As the global pandemic tests our health care system, the heroes who devote their lives to caring for the sick are leading the way for our community to come together as one. Every year, nurses are celebrated during Nurses Week, beginning on May 6th and ending on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Now the American Nurses Association has declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse.
Last May, Ocala nurse Drumeka Rollerson posted a portrait of herself on Facebook—a beautiful outdoor pose of her in scrubs, with a vibrant smile. It was a post to wish other nurses “Happy Nurses Week,” with hashtags like #dopenurse, #differencemaker and #nurseboss, and an inspirational quote by Rawsi Williams: “To do what nobody else will do, that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through; that is to be a nurse.” It was an uplifting post that was liked and shared well over 100 times, and it drew smiles and comments from friends and fellow nurses. She had no way of knowing exactly what “doing what nobody else will do” would mean just 11 months later.
Rollerson answered the call in March when nurses were needed to help with COVID-19 testing, and she went to work at the drive-up testing site at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, which opened March 25th. Every morning, cars were lined up when they opened at 9am. Rollerson and the other nurses, outfitted in protective gowns, masks and face shields, were ready—with smiles on—to swab-test 250 scared citizens a day. That’s what a dope nurse boss does.
A graduate of the College of Central Florida’s bachelor’s of nursing program, Rollerson now serves on their Nursing Programs Advisory Committee. She’s a critical care nurse and has 15 years of experience in the field. But no amount of experience could have fully prepared any health professional for the current pandemic.
“Working on the front line with COVID-19 has outweighed every type of illness I’ve ever come across in my 15 years of nursing,” this wife and mother reveals. “I can see the fear in their eyes.”
When asked on April 9th what the community can do to honor these healthcare heroes for Nurses Week, her answer was simple.
“Stay at home,” she urges, but adds that someone looking for a way to help could “be a blessing” by sending a care package of snacks or cleaning products to the front-line health care workers.
“By the time we get off work, the shelves are bare,” she explains. “Keep us in your prayers. Our community needs us.”
There’s no doubt our health care system is being tested right now, and providers are giving their all to save the sick. And it’s in dark days that their caring spirit shines brightest.
“Passionate people who care without reservation or limits” is how Ocala Health describes its nurses as well as all its other employees—“courageous people who show up ready
to face new challenges daily. People who protect vigilantly, give selflessly and support one another tirelessly. People who bring calm to chaos. What we’re made of is incredible people.”
Groups such as the Black Nurses Rock Ocala Chapter and the Marion County Nurses Association were founded to provide support, mentorship and education for nurses. Support from their peers and from the community is appreciated now more than ever, when nurses are, as the United Nations recently called them, the “backbone to health services worldwide.”
“During these trying times the community may not be able to celebrate nurses as usual,” acknowledges Lyn Brinson, president of the Black Nurses Rock Ocala Chapter. She, like Rollerson—also a member of the nonprofit organization—says nurses are grateful for the community’s appreciation of their dedication to caring for the sick.
“Our community can continue to support and honor nurses during Nurses Week with essentials like hand sanitizer, wipes and masks,” she shares. “The community can also show continued honor and support by sending supportive notes, prayers and videos.”
If you would like to share your own message of support for our local nurses and health care heroes, please visit our post on Facebook or Instagram.