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Focus on Rural Health

Celebrating Nurses and Hospitals During a Pandemic

By Jena Pierce on

Though COVID-19 has put a strain on healthcare centers and healthcare professionals, entities across the state have found ways to honor and celebrate nurses and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Nurses Week

National Nurses Week began May 6 and concluded May 12, Florence Nightingale's birthday. In the 1800s, Nightingale modernized nursing practices with strict hand washing and hygiene practices, which are proving just as important today during the coronavirus crisis.

National Hospital Week

May 10-16 was National Hospital Week. Healthcare facilities made sure these days didn't go by without celebration.

Directors of Nursing (DON) in the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) Quality Network, which is comprised of 36 hospitals across North Dakota, hold monthly distance networking meetings. Due to the extra pressure COVID-19 has placed on hospitals and staff, the networking calls have been happening weekly.

Jody Ward
Jody Ward

"This is a platform where DONs across North Dakota come together every week to discuss successes, barriers, and challenges related to COVID-19 activity," said Jody Ward, senior project coordinator for the North Dakota Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program and CAH Quality Network at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences. "As part of this discussion, National Nurses Week and National Hospital Week still occurred, especially when we needed to celebrate nurses and healthcare workers the most. Questions were raised as to how do you celebrate when groups cannot gather, it is challenging to serve food, and everyone is working? Through discussion, we found several hospitals that planned creative ideas that were shared with the group, and we thought this is a great way to honor and thank the nurses, the backbone of the hospitals."

In Tioga, North Dakota, the Tioga Medical Center (TMC) celebrated but incorporated social distancing into the plans.

"Every year we hold a big potluck, and this year it was a little different," said Amber Nelson, TMC's director of nursing. "We still did it, because nurses love potlucks, but we kept people six feet apart. People got their food one at a time, everyone sanitized themselves before they went in the room, and everyone wore masks and took their food back to their own area so we stayed consistent with social distancing. The management team also put together little gifts for all of the nurses. National Hospital Week is also a big week for our center. The facility buys every employee a geranium and unlimited fountain drinks for the week."

It was really important to us to celebrate these events because of how hard our staff works.

"It was really important to us to celebrate these events because of how hard our staff works. Everybody is extra stressed and this allowed the employees to feel appreciated. We have also had the opportunity to be on the radio several times a week, and recently our CEO talked about how our definition of essential staff is different. All of our staff in the facility is essential. Without everyone in our facility, we could not operate."

nurse on phone
A nurse from First Care Health Center
taking a phone call from a patient.

First Care Health Center (FCHC) in Park River, North Dakota, altered its plans as well to keep everyone safe and at a distance while still honoring the important work all nurses do.

"We did a few things differently this year," said Lori Seim, FCHC's director of nursing. "During COVID-19, our theme is 'The Year of the Nurse: We Are in This Together.' Normally, the administration gives all of the nurses a gift, and we still did that, but this year we had 'care fairies.' We drew names from everyone who wanted to participate and had people fill out a survey of their favorite beverage, food – or intolerances, snack, and hobby/interest. Everyone was given a name and then that person bought a gift and left it at their doorstep. This allowed the nurses to take care of each other anonymously.

This pandemic is the biggest medical crisis in my memory, and a lot of our nurses' memories, so we want to make sure we are always showing support for them.

"Instead of a scavenger hunt in the community, we had Zoom Bingo, because we needed to move our celebrations online. Zoom Bingo was held every night at 8:00 pm throughout the week with a prize awarded each night. We kept our Nurse of the Year award, which was voted on for and by the nurses, all of the RNs, LPNs, and nurses aides in the building, which includes the clinic and hospital. Especially during this time, it was a big deal. This pandemic is the biggest medical crisis in my memory, and a lot of our nurses' memories, so we want to make sure we are always showing support for them. They are sacrificing their time, like they always do. They are on the front lines and doing it with professional excellence."

Jena Pierce Jena Pierce

is the Communications Manager at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Grand Forks.