Nurses in Nevada County and region talk about why they love their jobs
By the numbers
As of May 5
Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 41
Number in western county: 12
Number in eastern county: 29
Number of active cases: 2
Number of recoveries: 38
Number of deaths: 1
Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus
Asked if — knowing what they know now — they would choose nursing as a career again, the nurses didn’t even have to think about it.
Remarkably, they all had the same one-word answer: “Absolutely!”
“I love nursing. I don’t know what else I would do.” — Cindy Cooper, R.N.
“It’s my calling. It’s what I am meant to do.” — Rebecca Seijas-Ball, C.R.N.A.
“Nursing is what I love, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I think that really makes a difference.” — Katrina Campbell, R.N.
“I feel proud to be part of an honorable profession.” — Fred Skeen, R.N. (ret.)
“I was wearing a nurse’s outfit when I was 3 years old.” — Pamela Marsh, R.N. (ret.)
“It’s an amazing job, challenging. Every day is different. We have to change and adapt with new information.” — Chris Bakey, R.N.
“It’s a job where you’re dealing with real stuff, real issues, real people. It feels important.” — Diane Miessler, R.N.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else.” — Kellie Bolle, R.N.
Today, nurses are honored — the essential women and men who, arguably, have the most dangerous job in health care. Nobody has more direct contact with patients.
May 6 is National Nurses Day and the beginning of National Nurses Week. It’s been the Year of the Nurse and Midwife since Jan. 1
National Nurses Week ends on May 12, which is International Nurses Day — and Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale is the acclaimed mother of modern nursing. She was born 200 years ago in 1820 in Florence, Italy.
Nightingale’s legacy of passion and compassion lives on in nurses today.
PICK A HAPPY DREAM
“I’m a hand holder,” Rebecca Seijas-Ball declared. “Some people are so scared.”
As a certified registered nurse anesthetist at the Grass Valley Surgical Center, Seijas-Ball guides patients on “their journey through surgery.”
“I don’t ask them to count down. I tell them to think happy things, so if they dream — and some do — they have good dreams.”
Being a surgical nurse as well as a former ICU nurse, Seijas-Ball is hyper-conscious of hygiene. She makes cashiers change gloves before she lets them check out her family’s groceries.
“I’m kind of hardcore.”
TAKING IT TO THE STREETS
“I love nursing. I love people.” For Cindy Cooper, it’s that simple.
Fifteen years working in hospice, then 11 years in an emergency room, Cooper walks her talk. Recently, the Grass Valley resident took a walk outside. She took her passion and compassion to the homeless population of Marysville.
Working for Adventist Health and Rideout Hospital, “street nurse” Cooper runs two free clinics. One clinic features telemedicine consultations with remote doctors.
She’s proud to have scored 1,000 hygiene kits for her clients. Then she sighed, “I can’t get masks for them.”
POINT OF HONOR
Fred Skeen said he’s retired, but it’s hard to tell. He was interviewed by phone at Utah’s Place. Run by the nonprofit Hospitality House, Utah’s Place is Nevada County’s only year-round emergency shelter for homeless people.
Possibly the longest serving volunteer/staff member of Hospitality House, Skeen is beloved for his gentle compassion and unflappable serenity,
He admitted he got into nursing because of “all the cute nursing students,” but he fell in love with the nursing profession.
“Even though I’m retired, I feel an affinity with all health professionals at all levels — and not just the frontline professionals.”
Skeen has hope for the future. “(The pandemic) is going to change things permanently, for the better.”
“AIDS pales in comparison to what’s happening now,” said retired nurse Pamela Marsh from her home in Nevada City. “I’m very upset at what’s going on.”
A veteran of the HIV/AIDS crisis at the UCSF Medical Center, Marsh is appalled at the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) for nurses working with COVID-19 pandemic patients.
“The happiest day of my life was when we got retractable syringes,” she said. It was a time when an accidental needle-stick could be fatal.
Marsh paints to soothe her distress over current events. Although she claims she’s not an artist, her watercolor “Between Shifts” belies that.
An exhausted nurse sits on empty bed, head bowed. She’s having a bad day.
“I love being a nurse,” Chris Bakey avowed. Although he spent some time in construction, Bakey’s career path can be traced from volunteer firefighter to EMT to paramedic to, at age 40, going back to college to become a registered nurse.
“Chris is all over the hospital,” noted Laura Johnson Seeman, director of mission integration and community health for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Bakey confirmed he is cross-trained in multiple nursing disciplines, enabling him to cover for absent staff and reinforce overloaded staff in most nursing positions in the hospital.
While thousands of nurses all over the country have had to work without adequate safety equipment, Bakey is not worried. “We’re doing very well,” he said of the hospital. “We haven’t been asked to wear bandanas.”
DON’T CALL ME A HERO
“Lots of people are being heroic right now. I’m not one of them,” Diane Miessler insisted.
A public health nurse for Nevada County, Diane Miessler has been working from home. “It’s hard to sometimes to get a sense of how people are doing without visiting them at home.”
“A phone call can only do so much,” she added.
Miessler credited her nursing degree for allowing her to work in psych, hospice, ER, endoscopy and public health.
Referring to the fact it’s the day, week and year of the nurse, Miessler stated: “If you want to honor nurses, look into better staffing ratios for those in hospitals and care facilities — and wash your hands.”
“It’s amazing to be a nurse right now,” Kellie Bolle stated. “This pandemic gives the world a chance to see what we do.”
“We deal with life and death every day,” said the 51-year-old interim chief nurse of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Bolle grew up in Downieville. She commuted to Sierra College to get her AA degree in nursing. While working full time, she got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees by studying online at Capella University of Minnesota.
“It was hard, but worth it,” she said. “Our local nurses are so committed and dedicated to healing every patient who walks through the doors, no matter what the reason.”
PRIVILEGED TO BE A NURSE
“I am privileged to care for others, to be an advocate,” Katrina “Kate” Campbell explained. “(I am) the FaceTime of patient care, from bringing new life into this world to assisting those as comfortably as possible out.”
Working at the Oroville Hospital, she wrote in an email, “I want to personally thank … teachers, health care workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, postal delivery personnel, all of the brave people at home doing the right thing and staying home even though it might cause stress and turmoil financially.
“It’s truly the simplicity of moments that I believe are changing the world. People are finding different ways to spread love and it’s truly inspiring and heartwarming,” she added.
Tom Durkin is a staff writer for The Union.
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Following the addition of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. vaccine rollout — joining two-dose vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna — local health officials have encouraged residents to take whichever of the three first becomes available to them.