Nurses Week 2021: Facing a challenging year with proficiency and poise
It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 changed our daily lives – and few professions felt this as significantly as nursing. In a matter of weeks, nurses were confronted with caring for patients with a previously unknown, life-threatening condition, and all the physical and emotional challenges that came with it.
In honor of Nurses Week, we caught up with Rachel Mollen, RN, BS, CCRN, CPN to learn about her passion for nursing, her efforts in supporting her colleagues in our pediatric intensive care unit during the pandemic and how she has balanced life over the past year.
Why did you choose a career in nursing, specifically pediatric critical care?
My younger sister was born with a rare blood disorder. As a child, watching and participating in her health care journey as a chronic pediatric patient, I quickly learned that it was her nurses who had the greatest influence on our entire family's experience.
Her primary nurse in the hem/onc clinic was named Pat. I watched her with awe whenever I was there. She was a dancer, a comedian, a wrestler, a mother and a bouncer all at once. She could make everything ok...even when it wasn't. She was magical in how she carried out the art of nursing. When people asked me what I wanted to do, I would simply say, "I want to be Pat when I grow up."
How were you selected to lead COVID preparation efforts in the PICU?
I wasn't really selected. I was in the charge nurse role when we admitted our first COVID “person under investigation” in the PICU and I realized that our COVID-specific supplies and information could be better organized and streamlined so our staff was prepared and could become comfortable with their resources. I volunteered to organize these materials. COVID kind of became my passion.
How did you manage so much change during this intense time?
When I find things overwhelming or a bit scary, my way of coping is to jump in with both feet. Knowledge makes me feel empowered and finding ways to get ready is a much better use of time than sitting around worrying. The PICU is always intense and things here are always changing. The key to being a strong PICU nurse is the ability to anticipate the unexpected and prepare for multiple scenarios at once. COVID is no different.
What types of things did you do to make your colleagues comfortable caring for COVID patients?
I created a PICU COVID-19 resource book with helpful phone numbers, up-to-date job aids and pediatric specific protocols. I printed and laminated all the appropriate signage and organized all our personal protective equipment supplies in a central location so that we could quickly and safely admit a PUI or COVID+ patient to the PICU. I attended additional superuser PPE training for donning and doffing (proper way to put on and take off PPE) so that I could be a resource for staff. I helped to organize mock COVID intubations (process of inserting a tube through the mouth and into the airway so a child can be placed on a ventilator) and code blue scenarios in the PICU so that we were all more familiar with the new processes.
What do you want parents to know if their child has to come to the PICU for COVID-related care?
They should know that we are ready and that they are in the best hands there are. COVID specific care and protocols have become another one of our many skills.
How did you take care of your mental health during this time?
I believe in a pretty thick line of separation between my life at home and my life at work. I try to be "all in" wherever I am at that moment. I think this helps with not feeling consumed by the hard parts of either place. The PICU has a strong peer support program as well. We have worked very hard to take care of each other during the past year.
How do you feel now that you’re more than a year into the COVID journey?
I think we are all a bit drained, like everyone else in the country I would imagine. But, more importantly, I think we are proud of the care we continue to give despite new and unexpected obstacles.
Thank you to all the nurses throughout CHoR who have gone the extra mile to care for kids and families this year. You are appreciated!
Find the latest COVID-related news and information.