LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Emergency room nurses have been under extraordinary pressure during the last 18 months.
They're treating a surge of patients sick with COVID-19, on top of their normal workload.
Hospitals, communities, and families are saying thank you to those nurses who have been on the front line in emergency rooms on National Emergency Nurses Day.
When a patient arrives at the UofL Hospital emergency department, there is a good chance they will be greeted by the smile of ER registered nurse Beth Payne.
Payne’s passion to take care of others led her to Africa where she taught CPR and health education and literacy.
The mission trips weren’t the only things the UofL graduate and cello player wanted to accomplish.
“I wanted to be an ER nurse all along. I didn't know if I could do it,” says Payne.
What scared Payne the most turned out to be a challenge she enjoyed.
“I just love the fast pace and I love that you're the first person that those patients see when they come to the door,” says Payne. “I’m glad that I’m here for sure.”
The fast pace she fell in love with got more demanding for her and other nurses over the pandemic.
Andrew Odom, another ER registered nurse at UofL Hospital’s emergency department, is feeling the strain from the hospital being full of patients and short-staffed.
“It's hard because even during a pandemic we're seeing our same volume of patients on top of being full with COVID and other stuff, and so it is hard because we’re the trauma center, the stroke center. We have to make room for those people,” says Odom.
On top of all that, the spike in crime in Louisville is sending even more people to the ER.
“It's hard. It's frustrating to see what humans can do to other humans,” says Odom.
Layers of personal protection equipment made it harder for Payne to keep patients calm during their scariest moments.
“It's a lot harder to care for someone when you have a mask and they can't see your facial expressions, especially older people, so I think that all of those things just added to the complexities that the ER already has in place,” says Payne.
Strict visitation policies created more stress but Payne continues to do what she does best.
“It's rough to be in the hospital anytime. It's especially rough when you can't have your family with you, so down to whether they're coming through our trauma room or if they're just an old grandma and they don't know what's happening to them being able to kind of look them in the eye and say we've got you, we're gonna take care of you and kind of see that calming them a little bit I think is one of my favorite moments when you can kind of see that transition,” says Payne. “ It’s a crisis all of the time.”
Taking care of other people is the job of nurses, but even they need taking care of while dealing with tragedy after tragedy.
“I think you build up a tolerance to it too, because you have to, to a certain extent but then I think sometimes you go home, it'll build up for a little while, and then something will hit you kind of hard that you weren’t expecting,” says Payne.
Payne says she gives credit to her support team at work and outside of it.
“I think my family and my friends done such a great job of caring for me, and our management here has done such a great job of supporting us through all of that making sure mentally we're ready for the next day and the next shift the next patient,” says Payne.
Odom has played sports most of his life. He credits the teamwork mentality between hospital staff as part of the his support team also along with his family.
“I'm hopeful for more vaccinated people and the end of the pandemic where we can sort of go back to just our normal everyday ER Life,” says Odom.