Nurses, The Heart Of Healthcare


By Shelli Parker

Much like the human body, healthcare workers make up one unit made of many moving parts with some being less seen than others. However, nurses are truly the heart of the healthcare industry.

Patients deal with nurses many times over the amount of time they are around doctors, when they need comfort or have questions, they ask the nurse, and during COVID-19, sometimes their nurse is the last face they see or the person holding the phone so they can FaceTime loved ones.

Brook Murff has been a nurse for eight years at Park Highlands. She said COVID-19 being announced was much like Sept. 11 for her.

“I remember sitting in the room thinking, here we go, things are about to change,” she said. “We had to lock the doors and figure it all out.”

Murff described in a very raw and emotional interview the pain of her residents not being able to see their families and the struggles nurses and other healthcare workers faced.

“For a while there was no contact, people couldn’t see their families. People were passing away without their families,” she said. “There is a picture in my mind of a patient with her hand on the window and her son outside with his hand on the window touching hers.”

She said that the emotional toll this has taken on staff, patients and their families alike is the haunting remnant from 2020 she will remember most. With the exhausting physical burden placed on staff with long shifts, the emotional toll has been the worst on all concerned.

“The impact of COVID is on everyone,” she said. “A lot of our time was spent on the phone with families, but you are taking care of a critical patient at the same time. You always take care of the patient, but you have to find a way to take care of the family too.”

Taking care of the patients wasn’t easy, with PPE shortages and limited and changing knowledge, some staff didn’t want to work the COVID unit. Park Highlands accepts COVID patients and some nurses were scared, but Murff said over time the hesitant rose to the occasion.

Staff members had to wear their N95 mask until it was ripped or soiled. It was months before they could swap masks. People in the unit wore N95 on top of a surgical mask until the other gear was accessible.

“Over time they remembered, nurses take care of patients, that’s what we do,” she said. “We have bonds with our patients. We had people we were close to. I don’t work the floor often and it affects me, I may get tired of wearing a mask, but I get to go home. They are home, they have to wear them in their home.”

One day a COVID patient coded, Murff dressed in PPE, ran down to assist and on the way home thought of how she would keep it away from her kids. Like many others she stripped and showered before going around family, but some staff members slept in their garages to avoid infecting family members.

The Citizen of the Year award being awarded to the health care team of Athens is a way for the public to see a glimpse into their world and the sacrifices made for our greater good. There is none more deserving.

“In times like these the only way you can get through it is to be nice, friendly and take care of the patients and love them,” she said. “They become family. It isn’t always pushing a pill, it is way more than that.”


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