As National Nurses Week nears, LMH Health’s nurses reflect on a challenging year

Though a week is far too short to pay homage to the incredible work nurses do every day, LMH Health is excited to celebrate National Nurses Week from May 6 to May 12.

Last year, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no sweet treats or group celebrations to mark National Nurses Week. Instead, nurses were faced with difficult circumstances, even longer hours and often tears.

The theme for this year’s Nurses Week is “Frontline Warrior.” Colleen Walker, a labor and delivery nurse and president of the Nurses Week Committee at LMH, said the theme was fitting after the challenges the pandemic has brought to every one of the nurses at LMH Health.

“I remember my biggest fear when COVID began was being put in a situation where I would have to decide who lives and who doesn’t because of the lack of resources we all experienced and heard about,” she said. “The emotional difference that we all felt in 2020 compared to years past was immense.”

Walker said each day she would put her badge on, try to keep her head up and hope that she would be able to go home to her family that evening.

“I always had a bag packed that my husband could bring me in the event that the census of COVID-19 patients was so high that I would not be able to come home,” she said. “Most days we were sick to our stomachs coming into work and knowing we wanted to protect our children and our family, but also that we had an obligation and a duty to protect our patients and community. It was challenging for so many, and there were often times where nurses would just sit and weep.”

Maleah Lockard, a charge nurse in the emergency department at LMH Health, said that being a nurse during the pandemic was like navigating a place you know very well in the dark.

“Each day was filled with unknowns,” Lockard said. “Like everyone else, we had no idea what we were in for. We took educated guesses and made quick adjustments when it came to new protocols and PPE.”

Being a charge nurse, Lockard was often the point of contact others came to for information. When changes came, she had to quickly learn the information and accurately pass it along to her team.

“I always strive to be the positive reinforcement of change,” Lockard said. “It didn’t matter if I agreed with the change or even if I didn’t quite understand why the change was made. I knew no matter what I had to enforce these changes and make it a smooth transition for my department. This pace was something I had to adapt to, and in the end, it made me a better leader today than I was this time last year.”

She said that though this has been a rough year for all nurses and medical staff, they persevered.

“When COVID first reared its ugly head, I began relying even more heavily on my faith and my coworkers to get me through and to be able to serve our patients and those we work with,” Lockard said. “That shaped me to be the better nurse and person I am today. It is important for the community to know that we are still here. We are still fighting and we have learned a lot from COVID. Moving forward, if something like this were to come again, we will be much more prepared because of the growing pains that came with the suffering.”

Lockard said kindness is key right now. The kindness from the community and from coworkers is what has helped everyone press on.

“You never know what night or day at work someone had or what situations trigger our nurses or patients,” she said. “The strain of the job can be intense, and being surrounded by joy makes our work easier. It has been a crazy year, but this too shall pass.”

Walker followed with a thanks to all of Lawrence for the support and love this past year.

“I think it is incredibly important to mention how grateful the nurses at LMH Health are that the Lawrence community took COVID safety and precautions so seriously that the surge we saw was not as horrific as it was around the globe,” Walker said. “They were some of the most intense times in our staff’s careers, but it could have been so much worse without the community’s help. Our community understood that if there weren’t enough nurses, or if you didn’t wear your mask or social distance, that the hospital would be so overrun that they couldn’t care for patients. My last comment is just thank you. Thank you for loving LMH Health so much that you responded quickly and took the right steps.”

— Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Journal-World’s Health section.


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