National Nurse Appreciation Week: Highlighting everyday heroes

Honoring Healthcare Heroes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — May 6 marks the beginning of the annual week where people across the nation honor the everyday heroes that work tirelessly to help save people’s lives — nurses.

Today marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, which is observed until May 12, the birthday of the trailblazing figure Florence Nightingale, who is credited as the founder of modern nursing.

While the important work nurses do should be recognized every day of the year, Nurse Appreciation Week this year, however, feels more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two local heroes on the frontlines against COVID-19 are University of Tennessee Medical Center trauma nurses Jill Carro and Keith Bessler.

Carro has worked at UT Medical for about 15 years and when it comes to overcoming obstacles made by COVID-19, she says the staff has felt very prepared; as UT Medical equips them with the tools and precautions to keep them and their patients safe.

Besides following hospital guidelines and wearing personal protective equipment, each day when she goes home, she makes sure to shower and leave her shoes off in the house to keep herself safe — a routine she has always done.

While she says they have been properly prepared and supported to take the virus on, the biggest challenge has been the visitors not being allowed to visit, nor be by their patients’ sides. This is something extremely difficult for nurses, who deeply value relationships and family bonds: “You don’t have that connection that you normally would with family and loved ones,” Carro says, “that’s been the most difficult part I think.”

Her colleague Bessler, who has held various positions at UT Medical, reiterates how difficult it has been to keep the patients and families apart.

“It’s really been hard on the family and the patients because you take somebody who’s been in a traumatic accident, or that’s required around-the-clock care, and now they’re on the floor by themselves,” Bessler says, “it’s hard to imagine what that’s like for them.”

To ease the pain of missing a loved one during a stressful time, medical staff have been connecting patients with their loved ones through FaceTime or phone calls. Though families cannot physically be there beside patients, for trauma nurses; being able to provide as much comfort for patients, along with keeping their families involved in the healthcare process and plan has been great and rewarding, says Bessler.

While their jobs can be tough, COVID-19 pandemic or not, they are passionate about what they do and seeing their patients rebound is the most rewarding part of their job.

A patient who suffered a traumatic injury, solely depending on the support and care of medical staff to doing a “complete 180” in regards to their health, making a great recovery from their care is gratifying feeling. Carro underlines that same satisfaction, noting building the relationships with patients is also fulfilling.

“When we send them to rehab and they come back and are walking more, or are walking independently and we see improvements,” adds Carro, “they come back, they remembers us and we remember them, and we have that bond.”

While both RNs have felt the resounding support from community members during these trying times, UT Medical helped make them feel extra appreciated on Wednesday, the start of National Nurse Appreciation Week: The nurses were treated to gifts and various types of free food.

While the health care team as a whole has constantly supported one another, Bessler is appreciative of the work UT Medical has done to make working with COVID-19 concerns “not as horrible.”

“The fact that everyone has come together to help make this process as manageable, ” Bessler says, “They just made it a whole lot easier to deal with so I have a lot of appreciation for them as well.”

For Carro, the RN has a deep appreciation for nurses in general that has been deeply rooted in her heart as her grandmother, mother and sister are all nurses. Beaming with pride, she says that nursing is a great profession and that she would not change it anything.

“The compassion that we have for each other as humans, and the work everybody is putting in, “Carro says, “I’m really proud of the profession I’m in–we’re really shining.”

Healthcare workers’ sacrifices shining bright through these unprecedented and unforeseen times.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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