Today is National Nurses Day, which typically kicks off a weeklong celebration, culminating with the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year, the American Nurses Association extended the event into a into a month-long celebration to “expand opportunities to elevate and celebrate nursing.” Little did they know how appropriate and deserving such a move would prove to be.
As the makers of a nurse-driven solution, AvaSure joins in honoring nurses at this unique moment in history. Never before have non-battlefield nurses been working under such pressure as those who are risking their lives every day to help treat COVID-19 patients. Two of our own – AvaSure Board Member Cathy Rick and Clinical Program Specialist Sarah Quiring – have rejoined the ranks of nurses after years away from direct patient care to do whatever is needed. AvaTalk caught up with them to talk about how their mission to contribute is going.
AvaTalk: When did you decide to actually return to active duty nursing and what was it about the pandemic that drove you to do this?
Rick: I had no plans to go back to work after retiring as CNO of the Veterans Health Administration in 2014. I have enjoyed being engaged in mentoring roles and periodic consulting work for healthcare organizations in addition to my commitment as an AvaSure board member. But then came COVID-19. I know full well how challenging it is to deal with day-to-day operations across a large system like the VHA while, at the same time, fulfilling the needs during a national crisis. So in early April I reached out to longtime colleagues at the VA just to say that I was thinking of them. I offered my support in any way that they thought appropriate, and lo and behold, they immediately took me up on it.
Quiring: Early on in my career as a nurse, I was given a thank-you card by a patient that in paraphrase said: “You were called to this place, at this time, for a purpose.” I have often reflected on that sentiment. By going back to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have joined multitudes of others who were willing to show up with their skills when they were needed, whether that was suddenly home schooling their children, providing janitorial services or making masks.
AvaTalk: What is your assignment?
Rick: I was asked what I’d like to do, and said I’ll do whatever you want. I started my virtual assignment to assist with national nurse staffing strategies on April 9th.
Quiring: I am currently working as a staff RN, in an eICU, providing coaching to regional nurses who may have limited critical care experience.
AvaTalk: So what is the nature of the work and how much time is involved?
Rick: I am assigned to support an Office of Nursing Services Workgroup to offer my expertise as a former VHA senior executive. This workgroup has been charged to develop innovative options for meeting staffing needs during surge capacity requirements in this (and future) national emergencies. It’s been a daily whirlwind, working 8-11 hours a day, seven days per week, including Easter Sunday, quite an adjustment from retirement!
Quiring: I currently work full time on the weekdays as a Clinical Program Specialist for AvaSure and work between one and two 12-hour shifts on the weekend in the eICU. I am very fortunate that AvaSure and my local hospital have been both flexible and supportive with this unique arrangement.
AvaTalk: How long do plan on contributing?
Rick: As long as I’m needed. Although the work hours are intense at this time, I would anticipate that will change to a slower pace as newly designed innovative approaches become standard operating procedures.
Quiring: I plan on contributing through the projected census surge time until the hospital resumes serving at typical capacity.
AvaTalk: How does it feel to contribute again on the frontlines?
Rick: It is an honor and a privilege. I am reminded again and again of how nurses are the backbone of global healthcare. It is a very special feeling to be a VA nurse again. My colleagues there are talented, dedicated, forward-thinking federal employees, and the VHA nursing workforce is among the best of that workforce.
Quiring: As a bedside nurse, you have the unique and humbling position to walk alongside people during some of the most difficult times of their lives. This pandemic has taught us that we are all connected, perhaps more than many of us realized. I have the rare opportunity to directly help patients in dire need while also working for AvaSure, whose business is making the jobs of the same frontline staff easier and more productive.