Nurses have come together this week to celebrate each other during National Nurses Week.
Every year, Oregon Health & Science University holds campus-wide events to mark the annual week that honors nurses. In addition, many individual OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s hospital units traditionally organize their own, homegrown festivities. Pandemic safety precautions prevent some traditional events this year, but OHSU nurses are getting creative and have found unique ways to mark the week despite COVID-19.
Instead of the elaborate potluck that the medical/surgical oncology unit on the 13th floor of the OHSU Kohler Pavilion has held in recent years, Janna Mae Lamb, R.N., gathered donations of individually wrapped food from Portland-area restaurants. On the morning of May 5, she accepted a donation of breakfast burritos, fruit and bottled water from Elephant’s Deli – and promptly set up the single-serving breakfast bags in her unit’s education room.
“This last year has been really hard, and food can be comforting,” Lamb explained as she gathered the edible donations. “Some of our staff still haven’t dined in a restaurant since the pandemic began because they don’t want to put our patients – many of whom are immunosuppressed because they’re on chemotherapy – at risk. I’m grateful that restaurants, which have also had a very hard year, are open to helping us this week.”
In total, eight local restaurants committed to donating a fresh breakfast for the nursing staff who work with Lamb between May 5 and 12. And other businesses have donated more than 90 items for the unit’s annual silent auction for staff, proceeds from which support education opportunities, future festivities and more.
And at the pediatric acute medical unit, which is located on the north end of the ninth floor at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, nurses who normally write heartfelt thank-you letters for their coworkers for Nurses Week decided to take a different approach this year. Instead, they penned notes of gratitude to the family members (or pets) to recognize their meaningful support throughout the pandemic.
“We want to say thank you for sharing your family member with us,” explained Deidra Weinert, R.N., who wrote one such letter. “This past year hasn’t been easy for anyone, and we know sometimes bring the strain of work home with them. Families of health care workers have been through a lot this past year and we very much appreciate them.”
Other ways the staff of 9 North will mark the week include baskets full of snacks, staff-nominated awards for the best baby whisperer, best chart taker and the like, and a secret admirer gift exchange among unit staff.
Both Lamb’s and Weinert’s units have treated COVID-19 patients.
“It’s been a really tough year, but nurses are very resilient,” Weinert said. “I’m so proud of my coworkers for how we have dealt with the pandemic. Our passion, positivity and can-do attitudes helped us get through this year, and speaks so much the heart of who nurses are.”
Deborah Eldredge, Ph.D., R.N., who is the OHSU director of nursing quality, research and recognition, notes its especially important for nurses to gather – even if it’s done virtually – and honor each other this week.
“If there was ever a year to celebrate nurses, this is it,” Eldredge said. “Having a moment to stop and pause with colleagues is always appreciated. We’re so busy working elbow to elbow that sometimes it’s hard to connect. The way to get through the pandemic is together and to recognize our collective accomplishments.”