A staff nurse at Aultman Hospital, Carolyn Harmon, BSN, RN, has worked in both the Emergency Department and Pre-Anesthesia Testing Department over the course of her 22-year nursing career. She reflects on how her personal life experience has impacted her nursing practice and how she has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a pivotal moment in my life and nursing career when my mom passed away while I was a 21-year-old nursing student. I have used this personal experience to empower myself to be a strong patient advocate in discussing advance directives and other difficult situations with my patients and their families many times over the course of my career. I frequently encourage patients with chronic illnesses to have these discussions with their family members and develop a plan. Knowing these wishes and having this documentation in place, reduces the enormous burden felt in making end of life decisions at a crucial point for families. It also provides a tremendous amount of comfort for patients; they often feel they have little control over a difficult diagnosis or prognosis. I have found that bringing this human and personal aspect into these meaningful conversations helps to put patients and their families at ease in discussing many difficult decisions and concerns.
As members of one of the most trusted professions in the world, nurses provide a resounding voice in healthcare. Amid a global pandemic, this significance echoes within me now more than ever. When news of the COVD pandemic swept the world, I found myself mentally and emotionally preparing to do whatever was needed to provide care for others at work, as well as in my home and community. I was inspired by nurses everywhere who have mobilized to help wherever they can during this critical time in the world. I found many reaching out to me with questions and fears and sought to be as informed as possible during a rapidly evolving time. In my own practice I have taken on additional responsibilities, I maintain a positive attitude to inspire others to do the same, I remain a fierce patient advocate, and I continue to be flexible in accepting life one day at a time. Daily I am inspired by the resilience of nurses everywhere in adjusting to the needs of their patients and departments. I hope the unity of nurses and the importance of providing compassionate care with honesty, integrity, and under any circumstances resonates with nurses everywhere. Never in my life have I ever felt prouder and more privileged to be a nurse.