Doctors and nurses share messages of love and appreciation for their fellow healthcare heroes.
“Rule number one, don’t upset the nurses” is the opening to my orientation for a new group of housestaff as the attending physician in the medical intensive care unit, “…because they are the ones who actually care for the patients.”
The “MICU” is not a glamourous place. We do not perform life-saving surgeries or cure cancer. You will not see our unit as the focus of any medical television reality or drama series that tend to focus on emergency medicine and surgical cases. Despite this, our MICU team oversees the sickest and most medically complex patients in the hospital at often their most vulnerable times. Not infrequently the care we provide is focused at the end of life, as we help patients and their families cope with worse-case scenarios, bad news and devastating loss.
In comparison to caring for a patient recovering from heart surgery, treating a patient with low oxygen levels due to a pneumonia sounds quite frankly, boring. But viral pneumonia due to the novel coronavirus is the reigning diagnosis in hospitals throughout the United States, and the world at the moment. Suddenly the expertise of the MICU team was sought ought by other critical care units and hospital ward teams preparing to care for the influx of patients with this awful virus.
Over the past several weeks, I have watched our MICU nurses don and doff multiple layers of masks, gowns, goggles and gloves, train their colleagues from neighboring units and participate in team nursing so that they can extend their expertise and adapt to the surge of patients admitted with coronavirus. They learned new protocols, procedures, medications and have shown an inspiring level of resilience and kept morale high by perpetuating a collaborative spirit on the unit. All the while, they manage to maintain a level of nursing excellence expected of Jefferson, a Magnet recognized institution.
There is no question that our nurses spend the most time with our patients, they take care of the patients. They consistently put themselves at risk in the MICU where nearly all the patients are infected with coronavirus. These are nurses with husbands, wives, partners, children and parents who they fear risking exposure. They hold the hands of their patients, pray with families on videochat, and cry with each other. Before patients are put on the ventilator, they somehow reassure them and muster up some words when asked “Am I going to die?”
Our nurses have supported each other by sponsoring meals for the unit, donating money to charities, and one nurse on the unit bought every single colleague a cup of coffee when the neighboring Starbucks finally reopened. A senior staff nurse and her partner sewed surgical hats for every nurse, physician and respiratory therapist on the unit. Another nurse returned to work 48 hours after losing her grandfather to coronavirus.
The medical intensive care unit is not a glamorous place, it is an ordinary place filled with extraordinary women and men, our nursing staff. Thank you for all you do for our patients, each other, and for the doctors you work alongside who love you!
F. Mae West, MD, MS, FACP
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Korman Respiratory Institute
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Happy Nurse’s Week to all of the amazing nurses and our associated staff at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia!
Working side-by-side with many of you for the last 16 years has increased my skills, strength, compassion and has inspired me in more ways than I can ever express.
Karen Merrigan BSN, RN, CNN
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
A healthcare worker that helped me in my time of need is Alana Cueto, MSN, RN, CNL. Nursing came to me later on in life. The rigors of nursing school weighing heavily, there were times that I felt overwhelmed. Alana was there every step of the way inspiring me. When I graduated from my program, Alana again was a source of wisdom and support while I prepared to take my boards. Currently, Alana is the President-elect of NAHN (National Association of Hispanic Nurses). She not only continues to inspire me, but countless others with her passion and drive.
Christina Machuca, BSN, RN
National Association of Hispanic Nurses
National Board of Directors
Nominating Committee Liaison