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In the Year of the Nurse, front lines take on pandemic

In a short video, nurses from Stanford Health Care speak candidly about what the past months in the pandemic have been like and what it means to be a nurse.

The World Health Organization named 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife; and as the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the globe, that designation took on special significance.

Nurses joined the front lines of a battle against a largely unknown, extremely contagious and often deadly disease, tasked with caring for and comforting patients under stressful and oft-changing circumstances.

Most of their hard work is done out of the public eye; but in this six-minute video, nurses from Stanford Health Care stepped forward to speak candidly about their experiences caring for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic and what it means to them to be a nurse.

"What fills me with pride is that when people were scared, and we did not know what was going on, nurses were still here every single day, making sure patients were safe, even if they didn't know what that meant for them," Katie Stephens, DNP, RN, director of nursing excellence and magnet programs, says in the video.

Stanford Health Care nurses discuss life during the pandemic and what it means to be a nurse.

Facing unprecedented challenges

COVID-19 presented an array of unprecedented challenges for nurses, from working through layers of personal protective equipment to caring for patients who, for safety reasons, could only see family members on a limited basis.

"We did not really know what to expect, when COVID first emerged," says Julie Tisnado, MSN, RN, associate chief nursing officer, ambulatory and ancillary services. "We had to actually stop and figure out how to address this pandemic."

Dale Beatty, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer at Stanford Health Care, credited his team for their effective response to COVID challenges. "I sit here, 34 years into a career, but the experts are those who are at the bedside delivering care. And they have to be unleashed, so their knowledge can be really expanded upon," he says.

In the video, nurses acknowledge feelings of fear and anxiety, and discuss how they banded together to care for their patients and support each other.

"Being in the PPE all the time, masks all the time, it's been stressful; it's been disconcerting," says Brian Washington, BSN, RN, a clinical nurse. "But I feel like we're pulling together as a team, and boosting each other up."

In addition to COVID-19, the year also put a spotlight on social injustices and systemic racism in the United States. Sharon Hampton, PhD, RN, talks in the video about working with colleagues at Stanford to address these problems.

"We've discussed our ethical and moral responsibilities to deal with this crisis," says Hampton, who is director of clinical operations. "Nursing is really in this position to help the public understand and to advocate."

A different breed of person

Hampton points out that nursing is one of the world's most trusted professions; and as you watch these consummate professionals reflect on a demanding year, you understand why.

"That person in medicine is just a different breed of person, and they can deal with those stressful situations," Washington says. "And if we're surviving and thriving and helping each other, I think there's no way we can't come out stronger."

Liz Borqueta, MSN, RN, program manager for nursing excellence and magnet programs, puts it succinctly.

"We care," she says. "That's why we're here."

Image from Stanford Health Care Nursing video

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