available, I would love to return to the work I miss,” she said.
For Boger, challenges call for striking a balance with various roles. Dealing with the temperaments of violent patients and those with personality disorders who oftentimes while going through substance abuse withdrawal, will physically and emotionally attack their nurse requites stamina and patience.
In the role of patient advocate, nurses act as a liaison between pharmacy, lab, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, social services, doctors and sometimes the family, who oftentimes don’t understand what nurses are doing behind computers.
“They do not delegate one spokesperson for the patient and interrupt while nurses are trying to maneuver through complex patient orders and spot conflicts. Their anxiety is real and they are well-meaning, and you get that, but you also hope that the family understands that they are not helping the patient by breaking the nurse’s concentration,” Boger says.
However, nursing is very rewarding. Boger says that facing complex patient loads gives you a feeling like you did something to be proud of.
“Nursing is a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. You get to help people when they are most in need of help; it makes you feel so useful and worthwhile. Every day, you have an opportunity to make someone else have a better day. And, it is not only the patient but also the family, who are worried to death, who really appreciate you,” she says.
Boger’s most memorable moments are witnessing those who have a strong faith in God accept death with a true belief that heaven awaits them.
“They have no fear. One patient said, ‘I’ve been practicing my whole life for this moment, and I’m ready now.’ I could cry right now think about it. The love that patient had for his family was so deep, as was the love they had for him. Different ethnic backgrounds make people behave differently toward their dying loved ones. The Cuban people are especially caring and loving,” Boger says.
Also privileged to be on the other side of a patient bedside, when performing music at area senior facilities, Boger gets to see another side of patients.
“It has been a wonderful contrast to see the same demographic of persons who may be going through difficult health challenges, well, happy and at their best with music. It really balances it out,” she added.
So, Happy National Nurses Day and Week to all those who are or were nurses. We appreciate your sacrifice and wish you the best for your health and well-being during this time. Be sure to thank a nurse and let them know just how much they mean to our society!