I’ve been a registered nurse for 45 years. When I retired five years ago, it was not an easy decision. Being a critical care nurse is a big part of defining who I am as a person. For as long as I can remember, I never wanted to be anything but a nurse. Before I was a wife, before I was a mother, I was a nurse. When Northwell Health and the union offered retirement packages, I could not refuse and retired at age 63. I had spent the last 31 years in the intensive care unit at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.
I still loved my job and my co-workers. The people I worked with were an amazing group of dedicated professionals. I still have a network of incredibly strong, caring women whose love and support over decades mean more to me than they will ever know. Dubbed the “ICU Mafia” by one of our adult children, we have been there for each other, through good times and bad.
I am sorry that COVID-19 brought us to this place in time. But I am happy to finally see nurses get the recognition that is long overdue. They are the on-site, bedside-care team, working long shifts for you; mine were 12-hour days. They adjust your IV medications, they suction you, turn you to prevent bedsores, rush you to CT scans, and transfuse lifesaving blood. They hold your hand when you’re scared, comfort your loved ones, and cry with you when you make a recovery. There is no greater feeling then finishing a shift and knowing you made a difference in a patient’s outcome.
When the pandemic hit, I felt guilty for not being at the ICU to help, to do what my training knows automatically how to do. But between being almost 68 years old and recovering from a traumatic knee dislocation in November, and having a husband newly diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I knew it was not realistic to go back into the hospital. Part of me regrets that I am missing out on this historic event. This is a feeling only a health care worker can understand. But the rational part of me counts my blessings and thanks the Lord that I am safe at home.
Wednesday is the start of National Nurses Week. I urge everyone to find the biggest pot and bang it; grab the loudest horn and honk it. Continue to show your love and support for what has been an unprecedented time in critical care medicine. I will be right there with you cheering as my eyes well up with tears. To all of my fellow nurses — from my beloved ICU Mafia to my colleagues everywhere, and especially to those of you on the front lines — I am proud of you, of us, of the work we have done, are doing now, and will continue to do.
I think and pray for you every day. Be safe, be well. Be a nurse!
Reader Ginny Labusohr lives in Bayport.