Our first Nurse of the Week in 2021 is a nursing icon. On December 27—the day before her 100th birthday—AAN Living Legend Loretta C. Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, NP-C, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP was awarded the Surgeon General’s Medallion for exceptional achievement in the cause of public health and medicine.
Dr. Ford, who helped to create the first NP program at the University of Colorado in 1965, is regarded as a co-founder of the Nurse Practitioner (NP) profession. As a public health nurse in the 1940s and 1950s, she became concerned about Colorado’s underserved rural communities, and came to believe that with specialized training, nurses could help to fill the gap. Ultimately, Ford and pediatrician Henry Silver joined forces to found the University of Colorado pediatric NP program and the NP profession itself. Ford’s pathblazing role has led to numerous honors. She was the inaugural member of the Fellows of the AANP (FAANP), a special title reserved for providers that have made a lasting impact on the NP profession, and in 2003, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the journal Nurse Practitioner. In 2011, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, which acclaimed her for having “transformed the profession of nursing and made health care more accessible to the general public.”
Ford’s latest award, the Surgeon General’s Medallion, is the highest honor granted to a civilian by the Public Health Service and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. AANP President, Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP commented, “Dr. Ford has received this recognition for her vision and commitment to the health of our nation. Thanks to her trailblazing efforts, millions of patients have access to high-quality health care from NPs, the provider of their choice, and the profession has grown to more than 290,000 strong.”
David Hebert, JD, Chief Executive Officer of AANP, added, “As we celebrate Dr. Ford’s 100th birthday, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to this titan of American health care. From co-creating the NP profession to advocating for patient access to NP care, she has played a profound role in strengthening health care access and choice for America’s patients.”
In a year in which so many nurses displayed bravery, suffered hardships, and shone in countless ways, DailyNurse might easily have featured a “Nurse of the Day” instead of a Nurse of the Week.
Nurses have always gone the extra mile to communicate with patients and make them feel more comfortable and cared for, and we all know former patients who were so inspired by their nurses that they decided to enter the profession themselves. As 2020 raised the curtain on the Year of the Nurse, though, no one could have anticipated it would be a watershed year in which nurses became global icons of hope and courage.
Whether You’re a Hero, or Merely Awesome, Take a Bow…
The public has long admired nurses, but this year, the world has watched nurses brave the pandemic to work in seemingly impossible conditions, act as stand-ins for patients’ absent families, and leave home to speed to the relief of overwhelmed hospitals all over the US.
Nonetheless, many of our 2020 Nurses of the Week (NotW) eschewed the word “hero.” If you glance at remarks from our 2020 Nurses of the Week, you might note that while they take pride in their work, few sound like they are ready to accessorize their mask with a Superman cape. Naturally, they are happy to see their work recognized, but nurses constantly go out of their way to make patients feel less frightened and alone. As frontliner Tabatha Kentner said, “This is what we do. This is why we’re here.” Nurses save lives—and when they cannot, they comfort patients in their final hours and console distraught families. It’s not an occasional phenomenon; it is an everyday occurrence. The name and photo in Wednesday’s NotW feature could easily be your own because your expertise and empathy make you a Nurse of the Week every day of the year.
On the last Wednesday of 2020, DailyNurse salutes the Nurses of the Week who made their mark during the Year of the Nurse!
Great (and Caring) Communicators
A recurring theme is nurses who use their unique talents to raise patients’ and staff members’ spirits. Some, like Marc Perreault and Lori Marie Kay, shared their musical gifts. At Lenox Hill Hospital during the height of the New York City outbreak, Emily Fawcett helped boost morale in her ICU by meeting with staff for positive-thinking “hope huddles” before starting their shifts.
Danielle Fenn applied her language skills to comfort non-English speaking Covid patients. Others, like Tabatha Kentner, have been acting as “angels” (the word angel comes from the Greek angelos, which means “messenger”) and facilitating virtual visits so patients and their loved ones can commune even in isolation (and when necessary, say their final goodbyes).
Advocates and Public Servants
2020 was a year in which nurses stepped forward, spoke up, and got involved in public and civic health. Expect to see more of this in 2021 and years to come (we hope!). Metastatic breast cancer survivor Stephanie Walker is tirelessly advocating for cancer patients and patient education in North Carolina. Another indefatigable advocate, Andrea Dalzell, is on a mission to invite wheelchair-bound people to enter the nursing profession.
NYPD’s new Special Victims Unit head Michael King is a veteran SANE—and he is determined to improve the treatment of rape victims by police and other first responders. American Academy of Nursing (AAN) “Living Legend” Mary Wakefield is sharing her public health expertise and experience in the Obama administration with the Biden-Harris transition team.
Another AAN “Living Legend,” 85-year-old Marie Manthey, is promoting frank, open dialogues between Black and White nurses, and calling upon all White allies to combat structural racism and unconscious bias.
Tens of thousands of nurses this year packed their bags and took off to lend a hand in the nation’s hotspots. Reports on horrific conditions in hard-hit city hospitals were a virtual Bat-Signal for many nurses. They stashed extra masks in their suitcases, said goodbye to their loved ones, and flew to the most dangerous hotspots in the country (even nurses who had never been on a plane before!).
Texas nurse Anna Slayton, who parted from her family to spend 77 days on the New York frontlines, felt compelled to help, telling DailyNurse, “I ultimately knew it was my duty.” And in April, after flying from Tennessee to a desolate—but noisily grateful—NYC, ED nurse Kirsten Flanery declared, “I made the right decision on coming up here. I’m ready to make a difference!”
Difficult Takes a Day, Impossible Takes a Week
Many nurses combine massive multitasking efforts with hard work to pursue their studies, and some fight to overcome dire health and financial obstacles in their quest to start a nursing career. Felicia Shaner was so drawn to the profession that she embarked on her nursing studies while living in a homeless shelter… with a toddler and a baby on board! degrees while working as hospital custodians. Rebel NurseJalil Johnson (of Show me Your Stethoscope fame) had spent his last $5 when he enrolled in an LPN program. And Brianna Fogelman had a lung transplant in her junior year of nursing school and took her nursing finals with a tube in her chest.
Is There a Nurse in the House?
2020 was also a year in which nurses acted as first responders in unexpected times and places. Pamela Zeinoun saved the lives of three premature infants after the devastating August 4 explosions in Beirut. Indiana trauma nurse Colby Snyder rushed to the assistance of two people who collapsed in public within a 3-week period: the first had a seizure at her grocery store, and the second fell while Snyder was volunteering at the polls on Election Day.
Former CCN/cardiac care nurse Hollyanne Miley (whose husband is Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley) is also a good person to have at hand when out-of-the-blue seizures occur. And VA nurse Maria VanHart impressed “official” first responders by her swift, efficient, and empathic treatment of survivors at the scene of a fatal highway accident.
DailyNurse salutes all of its readers, and all nurses. If you know of someone who warrants a Nurse of the Week nod, send your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org. Best wishes for a happier, healthier, evidence-based New Year!
In March, Claire Tripeny was watching her dream job fall apart. She’d been working as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, and loved it, despite the mediocre pay typical for the region. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed.
She remembers her employers telling her and her colleagues to “suck it up” as they struggled to care for six patients each and patched their protective gear with tape until it fully fell apart. The $800 or so a week she took home no longer felt worth it.
“I was not sleeping and having the most anxiety in my life,” said Tripeny. “I’m like, ‘I’m gonna go where my skills are needed and I can be guaranteed that I have the protection I need.’”
In April, she packed her bags for a two-month contract in then-COVID hot spot New Jersey, as part of what she called a “mass exodus” of nurses leaving the suburban Denver hospital to become traveling nurses. Her new pay? About $5,200 a week, and with a contract that required adequate protective gear.
Months later, the offerings — and the stakes — are even higher for nurses willing to move. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nurses can make more than $6,200 a week. A recent posting for a job in Fargo, North Dakota, offered more than $8,000 a week. Some can get as much as $10,000.
Early in the pandemic, hospitals were competing for ventilators, COVID tests and personal protective equipment. Now, sites across the country are competing for nurses. The fall surge in COVID cases has turned hospital staffing into a sort of national bidding war, with hospitals willing to pay exorbitant wages to secure the nurses they need. That threatens to shift the supply of nurses toward more affluent areas, leaving rural and urban public hospitals short-staffed as the pandemic worsens, and some hospitals unable to care for critically ill patients.
“That is a huge threat,” said Angelina Salazar, CEO of the Western Healthcare Alliance, a consortium of 29 small hospitals in rural Colorado and Utah. “There’s no way rural hospitals can afford to pay that kind of salary.”
Hospitals have long relied on traveling nurses to fill gaps in staffing without committing to long-term hiring. Early in the pandemic, doctors and nurses traveled from unaffected areas to hot spots like California, Washington state and New York to help with regional surges. But now, with virtually every part of the country experiencing a surge — infecting medical professionals in the process — the competition for the finite number of available nurses is becoming more intense.
“We all thought, ‘Well, when it’s Colorado’s turn, we’ll draw on the same resources; we’ll call our surrounding states and they’ll send help,’” said Julie Lonborg, a spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association. “Now it’s a national outbreak. It’s not just one or two spots, as it was in the spring. It’s really significant across the country, which means everybody is looking for those resources.”
All four of Utah’s major health care systems have seen nurses leave for traveling nurse positions, said Jordan Sorenson, a project manager for the Utah Hospital Association.
“Nurses quit, join traveling nursing companies and go work for a different hospital down the street, making two to three times the rate,” he said. “So, it’s really a kind of a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul staffing situation.”
Hospitals not only pay the higher salaries offered to traveling nurses but also pay a commission to the traveling nurse agency, Sorenson said. Utah hospitals are trying to avoid hiring away nurses from other hospitals within the state. Hiring from a neighboring state like Colorado, though, could mean Colorado hospitals would poach from Utah.
“In the wake of the current spike in COVID hospitalizations, calling the labor market for registered nurses ‘cutthroat’ is an understatement,” said Adam Seth Litwin, an associate professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. “Even if the health care sector can somehow find more beds, it cannot just go out and buy more front-line caregivers.”
Litwin said he’s glad to see the labor market rewarding essential workers — disproportionately women and people of color — with higher wages. Under normal circumstances, allowing markets to determine where people will work and for what pay is ideal.
“On the other hand, we are not operating under normal circumstances,” he said. “In the midst of a severe public health crisis, I worry that the individual incentives facing hospitals on the one side and individual RNs on the other conflict sharply with the needs of society as whole.”
Some hospitals are exploring ways to overcome staffing challenges without blowing the budget. That could include changing nurse-to-patient ratios, although that would likely affect patient care. In Utah, the hospital association has talked with the state nursing board about allowing nursing students in their final year of training to be certified early.
Meanwhile business is booming for companies centered on health care staffing such as Wanderly and Krucial Staffing.
“When COVID first started and New York was an epicenter, we at Wanderly kind of looked at it and said, ‘OK, this is our time to shine,’” said David Deane, senior vice president of Wanderly, a website that allows health care professionals to compare offers from various agencies. “‘This is our time to help nurses get to these destinations as fast as possible. And help recruiters get those nurses.’”
Deane said the company has doubled its staff since the pandemic started. Demand is surging — with Rocky Mountain states appearing in up to 20 times as many job postings on the site as in January. And more people are meeting that demand.
In 2018, according to data from a national survey, about 31,000 traveling nurses worked nationwide. Now, Deane estimated, there are at least 50,000 travel nurses. Deane, who calls travel nurses “superheroes,” suspects a lot of them are postoperative nurses who were laid off when their hospitals stopped doing elective surgeries during the first lockdowns.
Competition for nurses, especially those with ICU experience, is stiff. After all, a hospital in South Dakota isn’t competing just with facilities in other states.
“We’ve sent nurses to Aruba, the Bahamas and Curacao because they’ve needed help with COVID,” said Deane. “You’re going down there, you’re making $5,000 a week and all your expenses are paid, right? Who’s not gonna say yes?”
Krucial Staffing specializes in sending health care workers to disaster locations, using military-style logistics. It filled hotels and rented dozens of buses to get nurses to hot spots in New York and Texas. CEO Brian Cleary said that, since the pandemic started, the company has grown its administrative staff from 12 to more than 200.
“Right now we’re at our highest volume we’ve been,” said Cleary, who added that over Halloween weekend alone about 1,000 nurses joined the roster of “reservists.”
With a base rate of $95 an hour, he said, some nurses working overtime end up coming away with $10,000 a week, though there are downsides, like the fact that the gig doesn’t come with health insurance and it’s an unstable, boom-and-bust market.
Amber Hazard, who lives in Texas, started as a traveling ICU nurse before the pandemic and said eye-catching sums like that come with a hidden fee, paid in sanity.
“How your soul is affected by this is nothing you can put a price on,” she said.
At a high-paying job caring for COVID patients during New York’s first wave, she remembers walking into the break room in a hospital in the Bronx and seeing a sign on the wall about how the usual staff nurses were on strike.
“It said, you know, ‘We’re not doing this. This is not safe,’” said Hazard. “And it wasn’t safe. But somebody had to do it.”
The highlight of her stint there was placing a wedding ring back on the finger of a recovered patient. But Hazard said she secured far more body bags than rings on patients.
Tripeny, the traveling nurse who left Colorado, is now working in Kentucky with heart surgery patients. When that contract wraps up, she said, she might dive back into COVID care.
Earlier, in New Jersey, she was scarred by the times she couldn’t give people the care they needed, not to mention the times she would take a deceased patient off a ventilator, staring down the damage the virus can do as she removed tubes filled with blackened blood from the lungs.
She has to pay for mental health therapy out-of-pocket now, unlike when she was on staff at a hospital. But as a so-called traveler, she knows each gig will be over in a matter of weeks.
At the end of each week in New Jersey, she said, “I would just look at my paycheck and be like, ‘OK. This is OK. I can do this.’”
Republished courtesy of Kaiser Health News.KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Isolated from everyone but healthcare workers clad in PPE and denied the comfort of family visits, COVID-19 patients exist in a lonely world. Nurse of the Week Marc Perreault uses his musical gifts to try to bring a little intimacy and warmth into their lives. “You really do kind of get to know them and their ins and outs and their intricacies as human beings,” he said. “It [even] brings me a lot of comfort…. It really just kind of lightens the day and brings some levity to the day-to-day.”
As often as not, Marc’s voice moves his colleagues as well as their patients. One co-worker comments, “You’d walk by the room to see what’s going on, and there’s Marc singing to his patients. It just touched all of us. It was just such an amazing moment.”
Marc, who performs in a four-piece folk band, is a firm believer in the restorative power of music. He relates,”One thing that’s important for me is to share messages of hope. About a year ago, I cared for one patient who spent about a month under sedation. When she came out and transferred off the unit, she said, ‘that’s the guy who is always singing. I remembered him.'”
As with all of us, the pandemic has profoundly affected Perreault, an RN at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. While spending most of his time working in the ICU since the outbreak, he has been striving to make sense of his experiences, and hopes to find meaning in them by exercising his creativity. He says, “I’ve got like half a dozen half-written songs from all of this. The hope is that we can pull it all together in the end and make something beautiful out of something that’s kind of ugly.”
The ANCC Practice Transition Accreditation program
is dedicated to validating hospital residency and fellowship programs that help
transition registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses
(APRNs) into new practice settings that meet rigorous, evidence-based standards
for quality and excellence. APRNs in the NNP
Fellowship program at Children’s Hospital Colorado are part of an elite
program that promotes the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and professional
behaviors necessary to deliver the safest and highest-quality care.
Pat Givens, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive for Children’s Colorado, tells eurekalert.org, “We are extremely proud that Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Fellowship is recognized by ANCC as one of the highest-quality transition programs in the country for NNPs. The accreditation provides the patients and families we serve across the state and region with the reassurance that our neonatal nurse practitioners are some of the most highly trained in the country.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado is one
of the nation’s leading and most expansive pediatric healthcare systems with a
mission to improve the health of children through patient care, education,
research, and advocacy. To learn more about Children’s Hospital Colorado’s
recent accreditation approval for its Neonatal Nurse
Practitioner Fellowship program, visit here.
Nursing demand is high, especially in the state of Colorado, with an average wage for a Colorado RN of $72,570. Nurses with a BSN average more than $86,000 annually. The nursing shortage in Colorado is expected to be even further impacted by a 29 percent growth in Colorado’s 65-and-over population between 2010 and 2015. Many nurses are also nearing retirement, with 35 percent of the state’s nurses over age 55.
Nightingale College has created a unique approach to distance learning through a Dedicated Distance Cohort (DDC) Model, which combines local experiential learning with online coursework to equip the next generation of nursing professionals. The college partners with healthcare networks that dedicate space for an experiential learning hub where students can practice their nursing skills through simulations. Nightingale College offers a 32-month Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) blended-distance program designed for quick access with three starts per year.
Jonathan Tanner, Vice President of Partnerships for Nightingale College, tells prweb.com, “Nightingale College specializes in providing solutions to nursing shortages for rural and underserved communities. We are excited to offer our nursing programs in Colorado.”
To learn more about Nightingale College’s new distance learning nursing programs opening in Colorado Springs and Boulder this coming fall, visit here.