FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Frederick Health Hospital (FHH) is the only hospital located in Frederick County. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital has cared for COVID-19 positive patients and performed more than 2,000 tests, based on prior reporting.
“Never knowing each day what unit you were going to work on, or what kind of patients you were going to be working with, what staff you were going to be working with, or what you were going to be dealing with–some of that’s the basic nursing that you see all the time anyway, but this was different,” explained hospital nurse Lori Harper.
Harper and Katherine Vann are both nurses who spend at least 12 hours of their day inside FHH, geared with masks as they care for patients, some of whom are COVID-19 positive.
Vann is a clinical specialist and in addition to caring for patients one-on-one, she also oversees a group of nurses. When the pandemic hit, she recalls the mission of the hospital changing to support those who have become infected with coronavirus.
“We had a lot of rapidly changing units, and staff reallocated. I actually volunteered to sign up to one of the helper nurses in the [intensive care unit],” Vann explained.
Harper too worked in the ICU, she explained. The oncology and thoracic unit that she was previously assigned to had temporarily closed with plans to transform that unit of the hospital for additional support if needed.
“We did like an ICU boot camp and brushed up on our skills and helped out in the ICU and COVID-19 unit so we were on those front lines and helped out in that area,” Harper said.
As hospital restrictions have limited the number of visitors allowed inside to mitigate the spread, nurses have stepped up not only to care for the patient’s medical needs, but also their social needs.
Harper says her day often includes phones calls with family members who are emotional about being unable to see their loved one.
“A lot of times you can get task oriented with you patients, but so much now, which we learned in nursing school, is that you take care of the entire patient,” Harper explained, “their psychological, social aspect of it. You have to be their support system.”
And in an effort to support a patient’s needs, Vann says nurses have relied on technology to connect with their families.
“We’ve been pretty creative using iPads, Webex videos all of that sort of thing to help people keep in touch,” Vann added.
And through their shifts, fellow nurses and hospital staff have picked up on both Harper and Vann’s ability to care for patients in a way that fits the title of Nurse of the Year.
When it came to nominating a Direct Care Nurse of the Year, staff members wrote of Harper that “she is an unsung hero; an angel in disguise.”
And for the title of Indirect Care Nurse of the Year, those who nominated Vann wrote that she is “always approachable, she fosters the development of others, teaches, and leads by example.”
During a small ceremony at the hospital, Vann and Harper were dubbed Nurses of the Year. The ceremony was also streamed online so family members could tune in.
“It was very humbling because there are some awesome nurses in the hospital,” Harper said, “I was very surprised when they called my name.”
“Just to be able to read my nomination, I was incredibly flattered,” Vann explained, “Everyone here works so hard. There could be a nurse of the day, a nurse of the month.”
Vann has worked at FHH for about five years. Harper says she’s been a part of the hospital staff for 14 years.
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