The Coronavirus Can’t Stop National Nurses Appreciation Week
By Elle Meyers
May 13, 2020

This is National Nurse Appreciation Week, and it comes as Virginia’s nurses have put their lives on the line to help stop the coronavirus pandemic. 

As COVD-19 spread around the world, nurses stepped up to serve in a capacity many never saw coming, with their work putting them on the front lines of treating patients with the sometimes deadly virus. 

Kelly Via, a nurse at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, said her colleagues look at their extraordinary work with an attitude of: “I’m just doing my job.”

Via, who has worked as a nurse for 22 years, organized events at her hospital for Nurse Appreciation Week. She said that even before the coronavirus, the World Health Organization had designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse. 

Nurses in unit C2 participating in theme day.

“All of our planning for Nurse Appreciation Week 2020 was halted as the focus turned to preparations to care for our patients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Via said in an interview with Dogwood. “But we realized we didn’t want to miss this opportunity to recognize and celebrate our nurses– especially at this time.” 

She said thanks to support from the community, her hospital put together a rewarding appreciation week. Nurses participated in theme days like twin day, alma mater day, and, appropriately, superhero day. 

There are also sweet treats for nurses delivered by a roving ice cream cart and breakfast cart, which Via said replaced the usual breakfast buffet. Nurses also received lunches delivered to their units, cupcakes on Florence Nightingale’s birthday, on May 12 and nursing award presentations. 

“While we were saddened that this year prevents us from gathering together in larger groups, the fact that we are a cohesive team cannot be denied as we all celebrated together a little differently,” she said. 

Via explained that every year the hospital has “Celegrams” that allow staff throughout the hospital to write a note of recognition to a nurse and have it hand delivered to them. 

“Because of the pandemic we were unable to do that this year,” Via said. “Instead, we posted boards outside of each nursing unit in the hospital so that any staff member or patient can write a message of appreciation or encouragement,” she said. “It was a beautiful sight yesterday to walk around and see the outpouring of admiration and support written on those boards.”

Nurses stand in front of one of the many message boards that patients can write on to say thank you.

Despite being under the same Sentara Health umbrella, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center in Woodbridge participated in Nurse Appreciation Week in their own way. 

Susan Bahorich, who works as a communications advisor at the hospital, said they give out treats like breakfast sandwiches, donuts, mocktails and candy boxes. 

“We will be celebrating our calling and passion for helping the community while also adhering to CDC and Commonwealth social distancing guidelines,” Bahorich said in an interview with Dogwood. “[We] also launched a new website to gather the uplifting words of encouragement being sent to our healthcare heroes on the frontlines fighting COVID-19.”

She explained that the goal of the website is to have communities visit the page and share their appreciation for nurses and caregivers can pull up the website and read the messages as a little pick-me-up whenever they might need it. 

The communities that nurses serve have also stepped up to say their thank yous. 

“Residents and staff of a local retirement community thanked our nursing staff and all essential personnel with an auto parade around the hospital,” Via said. “Our staff were able to wave to our grateful community members as they drove by with balloons and homemade signs. It was so touching to see how excited and moved the staff were by this gesture. We love our community.” 

Via explained that while nursing is an extremely rewarding job it can also be exhausting, especially during a pandemic. Which is why Nurse Appreciation Week is extra important this year. 

“It is important to take the time to formally recognize our nurses and all healthcare workers so that they can refill their own buckets in order to carry out their heroic efforts of caring for our patients and families during these unprecedented times,” Via said.

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