During special week, Baptist Health nurses reflect on a challenging year

LEXINGTON, KY. (WTVQ/Baptist) — Nurses Week, May 6–12, puts the spotlight on nursing as Baptist Health Lexington nurses, Clint Bollinger, CCRN, RN; Kim Green, RN; and Brenda Isaacs, RN, reflect on a year that has been vastly different, due to the COVID-19 virus.

The World Health Organization named 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, which was extended to 2021 because of the impact of the pandemic and the increased visibility of nurses’ contributions.

“Nurses play such a vital role in healthcare. Without them, the care that patients receive would be vastly different. We rely on our nurses to provide quality, compassionate care,” says Chief Nursing Officer Dee Beckman, DNP, MBA, MSN, RN, NE-BC. “We could not do this without them, and appreciate each and every one for their dedicated service.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide and guidelines changed rapidly, stress and uncertainty played a significant role in everyday work life. Adaptability was key for nursing staff who came together as a team in a truly unusual year.

“We had to figure out how to reorganize our flow of patients pretty quickly. Our system had to be redesigned,” says Bollinger, director, 5F clinical decision unit. “We were placed in a high-stress situation, dealing with COVID-19 testing, personal protective gear for those working with patients, and a significant increase in the volume of patients. It’s a really proud moment to find solutions and quality improvement in that environment.”

Bollinger had been taking classes toward a Master of Science in nursing with a focus on administration.

Though excited to be in school, he took a break in fall 2020 realizing his staff and patients needed his full support.

“I am getting the degree in order to be a better leader for them,” he says.

When the pandemic became more controlled, he resumed classes and will graduate in fall 2022.

From a leadership standpoint, Bollinger said this experience has taught him to work efficiently across disciplines, from nurses and doctors, to financial services and supply.

“This experience has been lifechanging. We work better together because of what we’ve been through.”

Kim Green, RN, faced COVID-19 nursing in an outpatient setting within the hospital. A nurse for more than 35 years, she says that although she did not feel the same impact in the outpatient clinic, the past year as a nurse has been very different emotionally.

Though it was a demanding year, she feels like her co-workers have become more compassionate because of what they’ve been through.

“One thing our unit tried to do was to do something nice for the units that were feeling the stress more than we did.”

For Brenda Isaacs, RN, nursing is a calling, not just a job.

“I can’t do anything else. I want to help others who can’t help themselves,” says Isaacs.

Officially retiring in April 2020 after 35 years, when the COVID-19 vaccine clinic opened, she went to work there.

“Initially, I was giving vaccinations to Baptist Health employees. Then, when the vaccine clinic was moved to Lexington Green, I worked with people from the community,” she says. “The patients were great, some even cried. They were so thankful.”

Isaacs feels the vaccine is important for the community and world to move toward returning to normal, and that it’s important to try to eliminate disease and help others as much as possible.

“Baptist Health has been at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccines in the community, and I am grateful to them.”

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