KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With National Nurses Week just wrapping up, hospitals have spent the time acknowledging the hard work and dedication that goes into the career. Local nurses, who endure the daily stress of nursing in some of the most difficult situations, open up about their challenges. 

A career in nursing is a calling.

“I wanted to take care of people. I’ve always had a passion for caring for people. My mother is a nurse. I come from a long line of passionate people who care for others,” nurse Michelle Lail said.

These nurses at Knoxville Center for Behavioral Medicine took a moment to have a little fun for Nurses Week, dressing up for one of their spirit days, Western Day.

“This is a different kind of nursing care. This is one that has a lot more emotional wear on us. We’re dealing with people’s behaviors, people who want to die. They’re very healthy people. They bring to us the problems in their life, their trauma. And so, we really need to pull together as nurses and have our own good interventions for ourselves to take care of ourselves are good coping mechanisms,” Libby Peterson said.

That gratitude is what keeps these nurses going as they care for people with psychiatric, emotional and addictive disorders. Their patients made them dozens of greeting cards.

“Keep the light and stay bright. God bless nurses and the profession at its best. Stay true, your patient,” Peterson said.

“As I was reading through these, they really made me smile,” she said.

The patients expressed how the team touches them.

“There is a great need for care in this area. If you drive down any street in Knoxville, specifically downtown, you will see so many homeless people. You see a great need for care in this area and something just spoke to me that there was a need, and I saw this facility open up and I decided why not,” Lail said.

Many of these nurses worked through the COVID pandemic and with those struggling with their mental health. It is a tough journey.

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“It is stressful. It is stressful. There is a lot. It is hard. It is hard but you keep coming back. Keep coming back. Girl, I keep coming back because you never know. You make a difference,” Lail said in tears.

They do keep coming back because they see the good days their patients have.

“The best part of being a nurse is going home at the end of the day and knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life,” Lail said.

Each keeps an open mind as they work to get their patients the care they need.

Knoxville Center for Behavioral Health opened in April 2022. The center also cares for geriatric patients at its Serenity Unit, providing care for those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and memory loss.