Nikki Groff, RN, and Early Ritter, RN, were honored by the Nevada Hospital Association for their award-winning essays in the organization’s 21st annual statewide nursing essay contest.
This year’s theme, Making a Difference Every Day in Unprecedented Times, focused on the “unique contributions nurses make in the care of patients and their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Groff, RN, Infection Prevention & Education nurse for Desert View Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Pahrump, was honored in the Attraction Category with the question: I answered the call to serve as a nurse in my community during this time of crisis because….”
Groff, a military wife, mom of two and nurse for three years, offered a unique perspective, comparing the call to care for COVID patients as similar to the call to serve in a war setting. Pregnant during the initial phase of COVID, Groff “found myself being the cheerleader… From there, I helped coach and teach any nurse who encountered a problem that they were unsure how to handle.
“I did my best to be the person that my colleagues could depend on to get them through the day. I was no longer the nurse for the patients, but the caregiver for the nurses.”
Through her hard work and empathy skills, Groff accepted the position as Desert View Hospital’s infection prevention and education nurse. Along with the responsibilities of keeping Desert View Hospital up-to-date on the hospital’s COVID response, she also helped vaccinate Nye County community members, rallying her fellow employees, EMTs and nursing students to assist. “By going out into the community with my fellow colleagues, we started to see the love that the community had. They often wanted their pictures with us as we administered vaccines. They thanked us for staying and helping them. They told us stories of how we made a difference in their lives. The nurses may have cared for the community during this time of crisis, but it is the community that is caring for the nurses as the crisis slows.”
Ritter, RN, BSBA, BSN, Director of Women’s Services/Birthplace for Summerlin Hospital, a 485-bed hospital in western Las Vegas, was honored in the Professional Development category, focusing on the question: My professional development and perspective in nursing has been influenced by COVID-19 because . . .
Ritter, a wife, mom of four, grandmother of two, and nurse for 11 years, wrote about fear.
“Fear can grip you, shake you, and challenge your life,” she wrote, “You might be strong enough to sustain in your path, but there are times when it can encapsulate who you are and somehow you are forever changed. It happens a lot in nursing. Wherever you are…whatever you do…once a nurse always a nurse. It is not just a career path but also a calling. Fear is a part of the path of nursing. We fear for the outcome. Some areas we fear for death. Other areas we fear for the life that is changed forever. Sometimes we fear the changes within ourselves.”
As the pandemic made its way to Las Vegas, it sent a wave of uncertainty through the community. “I remember feeling this uncertainty of life. In nursing, we save. We care. We heal. It became the norm to start healing the fear wounds of those who were around us…Laying silent at night and feeling the wet on my face from my tears was common. I knew I would have to fight to save patients and I knew what I had promised in my oath. I just was not sure if I could,” she wrote.
“I watched the steadfast demeanor of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Nursing Officer. They showed up every day. Asked the same questions until answers came. The community started swarming the hospital with support and love. Masks were donated. The food donations came. The community made signs supporting their “Healthcare Heroes.” Nurses came in and fought for the lives of those in the hospital day after day…night after night. Like soldiers…they geared up…showed up and fought. I watched them fight and fought for them in the shadows.
“It’s not over. The fight will be alive for a while. I am different now. I am different because I watched the battle. When I sent in the troops, they fought with courage and strength. I see life differently and live each day making sure the people around me know that I care. I stand with the courageous and defined leaders of a hospital that cared for their staff. Silently and passionately. I chose to be a nurse. For better or for worse I have a career I love. People need strength to overcome fear. People need nurses. I will forever be a better wife, mother, friend, and nurse because of Covid-19.”
“These are incredibly powerful essays,” said Karla Perez, Regional Vice President. “You know the fears your team has faced head-on, but to have it expressed so eloquently by Nikki and Early – the fear of the unknown, the strength of the team and the support of the community – I know their words represent not only nurses but thousands of other front-line employees, first responders and essential workers. I’m grateful they were able to express what others felt, and continue to feel, as our COVID numbers are once again on the rise.”
Editor’s Note: essay submissions were due in early April, after COVID numbers had dropped significantly in the county and state of Nevada. As of July 2021, numbers are once again increasing throughout the state.