For nearly a year, nursing professionals at Maine Medical Center had looked forward to 2020’s National Nurses Week in part because they had planned to celebrate the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Nursing teams across Maine Medical Center are leading the frontline efforts to care for patients diagnosed with or suspected of having the novel coronavirus. Across the Emergency Department, triage and testing locations, outpatient clinics, inpatient units and much more, nurses are working to ensure everyone stays safe and that all patients, no matter their diagnosis, receive excellent care. It’s not what they originally planned, but the response may actually better embody Nightingale’s vision of uncompromising care than any ceremony could have.

“Nurses across Maine Medical Center and the MaineHealth system are demonstrating unparalleled excellence as we care for our community during this pandemic,” said MMC and MaineHealth Chief Nursing Officer Marge Wiggins, DNP, MBA, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC.  “They are living our organization’s core values despite everything that is happening around them. It’s a true testament to the profession of nursing.”

For the past month, Elisa Martin, RN, BSN, has been on the front lines of COVID-19. She and her colleagues regularly wear personal protective equipment and use technology to help patients communicate with family members. But that hasn’t prevented her from providing the same level of committed care she always has.

“When I got into nursing, I expected to be on the frontlines,” Martin said. “We are here to care for patients, no matter what. This is what we’re here to do.”

The global pandemic that has rapidly transformed health care organizations around the world has also transformed nursing. But it’s a change nurses have always been equipped to handle.

“Nurses possess grit and resiliency,” said Nursing Director Rhonda DiPhilippo, BSN, RN. “I couldn’t be prouder of everyone working here. They’re open to change. They’ve pushed their personal anxieties aside to take care of patients.”

Across MMC and MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system that is MMC’s parent organization, nurses are stepping up to care for their patients and their communities in inspiring ways. In particular, the pandemic has compelled nurses and other colleagues to collaborate in ways they haven’t before.

“This crisis has led to the greatest example of collaborative problem-solving I’ve ever seen,” said Nursing Director Jonathan Archibald, MSN, RN, who helps lead MMC’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “It’s been all hands on deck. We’ve worked with our supply chain, our pharmacists, respiratory therapy, providers, rehabilitation medicine and colleagues at other MaineHealth locations. Everyone is answering the call.”

At MMC’s Emergency Department, nursing staff have established isolation areas for potential COVID-19 patients and are adjusting the care delivery model to ensure safety, all the while continuing to provide excellent care to patients with traditional, emergency-level needs.

“The emergency department nurses have really taken ownership of the processes that will ensure patient safety,” said Director of Emergency Services Faye Collins, DNP, RN, NEA-BC. “Above all, we are committed to the same caring and compassion that makes this such a special place to give and receive care.”

Across MMC, examples of nursing excellence abound. Some nurses are supporting the ongoing clinical trial for Remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Nurse educators and clinical nurse leaders have worked around the clock to train colleagues in the proper use of protective equipment. And many others who have not directly cared for COVID-19 patients have taken on new or expanded roles.

As we celebrate the Year of the Nurse, COVID-19 highlights the challenging conditions nurses face. The pandemic has shown how critically important nurses are, and the world has responded with an incredible outpouring of gratitude and support. At MMC, equipment donations, vast amounts of donated meals from local restaurants, much of it paid for by community donors, and posters and appreciation notes from grateful patients and community members have been greatly appreciated by nurses.

“We are proud of the teamwork and performance of nurses, particularly the care they are delivering to our patients and supporting each other. Thank you to all the nursing staff; you are our heroes,” said Chief Nursing Officer Wiggins.

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