National Nurses Week begins today: ‘Our nurses are truly…heroes’

Today is the start of National Nurses Week.

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Today is the start of National Nurses Week.

Today is the start of National Nurses Week

Some area nurses have left their families to stay in nursing homes so they don’t infect their patients with the coronavirus. Others have risked their own lives as they care for patients with COVID-19 in local hospitals.

And some nurses have provided a caring touch through telehealth video calls with concerned patients afraid to visit a doctor’s office or the hospital.

Those are just a few of the stories about nurses who are on the front lines during this pandemic and who are celebrated today as part of National Nurses Week.

“As they say ‘this is God’s work,’ nurses come to work to help the less fortunate. Our nurses are really and truly in my eyes heroes,” said Frank Beel, a system chief nursing officer with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “They’ve been coming to work everyday during this pandemic. It’s like 9/11, the police officers, firemen, nurses and first responders ran toward the burning building trying to save lives, now our nurses are once again doing that during this pandemic.”

At least 9,000 front-line nurses and other medical workers in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, the woman considered to be the mother of modern nursing.

Many experts told the Dayton Daily News that Nightingale, who affected 19th and 20th century policies around proper medical care, would be proud of the effort turned in by today’s nurses.

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Beel said nursing is a higher calling, noting that “nurses and other healthcare professionals have always been among the country’s bravest heroes, and that’s never been more apparent than during COVID-19 crisis.”

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Peggy Mark, the chief nursing officer at Premier Health, echoed those sentiments, and said the country should know how much nurses are giving of themselves at the bedsides of the ill and on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“This is probably the first time in many nurses’ careers that they have faced such an unknown,” Mark said. “We haven’t experienced a pandemic like this before. Nurses from the very beginning of the pandemic have shown tremendous courage.”

Mark said nurses are dealing with the coronavirus even though there is no certain data on how quickly it spreads or how it spreads exactly.

“They as nurses need to be physically in contact with a patient and they will be exposed to whatever that patient brings to them,” Mark said. “Nursing as a whole is a very collaborative group, through the pandemic, relationships have grown stronger. The frontline nurse has shown a tremendous amount of courage and bravery. Nurse meet the challenges every step of the way.”

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There are more than 20,000 registered nurses in Ohio, but that number doesn’t include the thousands of others who work in nursing homes or in telehealth.

Brenda Koeller is the manager of Clinical Call Center Operations at CareSource, and she oversees the nurse advice line. What many people don’t see is the nursing care given in the “new normal area,” which involves telehealth but still is chock full of pressure and stress when it comes to helping patients during the pandemic.

“Daily, I’ve been tracking the calls specifically for COVID-19 since Jan. 26 when we got our first call,” Koeller said. “We are seeing the curve go down so that is encouraging. We are here answering calls 24/7, 365 days a year. We never close and we are a staff of all registered nurses.”

Koeller said the unique approach to nursing is way more than a desk job and entails assisting everything from dealing with a sick child to a massive heart attack.

“Especially now with the pandemic are nurses will transfer somebody to a telehealth doctor if needed,” she said. “The primary reason we are here is to help offer people self-care and to direct them to the most appropriate level of care. This is a different type of nursing but like I said most of them have a critical care background and they are used to the stress.”

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Dr. Daniel Swagerty, the Widows Home of Dayton medical director and the chair of Geriatrics at the Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University, says that the nursing staff at Widows Home has been consistently professional and personally engaging with the residents and one another despite the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is also worth noting that due to the efforts of the entire staff, the Widows Home has had no positive COVID-19 infections among the staff or residents,” Swagerty said. “We have a very long tradition of service, nearly 150 years, to our community, with the credit due many people but most of all our nurses.”

He added that nurses serve day after day, week after week and year after year to provide exceptional service to a vulnerable and frail community of disabled and aged nursing home residents.

“We are a private, nonprofit, independent facility which serves the entire Dayton community with a particular focus on East Dayton,” Swagerty said. “For many of our residents, our facility offers them for the first time in their lives real security in terms of food, housing , medication , and access to healthcare.”

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The COVID CareLine is a new, toll-free number and emotional support call service created by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Behavioral health professionals will staff the CareLine from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week. They will offer confidential support in times of personal crisis when individuals may be struggling to cope with current challenges in their lives. After 8 p.m., the CareLine will forward to the National Suicide Prevention Helpline, allowing those calling to have access to someone 24 hours/day. 1-800-720-9616.

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