In March, when New York City staggered under the weight of the COVID-19 outbreak, the images of refrigerator trucks, overwhelmed hospitals, and outdoor triage centers set Amy Kinder’s caregiving instincts afire. On April 5, 2020, the ER nurse left her home in Kokomo, Indiana and joined the thousands of dedicated nurses who came to work on the city’s frontlines. During her 21 days at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Kinder formed a tight bond with eight colleagues. Now, the nine nurses have described their experience in a new book, COVID-19 Frontliners.
“I remember my first night in the emergency department I was stopped abruptly in my tracks as I was racing down the hallway. My eyes caught movement in one of my rooms. I stopped to ensure what I was seeing. I had a patient actively dying and the patient next to her reached through the rails of the cot and held her hand trying to comfort her. I felt anguish for these patients. They did not know each other, but they were all alone. They had no one but the stranger beside them.” –Amy Kinder, COVID-19 Frontliners
In an interview with the Kokomo Perspective, Kinder said, “We felt like it was important to get the truth out there because you see on the news so many conflicting stories of what’s really happening or what was going on. So we just felt like it was important to get our frontline experience out there so other people really could see and understand what it really was like—because when I was out in New York, [it seemed] like the news sugarcoated what was really going on.”
As they attempted to communicate with non-English speaking patients, Kinder and the other nurses tried to find their footing amid scenes of chaos: “There were patients everywhere, double and triple stacked in rooms, lining the hallways, right up to the nurses’ station.” She added, “I could not believe what I was seeing. How could this be possible? Where did all of these patients come from? I thought to myself, ‘Damn, this is way worse than what I saw on the news.’”
In addition to dealing with the overcrowding and insufficient PPE supplies, Kinder and her colleagues struggled with a shocking volume of mortalities that sometimes included co-workers: “During the hardest time, we learned how to cope in ways we never had before. Not only were we seeing death in our patients but within our own healthcare family. We lost an agency nurse one night at shift change. She was found down in the bathroom. My heart still hurts for this individual’s family.”
When Kinder returned to Kokomo, she found that the experience had left marks on her psyche. Back on duty at the Ascension St. Vincent ER, “Alarms go off, and I flash back to the horror in NYC. I begin to hyperventilate worrying that we are running out of oxygen again or that a patient is in crisis. I have to talk myself down and remind myself of where I am and that I’m no longer in NYC.”
Her 21 days in New York also left Kinder with a sobering awareness of the realities of COVID. “I knew that it was a big deal, but at the same time I wasn’t really sure how big of a deal it was. There’s so much unknown about this dang virus, so I even was on the fence. But then I come home and people are mouthing, and until you’ve been out there and lived it, it hurts to hear people talk like that…”
For more details on Kinder’s experience, see the story in the Kokomo Perspective.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected two faculty members from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) for its Clinical Scholars program, an initiative that will provide funding and leadership training to implement a project that will help thousands of K-12 students in Indianapolis cope with violence and trauma they experience in their lives.
The project will focus on students in Washington Township’s 12 public schools as well as two charter schools, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School and Vanguard Collegiate of Indianapolis. The Clinical Scholars program will provide $420,000 for the project team to implement the project, “Responsive Schools: Building a Trauma Responsive Learning Community for All Children.”
The two faculty members include Wanda Thruston, a clinical assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing, and Barbara Pierce, an associate professor in the IU School of Social Work.
The Clinical Scholars program is an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Under the initiative, teams of interdisciplinary health care providers are selected for intensive leadership development so they can acquire the skills needed to bring innovation and transformation to their local communities that impact root causes of inequity in health.
Pierce tells IU.edu, “In Indianapolis, the team will address problems stemming from the community violence, other forms of trauma, poverty and inequality children are exposed to at fairly regular intervals. While we can’t change the city in which they live, we can change how kids respond to what the environment throws at them and help them learn to respond in a more resilient way. We can teach things like social-emotional responses and coping skills to be resilient. We can help kids deal with bullying and trauma.”
To learn more about Wanda Thruston and Barbara Pierce, the two IUPUI faculty members selected to develop programs to help Indianapolis K-12 students cope with violence and trauma, visit here.
For the sixth year in a row, WGU Indiana delivered Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits to hospitals and healthcare facilities across Indiana for daylight savings time. These kits were provided to nurses who worked an extra hour during their usual, and already difficult, shifts.
“WGU Indiana is distributing the Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits for the sixth year, to honor the important and often unrecognized contributions of night shift nurses,” WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber shared, prior to daylight savings time. This year, roughly 4,000 nurses in 127 hospitals and health care units across Indiana received these kits on their extra long shifts. Each kit contained treats, a thank you note, sleep masks and stress balls.
In addition to the usual work challenges that all nurses tackle, night shift nurses run into problems on the job that affect more than their careers. Having their circadian rhythm thrown off by their working hours, these night shift nurses are put at risk for fatigue and other health issues.
“From my work as a night shift nurse for 38 years, I recognize that night shift nurses don’t always receive the same recognition as employees who work during the day,” said Mary Lawson Carney, WGU Indiana State Director of Nursing, DNP, RN-BC, CCRN, CNE. “Night shift work has a significant impact on the physical, psychosocial and professional lives of nurses.”
The care packages also included information about the WGU Indiana Night Shift Nurse Scholarship. There are five $2,000 scholarships available to Indiana night shift nurses who are interested in advancing their education through WGU Indiana’s College of Health Professions.
Last year Dea Gillfillan, a night shift nurse and WGU Indiana student, was one of the five scholarship recipients and is grateful to the school for giving her opportunities to advance her education. “The flexibility of my online coursework with WGU has allowed me to study on my days off and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship made my degree that much more affordable,” Gillfillan shared.
To learn more about WGU Indiana and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship, click here.