National Nurses Week begins on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. If Meadowood Director of Nursing Catherine O’Gorman had her way, she would celebrate every day of the year. She would also tweak the name of the event slightly. “It’s ‘Nurses Week,’ but it should really be ‘Team Week’ to acknowledge nursing assistants and all of the other team members,” she says. “Everyone works so well together.”
This week, Meadowood has a special celebration planned. “We’re going to recognize our nurses and invite everyone else in with food and celebration,” Catherine says. “We have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful staff that have something special to share with residents and the teams they work with.” She also has a few surprises for the team, including one that she’s been working on secretly in her office.
What does Catherine love most about her nursing team? The compliments she constantly hears from residents. “Everybody has a favorite nurse or nursing assistant.” she says. “It’s great to hear the residents talking about how wonderful the people are that care for them.”
Catherine is also extremely appreciative of the way her team has stepped up during the coronavirus crisis.
“Since we’ve been isolated during COVID-19, I constantly have team members coming to me and wanting to know how they can do special things for their residents,” she shares. “Residents might be lonely, so they help them communicate with their families through FaceTime. They also take residents out on balconies so their families can drive by and wave, and they make posters for them to hold up.”
“It’s funny how crises bring out the best parts of people,” she adds. “In this time of COVID-19, people really think up unusual and interesting ways to bring happiness to others.”
The nursing team has been going above and beyond in other ways as well. “People have really pulled together when it comes to staffing,” Catherine says. “When this whole thing began back in March, we stopped using agency nursing. My nurses jumped in with both feet and said, ‘We’re going to make this work.’ Everyone pulls together, and we always have plenty of people to take care of residents — that’s an amazing thing in the world of nursing. And nobody complains!” she exclaims.
Meadowood’s innovations in care have also been valuable tools in keeping residents safe during COVID-19. “Because of telehealth, we have avoided so many incidences of sending people out to the emergency room,” Catherine explains. “It’s the nurses who recognize that something might not be right and get ahold of physicians through telehealth. They get on top of things quickly before illnesses get out of hand.”
Catherine has been a nurse for 34 years, but she has only been at Meadowood a little over six months. As she gets ready to acknowledge her staff during National Nurses Week, she says, “I try to think of each person and what they’ve meant to me and how they’ve accepted me as a new person. They’ve brought me on board, and they’ve shown me the ropes.”
What inspired Catherine to become a nurse herself was her love of talking to people. “If I weren’t a nurse, I would have been a bartender,” she said. “As a nurse, you get to know people’s stories. You have to be a people person. I think that’s why I love my staff so much, too — I see that in them.” She really wants people to know that nurses “aren’t just here to give out medications and treatment; they care about the whole person.”
What should we do to acknowledge these wonderful people during National Nurses Week — and all the time?
Catherine thinks for a moment. “It’s just the acknowledgement that, ‘Hey, we’re people. We’re not just someone behind a blue surgical mask,’” she says. “It’s the little thank-yous. I think that nurses appreciate that more than anything else.”