By Marie McAden
In the early days of the pandemic when health officials were struggling to understand the deadly novel coronavirus, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses at Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) put aside their fears to care for a ward full of critically ill patients isolated from their loved ones.
What was already a high-pressure environment took on epic intensity as protocols and treatment plans changed daily with the rising number of COVID-19 deaths. Even as they coped with a heavy workload and the anxiety of infecting their own families, the nurses demonstrated extraordinary compassion for patients and their families, taking time to use FaceTime to make them feel connected.
To add to their burden, the RNs had to don full personal protective equipment (PPE) to care for the COVID patients.
“Until you have worn an N95 mask and shield, a plastic gown and other safety gear for 12 hours, you will never understand the physical exhaustion involved in the process,” BMH Director of Critical Care Diane Razo said. “The masks left indentations and raised red areas on their faces. Sores formed on their ears from the elastic bands.”
But it was the emotional toll that left the most scars.
“The burden of death was upon their shoulders as they became the family of the patient so they would not die alone,” Razo said. “You can’t imagine what it is like to place patients into body bags – sometimes two or three times a day.”
For their dedication and teamwork throughout the extended crisis, last week the ICU nurses were awarded the DAISY Award for Exceptional Nurses, a prestigious national honor reserved for RNs who go the extra mile to care for patients and their families.
“Across the nation, many ICU nurses and units fell apart,” said Razo, who nominated her nursing staff for the award. “Yet today, if you look into our unit, you will see the same nurses that were here at the beginning, still advocating and caring for our patients. It speaks volumes about their resilience.”
This week, 25 ICU nurses were presented with the award at a surprise ceremony held at the hospital. A plaque was placed in the unit and each nurse received a DAISY lapel pin.
Also honored with a DAISY Award last week was 3T charge nurse Johnice Hawkins, who was nominated by four members of her nursing staff.
“From my very first shift on 3T, it was clear to me that Johnice is a different kind of nurse,” Mary Margaret Achurch wrote in her nomination. “She is exactly what you’d hope a nurse would be – and then multiply it by a thousand.”
In addition to serving as an example for the nurses in her charge, Hawkins is happy to assist her staff even while caring for her own patients, the nurses said.
“This is a charge nurse that goes above and beyond for everyone,” RN Hanna Mont said. “She never backs down from a challenge and is always willing to lend a hand.”
At the surprise ceremony, Hawkins received a hand-carved sculpture titled “A Healer’s Touch” along with a bouquet of daisies.
Created in 1999 by a Seattle couple as a way to honor the nurses who took care of their dying son, the DAISY Award has since been adopted by healthcare facilities all over the world. Anyone can nominate a Beaufort Memorial nurse for the honor. Applications are available throughout the hospital.
Top photo: Members of the Beaufort Memorial ICU nursing team celebrate their Daisy Award, a prestigious national honor reserved for RNs who go the extra mile to care for patients and their families. Submitted photo.