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“My nurses made me feel safe and told me I was strong”: A tribute to nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic

 
A nurse at The Ottawa Hospital

This year, as we celebrate National Nursing Week, we have a lot to reflect on. It has been a profound experience for nurses at The Ottawa Hospital who, day by day, throughout the pandemic, have continued to provide patients with world-class, compassionate care .

Over the past year, many of our nurses have shared their stories on news networks, in newspapers, in videos, amongst their peers and with their teams. With each story, there comes the acknowledgement of how working together and supporting each other has been the backbone of their resilience and ability to remain dedicated to their patients at The Ottawa Hospital.

Celebrating nursing teams has been an event for many years at our hospital through the annual Team Nursing Award, where patients or family members nominate a team of nurses who best exemplify our values of Compassion, Commitment to Quality, Working Together and Respect for the Individual.

“Like a family away from family”

This year, some nurses wondered whether there would be any nominations forthcoming. It is difficult to establish human connections with patients when you’re wearing a mask that hinders your ability to expressively convey joy, empathy, compassion and understanding, or wearing personal protective equipment that limits your opportunity to physically reach out to reassure and provide comfort.

Additionally, it is difficult to establish relationships with family members when brief update phone calls are the only means of communicating and when, often, the main message they receive is, no you cannot come in to see your loved one.

And yet, when the call for nominations went out, many patients and their families responded. . They wrote inspiring stories about nurses providing skilled and compassionate care despite the restrictions.

“Nurses not only cared for my mother but provided peace of mind and encouragement for my family and me during a highly stressful and difficult experience.”

The overarching theme of each submission was the sense that, even though they could not be there, families remained confident that their loved one was receiving individualized care and support. Small touches like playing a patient’s favourite music or ensuring the right sleeping routines were in place allowed family members to feel more confident.

One family member summed up that feeling by saying that the nursing team “was like a family away from family.” Another family member wrote that the “nurses not only cared for my mother but provided peace of mind and encouragement for my family and me during a highly stressful and difficult experience.”

Updating families daily, answering questions, following up and ensuring that ‘care packages’ were delivered helped patients to feel that their family was connected and part of the team even though they could not be there.

“Although my family was not there, I didn’t feel alone.”

In their submissions, patients described the gratitude they felt towards the nurses for being continuously sensitive to their feeling of isolation because family could not visit. Filling in those gaps of loneliness with spontaneous visits, sharing stories, recommending TV shows to binge watch, as well as answering questions, consistently monitoring progress and knowing when to intervene helped patients feel safe and connected despite the lack of family presence.

As one patient summed up, “When the time came that I was rushed into the OR, my nurses made me feel safe and told me I was strong and, although my family was not there, I didn’t feel alone.”

National Nursing Week is a celebration of nurses as well as a recognition of the birth of Florence Nightingale who is often referred to as the founder of modern nursing. Her foundational premise in providing patient care is highlighted in the following quote: For the sick, it is important to have the best.

Nurses at The Ottawa Hospital are the best!

 
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