Local nurses place in national competition 

Published 10:59 pm Monday, May 3, 2021

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To celebrate the start of Nurse’s Month, two Suffolk nurses and their team were part of a competition and placed against others across the country.

The American Nurse Journal’s All Pro Nursing Team competition rewards teams who have stepped it up during COVID-19 and focused on communication, leadership and responsiveness to care for each other and the patients.

At Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, the clinical coordinator nursing team wrote an article highlighting the growth of the hospital since the beginning of the pandemic. The report covered all of the new procedures put into place to make sure the staff was running the hospital as efficiently as possible during the pandemic. Their article placed as the third runner-up against hospitals across the country.

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“To do all of this and then look back at the end of the year was just wow,” said Leslie Hawkins, a registered nurse at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and one of the two from Suffolk on the award-winning team. “It was an eye-opener and really meaningful to put all of our hard work into one spot.”

The article was to highlight a particular group’s efforts during the pandemic. Even though all departments rose to the occasion, the clinical nurse team was chosen. The clinical nurses were the ones on the front lines during the height of the pandemic while also doing their regular duties. This team was selected because they represent all hospital areas, giving appropriate representation to all teams.

This article highlighted the different areas that grew and adapted due to the pandemic. One of the ways was a partnership with Bayport Credit Union that got iPads for the rooms so that patients could video call with family members that were unable to visit during COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was such a huge benefit,” said Cathy Mason, a registered nurse at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and the other Suffolk resident on the team. “At the beginning, loved ones couldn’t get here to be with the patients. Sometimes we were letting them use our personal phones to Facetime loved ones. We were in tears to be able to have these to give them comfort. It’s been such a huge benefit.”

Another aspect was getting enough personal protection equipment for the staff and keeping enough on hand. The hospital partnered with the fire department to ensure everyone had enough, and due to their innovation and creativity, the hospital has not gotten close to running out.

Also, as many hospitals were reaching capacity, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare had to decide what to do and where to put new patients if they ran out of room.

“As hospitals around the country saw a surge, we had to make a plan,” said Hawkins. “We had plans to use our other buildings to add beds there and even at the community center. Other hospitals looked at our plan to adopt it.”

As the pandemic took a toll on nurses and other health care workers, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare created spaces called “Me 15” These spaces give the staff 15 minutes to relax with massage chairs, virtual reality, aromatherapy and more to help them unwind and relax during the long stressful shifts.

“Some have been separated from their families,” said Hawkins. “Those who are not, work hard shifts full of mortality or clients they are not used to. They then go home and to be a teacher to their kids or take care of family members. It’s just 15 minutes they can take to shut down and take care of themselves so they can continue to take care of others. If we get sick, who will take care of the community?”

Overall, the hospital had to stay on its toes and hit the ground running as the Centers for Disease Control recommendations changed almost daily, and new hurdles and solutions were being found.

“This was a change for all of us,” said Mason. “We are a small hospital, but we are large in numbers and large in heart. There were things we didn’t think we could produce, but the pandemic brought it out of us. We will continue to serve our community and patients with every bit of growth.”