How 5 nurses retain resiliency through the pandemic

In perhaps what will be the most difficult year of their career, five California nurses shared how they've stayed resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the Los Angeles Times in an Oct. 1 report. 

Here's the advice they shared: 

Anahiz Correa, RN, intensive care unit nurse manager at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook, Calif. 

After supporting a critical COVID-19 patient through what may have been the last phone conversation the patient would have with his wife, Ms. Correa said she and her team discussed the emotional moment together. 

Talking through difficult moments is a regular occurrence in the hospital's ICU unit, she said. Ms. Correa also talks to a therapist about her job. before and after her shift. Ms. Correa said meditating and having moments of gratitude help to get her in the right mindset. 

Joyce Leido, MSN, RN, chief nurse executive at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. 

In addition to supporting her team of nurses, Ms. Leido is also a support system for her husband, an ICU nurse at another hospital. 

Her husband would often come home after a long day of caring for severely ill COVID-19 patients and share the emotional toll it was taking. Ms. Leido realized most of her staff was likely grappling with the same experiences and struggles. 

"It was a magnifying glass. I just don’t get to hear all of the stories from our 1,300 nurses [at Kaiser Los Angeles], but I know they’re feeling the same thing," she told the Los Angeles Times. 

As a result, she fostered a space that encouraged her staff to share their fears and learned many carried guilt when a patient died. She responded by reassuring the team that they were all doing their best. Ms. Leido also brings her certified therapy dogs to work once a week to offer her team a moment of comfort. 

Penny Weismuller, RN, MSN, director of the Cal State Fullerton (Calif.) nursing school. 

Dr. Weismuller, who holds a doctorate in public health, goes on a nightly walk to see their neighbors each night — something that brings joy to her day. 

Healthcare workers don't have unlimited stress capacity, and sometimes that warrants a reminder, she said. 

"In order to continue to provide care to other people, we have to take care of ourselves. ... We cannot burn through our bank of the amount of stress we can endure in our life," she said. "It’s so important right now that those of us that are here need to be able to stay here as we get through the end of this pandemic hopefully."

"In order to develop resilience, we need a time to reflect on what we’ve learned, what we could do differently, and reimagine how we can enhance our care for ourselves and others, for the future," Dr. Weismuller told the Los Angeles Times. 

Nancy Sumner, RN, an emergency room nurse at Dignity Health Glendale (Calif.) Memorial Hospital and Health Center. 

At the end of a hard shift, Ms. Sumner, a retired California Air National Guard colonel, changes out of her scrubs and into clean clothes. Sometimes, she'll take a longer route home for extra time to decompress, listen to calming music or a meditation app. Other times, she'll yell in the car. 

Ms. Sumner said she also returns to the core values she learned from the air force "which [are] integrity, service before self, and excellence," to focus on what can be done for a patient, and prevent herself from becoming overwhelmed. 

Noemi Gomez, RN, perinatal nursing supervisor for East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital. 

As a perinatal nurse during the pandemic, Ms. Gomez often found herself being the support system for pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn't have other designated support visitors in the delivery room. 

"The role of the nurse as being also emotional support, I think, was just so much more enhanced during this pandemic because our pregnant mommies really needed us," she told the Los Angeles Times. "It's like we became their second moms because their mom wasn’t able to be with them and give them guidance at this moment of becoming a new mommy." 

Ms. Gomez said no matter the circumstance, she always tried to find something to be positive about. 

"As hard as that might be sometimes, I try to surround myself with people that are optimistic." 

Sometimes, she finds positivity by spending time outdoors, which she views as a bit of normalcy amidst a period of chaos. 

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