How do you show gratitude for the selflessness nurses have shown in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic? After a year like 2020, a passing “thank you” does not feel like enough – especially during National Nurses Week. Yet, as Medix Consultant and Nursing Professional Scarlet Spain explains, even small signs of appreciation can make a big impact. 

As we celebrate Nurses Week 2021, we asked Dr. Spain to share her nursing story, as well as a few of the moments of loss, hope and resilience she witnessed during one of the most difficult years in healthcare history.

Can you share a bit about your background in nursing?

“After being hospitalized for a long period as a child at Children’s Memorial (now known as Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago), I knew I wanted to be a nurse. I went straight from high school into a two-year program. Immediately after completing that program, I started a bridge program that would take me from an Associate Degree in Nursing to my Master’s Degree in Nursing. After practicing for a few years as a nurse practitioner, I went back to school and graduated with my doctorate in 2015. My clinical background is occupational health and I still maintain that specialty today. I love my current full-time job in academia because it has allowed me the opportunity to write, which has been a passion of mine since I was a child.”

What do you find most rewarding about a career in nursing?   

“I find my career very rewarding as everyday looks very different; I love the flexibility and variety that brings to my life. Of course, the best part is being able to help people in many different ways through teaching, as a nurse practitioner or even disseminating reputable science and information though my consultant role at Medix!”

How has the nursing profession been changed by a year spent working under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic?

“This year has been exceptionally difficult on everyone, but healthcare workers have really had their world turned upside down. I know of providers who are in the outpatient field that had their hours cut or had to learn how to manage patients via telehealth. The inpatient nursing staff working on COVID units dealt with fear, long hours and an immense amount of death in the past year. Although nurses are resilient, the pandemic has really taken a mental and physical toll on many of our nursing staff.”

Do you have any nursing stories to share from the last year? 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, a close Nurse Practitioner friend of mine lost a colleague to the virus. It really hit hard for her and so many people in our community, even those of us who didn’t know her. It really drove the point home that the virus does not discriminate and, although we have been able to identify some conditions that make people more susceptible to severe illness, there is still so much unknown, including the long-term effects.”

How can individuals support nurses in their communities during Nurses Week and throughout the year? 

“First, friends and family can support nurses by simply saying “thank you for what you do!”  However, if you’re looking to take it a step further this year, you can help our nurses in other ways. With the rise of social media, it is really important to make sure that articles or information being shared is from reliable sources and based in science. We need to educate the public with the best evidence and the real science behind the virus. This isn’t to cause fear or panic, but to provide transparency about the reality of our situation so the public can be aware of mitigation strategies and ways to reduce risk.”

Thank you for sharing your nursing story, Scarlet, and for raising awareness of the challenges and achievements of nursing professionals confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. From all of us at Medix, thank you nurses, and have a happy Nurses Week!