Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has often felt like we are riding a never-ending roller coaster, with too many ups and downs to count—the waves of new cases that rush in and then seem to ebb like the tides, the joy when the vaccines were approved and we began putting shots into arms, the discouraging news of the more contagious delta variant spreading throughout our communities. While the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 at our hospitals recently began to decrease, the specter of this pandemic still looms large over much of what we do.
Our patients, our colleagues, and the impact we make as nurses bring us back each day.”
Over the past year and a half (plus), we have been through a lot as nurses—personally and professionally. Our patients, our colleagues, and the impact we make as nurses bring us back each day. But what fills our cups? I believe that, no matter what is thrown at us, when you look closely, magical moments are revealed—quiet, meaningful interactions with patients, families, and care teams, and the times when nurses must lean into their expertise and skill to solve a problem or deliver care. These are the moments that few see but that motivate you to return tomorrow to do it all again.
When I round at each of the JHM hospitals and I glimpse one of these magical moments, it reaffirms my dedication to this profession and to our incredible nursing staff. But more often, I hear about our nurses’ extraordinary actions from patients, family members, and colleagues.
Recently, I heard the incredible story of multiple care teams at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center that came together to provide unmatched, compassionate care for a family that was in a car accident and lost their newborn baby. Working across divisions—the ED, OB, and OR—these nurses and care teams led with their hearts, understanding that care often extends beyond the clinical sense of the word and creating a special memory for this family during a tragic time.
At Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, I heard about the amazing PICU staff that facilitated a wedding for a couple in their child’s hospital room, showing incredible compassion and empathy during a very challenging time for this family. Similarly, our Suburban Hospital leadership team, during the first pandemic surge, led an effort to escort patients who passed from COVID-19 to the morgue truck outside, to spare our front-line staff from one more stressful event. Compassion and teamwork were demonstrated at every level of the organization.
Reading the stories of our DAISY Award winners provides another glimpse into some of these magical moments. Akila Benson, from Howard County General Hospital, received a DAISY Award for being a strong advocate for her patients by recognizing their unique needs and taking special care to make them feel comfortable and heard, and to ease their pain. The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s winner in March, Donatta Opiew, was recognized by a colleague for the seemingly “little things” she consistently does for her patients—like brushing their hair and getting them up to walk—that bring them a sense of comfort and dignity while under her care.
And then there is Sibley Memorial Hospital’s nursing professional development and education team, which was honored with the DAISY Team Award for educating nursing staff throughout the hospital during the pandemic—over days, nights, and even weekends—about caring for different patient populations, treating more acute patients, and staying safe by wearing the proper personal protective equipment.
These are just a few examples of what we know is happening across our hospitals each and every day. In the midst of this pandemic and our busy lives, it is important to remember stories such as these and realize that THIS is why we are here. When clinical excellence meets compassionate care, it has the power to bring light to even the darkest days.
Deborah Baker, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, is senior vice president for nursing for the Johns Hopkins Health System. She also serves as vice president of nursing and patient care services for The Johns Hopkins Hospital.