For National Nurses Week, we reached out to four nurses at Chatham Hospital to discuss the profession and its challenges, to ask about COVID’s impact on them and whether — if they could do it all …
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For National Nurses Week, we reached out to four nurses at Chatham Hospital to discuss the profession and its challenges, to ask about COVID’s impact on them and whether — if they could do it all over again — they’d choose nursing.
The nurses include:
• Johnsie Hubble, who has been at Chatham Hospital for 37 years and a nurse for 39. An infection preventionist, she lives in Chapel Hill.
• Cheronn Foster, who lives in Ramseur, has been a nurse for three years and at Chatham Hospital for one year.
• Libdy Lopez, a nursing assistant.
• New nursing graduate Aubrey Adkins.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: While I was in high school, I had the opportunity to be what they called back then, a “candy striper.” This was based on the red striped uniform aprons we all wore to do that volunteer work. I worked in a Catholic hospital in Southern Pines and we worked with all types of patients: pediatric, geriatric, surgical and medical. Most of the registered nurses there were also nuns, but not all. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot doing that volunteer work. It was fun as well!
CHERONN FOSTER: Growing up I had the desire to be involved in medical missions, however, I have not been a lover of science or school. I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts with the intent of being a teacher. I substitute taught for three years and found it difficult to find a permanent job when new teachers were being let go left and right.
I then worked in accounting for about 15 years and was not being challenged or fulfilled by my job. About seven years ago I prayed for my passion to be revealed to me. By July that year I was enrolled in prerequisite classes for nursing and a nursing assistant certification course. I completed an Associate Degree, Nursing in March 2018 and Bachelor of Science in Nursing in December 2019 — so much for not loving school! I have, however, fallen in love with the field of healthcare.
AUBREY ADKINS: The desire to help people and be hands-on.
LIBDY LOPEZ: The drive to help others in need.
AUBREY ADKINS: Eye-opening! I learned a lot this past year. I learned a lot about personal protective equipment, time management, patience and how to calm a nervous patient down by providing them comfort and reassurance.
LIBDY LOPEZ: This past year was very overwhelming. Everything was so new and scary. It was definitely a good experience to see the COVID patients who made it out and go back to their families.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: Because we have had to learn as we go due to the challenges of a pandemic, we have had to keep changing guidelines and policies to best meet the issues the pandemic presented us with. We are still learning and changing to meet these challenges. It does not stop because we keep learning new information based on the current science!
CHERONN FOSTER: I moved last April from southwest Washington in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions to begin my career in maternity care. Visitor restrictions has been beneficial as I have been learning a new area of nursing. It has helped the focus to be on patient care.
LIBDY LOPEZ: Definitely COVID was the most challenging thing. Working in the hospital you were in the middle. You were there to give help, but we needed help too.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: Early on we had many struggles getting the personal protective equipment that we needed to care for COVID-19 patients, and though this has improved we still have items in short supply at times. We also have to make sure we keep sick staff out of the workplace and make sure we do not let persons infected with COVID-19 work. This meant starting a program to test all sick staff and to manage those exposed to COVID-19. Keeping our workplace safe has involved other departments that have done a lot of hard work as well. In my career, I think this pandemic is the biggest challenge I have faced, due to so many things being unknown and how fast things change.
CHERONN FOSTER: My greatest challenge has been living in a new place with no family or friends outside of work. The greatest challenge in my career has been balancing my natural tendency to focus on tasks, due to my years in business, and instead focus on care for the person and not the tasks to be completed.
AUBREY ADKINS: Watching people struggle with loneliness and distance during hospitalization.
AUBREY ADKINS: Watching all my patients improve, get better, and be discharged to home.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: The greatest reward this past year has been when staff thanks me for working to keep them safe in this pandemic. I have heard from many staff that they appreciate all my efforts in Infection Prevention and Employee Health to maintain a safe environment for our staff and our patients. During my career, I have also felt very rewarded when I knew we had, as a healthcare team, made a big difference in the life of a patient. That was something I saw often in the years I spent in Intensive Care and Emergency Care. It is a great feeling to know you have saved someone’s life or helped a child get through a traumatic event. It makes work very meaningful.
CHERONN FOSTER: My greatest reward has been finally being in a place in life to purchase a home. The greatest reward in my career has been seeing the utter joy on the faces of these families when bringing a new baby into the world. I also do not have children of my own, so it is a pleasure to have a part in the story of so many babies.
LIBDY LOPEZ: The best thing has been to see the COVID patients who made it out and get to go home to their families after months of being in the hospital. It was very rewarding to see our teamwork.
LIBDY LOPEZ: Life is too short! Enjoy it and live everyday like it is your last because one day will be your turn.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: One main lesson has been that we are all on this planet Earth together, and we are only as strong as the weakest link. With a pandemic, none of us are really completely safe from infection until we control the pandemic across the globe.
For me the most exciting thing to happen recently has been the COVID-19 vaccines. I was so excited to get my first vaccine in December. I feel great now and am so glad I made the decision to get the vaccine! Does that mean I never had any doubts or fears about getting the vaccine? No. But I also saw so most of our doctors getting the vaccine, and they would not do that if it were not safe.
Also, I read the science about how the vaccine worked and felt very comfortable with that process. Finally, I knew this was the best way to keep my family and friends safe, and myself too! So I am very hopeful about the future and finding a way forward through vaccination.
CHERONN FOSTER: I have been so self-sufficient in my life that this year has taught me to know and acknowledge my limitations. Those limitations have been in my personal and professional life. I am no longer afraid to ask for help when needed. Patients trust that nurses are going to do everything possible to help them, and being able to ask for help when needed is part of doing what is best for my patients.
AUBREY ADKINS: Be transparent but comforting with communication between patients and healthcare providers. You want to be honest about what is going on while comforting the patient.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: Being a nurse is very rewarding. But working as a nurse is also challenging and a career in which you constantly have to learn new things. In healthcare, things change constantly based on the science and new studies that are done. Nurses are a big part of patient care and we have to keep learning and changing our practices to provide the best care for our patients.
CHERONN FOSTER: As much as we are there for our patients and advocate for their care, we have limitations. A nursing license is not a medical license, I still have to answer to the provider and the nursing board if it came to that. We advocate behind the scenes, but ultimately, we need to be a team with the provider when with a patient so the advocating may not be visible to the patient and family.
LIBDY LOPEZ: It’s a very fast-paced environment. We are here to help and support you as part of your team.
AUBREY ADKINS: That I am not everything, but a part of the interdisciplinary team. It takes a lot of communication and coordination from the team to make sure patients receive the care they need.
JOHNSIE HUBBLE: Nursing has given me so much in life, it is hard to imagine a life without it! Physically it can be very demanding. And emotionally it can be challenging as well — we see a lot of things most people never see, including severe injuries, illnesses and death. Right now, I do love being an infection preventionist, and if I had to do it over, I would have gotten into that area of nursing sooner than I did. Other than that, though, I am grateful to have been blessed with a good career in a profession that is very fulfilling.
CHERONN FOSTER: I would absolutely choose nursing as a career again. I have been a substitute teacher and have worked in accounting and love nursing most. Honestly, I wish I had listened to my friend in my early 20s who told me I should go into nursing. The rewards of helping people in their time of need far outweigh the 12-hour shifts, overtime and heartache that also come with this career.
AUBREY ADKINS: Yes, I definitely would because I constantly learn something new every day I show up.
LIBDY LOPEZ: Yes, because it’s nice to see people progress from being in bad shape and then walk out of the hospital. It’s rewarding to see how far they’ve come. It’s not an easy field and it is not for everyone, but it’s so great when patients are appreciative, smiling and thankful for what I’ve done.