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Recent COVID-19 surge brought disappointment with it, nurses say

Doctors treat a patient in a COVID unit. (WHSV File)
Doctors treat a patient in a COVID unit. (WHSV File)(WHSV)
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Nurses have never been in the spotlight like they have been recently, with vaccine mandates and staff shortages making national headlines.

Some local nurses say the pandemic brought disappointment.

Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Augusta Health Crystal Farmer says when the pandemic first hit, it was scary.

“The feeling at that time was fear, but also there was so much encouragement from the community that I think nurses did feel like those heroes,” Farmer said.

During the most recent surge, Farmer says the feeling has changed.

“The number one feeling from, not only myself, but the nurses on the front line was disappointment,” Farmer said.

Farmer says the disappointment was from dashed hope.

“We thought we had this kicked with the vaccine and masking. We saw a decrease. We even got to close our respiratory care unit at some point in July,” Farmer said.

While nurses were seen as heroes last year, Farmer says they want things to be different.

“They don’t want to be known as a hero, they want to be known as a human being, so we need to take care of them, and they also need to be taken care of,” Farmer said.

She says she worries that the recent view of nursing and health care will have people looking into other careers.

“For the new graduates that are graduating, it’s a scary time. For the people that have been in it for a long time, it’s an exhausting time, and it’s still scary,” Farmer said.

She says nursing can’t be summarized by how things are right now.

“People that may be interested in nursing are seeing a side that’s just one snapshot in time of what it means to be a nurse,” Farmer said.

Officials with Blue Ridge Community College’s nursing department says students benefit from hearing the stories.

“I’m so excited that they’ve brought this to light and we’ve seen some of those inside stories of nurses and what their role is in the health care setting,” said nursing department head Kelly Stephenson.

Stephenson says many students aren’t scared to enter the field of health care.

“Our students that are coming into the program, we’re seeing there’s no hesitation from those students, and it’s awesome to see how interested they still are working in health care in the midst of a pandemic,” Stephenson said.

Hearing honest stories about helping people has even made students more ready to get to work, Stephenson adds.

“It’s helped to make some of our students’ decision in applying to the program and helping them be successful and stay engaged in the content because ultimately they have that goal of giving back to the community and taking care of others,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson says their operations continue as usual at Blue Ridge, but sometimes they face obstacles with clinical placements. Still, students are getting hands-on experience.

Farmer says if you want to help a nurse, watch out for yourself and others.

“Don’t relax. Keep the guard up. Take care of yourself. Wash your hands. Those are the main things the community can do,” Farmer said.

Augusta Health’s current COVID-19 census has leveled out, officials said in an email Sept. 27, but they’re expecting another surge of hospitalizations around Oct. 10.

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