‘Backbone of the Hospital’: Nurses Week Takes on Special Meaning This Year | TheUnion.com

‘Backbone of the Hospital’: Nurses Week Takes on Special Meaning This Year

‘Backbone of the Hospital’: Nurses Week Takes on Special Meaning This Year

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Special to The Union
Nurses at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital were celebrated throughout the past week during National Nurses Week festivities.

Every year, at hospitals and medical offices around the country, the second week in May is marked as a time to pause and give thanks to the nurses who provide care to patients at all hours, every day of the year.

May 6 marks the beginning of National Nurses Week. The week culminates on May 12 — International Nurses Day — the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing.

Locally, Nurses Week at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital holds special significance this year.

“2020 was a challenging year for all of us, but especially nurses,” reflects Lori Katterhagen DNP, RN, SNMH VP/Chief Nurse Executive Officer and Chief Operations Officer. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a very subdued Nurses Week and Hospital Week (May 9 — 15) last year. There were very few activities or recognitions.”

Katterhagen says this past year has profoundly affected the 297 nurses who work inside the hospital walls (including both Registered Nurses and CCP or CNA professionals).

“They have changed their workflow to accommodate caring for COVID patients across the hospital,” she says. “They’ve also faced serious staffing challenges, particularly in our ICU, but they have always found a way to make it work. In Medical Surgical and ICU, we have had some long-stay patients and the nurses have become their family since we weren’t allowing visitors. Being the link between families and patients has been essential for everyone’s well-being.”

Of course, being that link to family can also be taxing emotionally and physically for the nursing staff. Katterhagen says in many ways, that emotional bond with patients is something that happens routinely – even when we are not living in a pandemic.

“Nurses become family,” she says. “They are there to witness new life, illnesses, recoveries, and deaths when families couldn’t participate in those events. They have cried tears of joy and sorrow and held hands when others couldn’t. Nursing is a calling and we are grateful to our SNMH nurses who have answered that call.”

Katterhagen says she is proud of the dedication the SNMH nurses have shown this year. “They have risen to the challenge exceptionally. We appreciate their flexibility. They have been amazing!”

The perseverance of the SNMH nursing team has been inspiring, both to their colleagues and to the community. “We have a very passionate and committed nursing team here and they are committed to clinical excellence. They are excited to develop and expand nursing practice and they love caring for their community. Most of the nurses live local, and are familiar with our area, so they can make personal connections that are much appreciated by their community.”

In recognition of that unwavering dedication, Katterhagen says this year the Nurses Week celebrations at SNMH will be big. “This year, our leadership are really trying to celebrate our incredible teams as much as possible!”

Katterhagen says the celebrations will include activities, awards and gifts, including a Nurses Breakfast held last Thursday and the hospital’s annual Daisy Award, given out earlier this week. Nurses also received a nursing-specific t-shirt, which they will be allowed to wear proudly on Fridays for the rest of the month.

“The t-shirts will be a welcome change from their usual scrubs,” Katterhagen says with a smile.

Katterhagen knows firsthand the highs and lows of nursing, having been a Registered Nurse herself for nearly 30 years.

“I still love it,” she says. “The wonderful thing that I have seen is how nursing has evolved and changed and really developed as its own profession. Nurses touch every aspect of patient care, and can be found in every area of health care, not just in the hospital.”

While the goal of this week’s activities is to help the SNMH nurses know how appreciated they are, Katterhagen encourages the community to express their thanks to nurses everywhere, whenever they can.

“Thank a nurse! They have been working through the whole year under tough circumstances and are tired, but still come to work every day. I know that the leadership team here at SNMH is extremely grateful for all they do. They are the backbone of our hospital!”

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