Mask? Check. Goggles? Check. Face shield? Check. Dressing gown? Check. Superhero cape? Check and check.
Although the nurses in the community may have gotten used to the high level of stress throughout their job this past year, Kahnawa’kehro:non are in awe of their consistent battle against this ruthless virus experienced by all.
Resiliency. Strength. Compassion. Those are the three words that come to mind when Lisa Westaway, the executive director of the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) thinks of her team of nurses.
“When you go into that profession, you know you’re always going to put patients’ needs before your own, but that has never been as pronounced as it is right now,” said the director.
International Nurses Day on May 12 – the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth – was a chance for nurses to feel appreciated, after being especially overworked during the pandemic.
Working as a nurse at KMHC for 24 years, Kahnawa’kehró:non Caireen Cross has seen it all. “I worked through the H1N1 pandemic, so we did expect that at some point there would be another one, but we didn’t know it would be this long and entail this many restrictions,” said the nurse. “I never thought anything like this would happen.”
Throughout the health crisis, Cross has been working in the community health unit doing prenatal home visits and also working in the baby clinic.
“In the beginning, we were not allowed to go to people’s homes. It came to a point where I would drive a scale to the mother’s house and leave it on the porch, wait for them to weigh their baby and then take it back, clean it off, and go to the next baby,” she said. “Now we can go into the houses, but of course, we wear protective gear.”
For Cross, this experience has been not only difficult, but has encouraged her to do some introspection. “As I work with women who are pregnant and mothers with new babies, I had to learn to take care of myself,” said the nurse. “I have such a big role, and if I’m not reacting well, I can’t help them.”
She has explored many methods of self-care and self-healing such as exercising, going for massages to relieve tension, counseling, yoga, and even traditional healing with Geraldine Standup.
“Working with moms, it’s almost like I’m taking in their stress and anxieties about the pandemic and what’s going to happen to their babies, along with their delivery experience. But, I didn’t have anywhere to let it out,” said Cross. “Geraldine helped me let it go, which brought out my inner strength.”
Rebecca Boyer, another mighty nurse working at KMHC, has expressed that her journey working throughout the pandemic demonstrated to her how powerful of an impact a nurse can truly have. “We have to overcome our battles and fear was a big one,” said the Kahnawa’kehró:non. “At first everyone was so afraid, but as we educated ourselves, we were able to overcome the fear.”
Boyer has been working as a clinic nurse and at the testing centre since she started last September. Although she explained that the inauguration of her job was highly stressful, she was grateful for the KMHC staff and their open dialogue.
“I have known these people since I was a kid and now I’m working with them. There’s no judgment. If I’m feeling stressed out, I can just talk to them,” she said.
Westaway is so proud of all the nurses at KMHC and expressed that their devotion during this time is invaluable.
Furthermore, she explained that every single worker in the hospital should be recognized for their hard work.
“Without the administrative assistants, financial department, human resources, technical services, and the people cleaning and doing laundry, then the nurses would not be able to do their jobs either,” she said. “Everybody is working together.”