2020 was the International Year of the Nurse (as designated by the World Health Organization), and what a year it was! Although we faced unexpected and difficult circumstances, I can honestly say that the nursing community at Rush Copley Medical Center is stronger than ever. All the fears, uncertainties and heartbreak of the past year resulted in stronger teams and a level of resilience none of us ever imagined possible.
The beginning of the year brought many challenges, especially the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic. With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, we had to think and act quickly to care for the huge influx of patients with an illness no one knew anything about. The fear and anxiety were overwhelming. The unknowns were terrifying. But as a nursing team, we came together and supported each other every step of the way.
Safety and employee wellness became priorities. Staff were trained as coaches to help ensure their co-workers’ proper use of personal protective equipment, education modules were created, seminars were offered, and nurse-to-patient ratios were adjusted. Nursing teams were cross-trained to work in other units to assist with staffing shortages.
Working alongside the incident command teams that were created, the Nurse Executive Council played an instrumental role in developing strategies to improve processes and maintain positive patient outcomes. In response to our concerns, the team responsible for Epic, our electronic medical record, activated surge charting to allow nurses to focus more on direct patient care. Our pharmacy team reduced the time nurses would work alongside patients with COVID-19, and their risk of catching the disease, by shortening the list of medications requiring bedside co-signatures. Alternate care areas were opened, labor pools were created to assist in busy areas, and the list goes on.
Getting back up together
So many initiatives were created, so much innovation was displayed — all of it made possible by teamwork. When faced with the most difficult of circumstances, Rush Copley nurses rose up stronger than before. When we saw a peer breaking down, we stepped in to offer emotional support.
I remember one time when a nurse walked out of a room after her patient passed and broke down crying in the middle of the hallway. The staff on the unit all came together to offer emotional support and affirmations to assure her that she did all she could to help her patient. That day we cried together, and we got back up together.
When our peers got sick, we picked up extra shifts, came in early and stayed late. Through personal and organizational support, we took care of each other day in and day out. Additional wellness rooms were created, wellness websites and programs were launched, and Rush made counseling services available 24/7. These resources enabled us to keep pushing forward.
I am so proud to be part of the Rush Copley family. In more than a decade as a nurse I have never witnessed stronger teamwork and resilience. We have all laughed and cried together. We have seen and experienced things we never thought we would see. We have been through the darkest of hours with our patients and their families and did it all with dignity, love and compassion. We were knocked down together and we got back up together.
To every single nurse at Rush Copley, thank you for your hard work, dedication, strength and perseverance. I am so proud of you all!
2020 wasn’t the year we expected, but the World Health Organization and American Nurses Association have extended the celebration of the Year of the Nurse to include 2021. Here’s to a new Year of the Nurse filled with positivity, innovations and beautiful moments to be shared together.
“To do what nobody else will do, in a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through, THAT is to be a nurse.” — Rawsi Williams.