Compassion Amplified

Compassion Amplified

Northwest Nazarene University
Aug 20, 2021
nursing students in the lab

Throughout 2020, healthcare workers around the world were faced with indescribable challenges. NNU nurses rose to those challenges in creative and tireless ways—wherever they found themselves—to help fight COVID-19 with the compassion and innovation characteristic of the NNU community.

Katie Mouw has worked for two years on the Medical/Surgical and Orthopedic units at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Nampa, Idaho. Saint Alphonsus is a moderate-sized non-profit hospital with a variety of specialty units, including telemetry, cardiac, an 18-bed ICU, Emergency Department, Labor and Delivery, oncology and general surgery. Though her nursing career is newly started, Katie’s experiences working during the pandemic have been formative for her future in healthcare and as a believer in Christ.

One of the hardest things about nursing during the pandemic has been giving the same quality care to patients with COVID that I would give to any of my other patients due to the time it takes to put on personal protective equipment (PPE). Early on, when I had a COVID patient and didn’t have a personally-fitted N95 mask, I had to wear a PAPR. A PAPR is a large hood with a small plastic panel in front of your face and a large tube with a pump that produces clean air to breathe. It is loud and strange. 

One of the first patients I had with COVID was frustrated because the nurses and staff were taking time to put on the required PPE before going into his room. He became increasingly annoyed because he had antibiotics running on an infusion pump, and when the antibiotics were finished, the pump would beep until a staff member turned it off. My first encounter with him was strained because it was the first time I’d ever put on the PAPR and it took me about 25 minutes! I felt terrible. I began to work around the PPE to the best of my ability and set timers for when the antibiotics would be done. That way, I could start the process of putting on my PPE before the pump would sound the alarm. This process worked well and I was able to anticipate the patient’s needs ahead of time. At the end of my shift, over the hum of the PAPR, I heard the patient say, “thank you” for nothing in particular, but with the look in his eyes, he conveyed that he was grateful for the quieter day of rest he’d had. 

In my short time as a nurse, I have repeatedly seen that it is the compassion and love of Christ shown to others that makes the biggest impact on patients. COVID-19 has only proven this to me on a grander scale. When I selflessly serve others for the glory of God, people can’t help but notice. When I work long hours or have patients who are having difficult days, it is God alone who strengthens me, guides me and gives me the ability to see the sometimes overlooked needs of my patients and coworkers. In a time such as this—and always—people who share the joy of Christ and encourage others are a breath of fresh air to those around them. By the grace of God, He has strengthened me and helped me grow through the pandemic to be more mindful of caring for patients and their families in a holistic way. 

At NNU, I was first taught to see each patient, not just as a diagnosis but also as a person with emotional, spiritual, mental, social and physical needs. It was at NNU that God introduced me to my future profession of nursing and taught me to look to Him—not myself—to be the best nurse I can be. The professors and staff encouraged me to pursue and serve God alone. It was my time at NNU that shaped me into the nurse and person I am now. I am truly blessed to be able to share the knowledge I’ve gained with others to help them heal. Nursing is the mission field that God has called me to serve in for as long as I am able. 

NNU has a saying—“Here for Good”—which I believe means NNU is here to represent God and glorify Him in all they do as a university. As 1 Chronicles 16:34 states, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Our God is goodness personified and we are His creation, intended to be His image-bearers in this world. We are not just here for good as the world defines it, but as ambassadors for our almighty, perfect and good God! 

Because of COVID-19, my mission to serve others through Christ’s strength alone has only become clearer and more amplified. The world is ravished by sin and evil, and Christians need to be the light of Christ to those around us. If we don’t share the love and goodness of God through Christ to those in need of hope, who will? 

Kaydah Parker is a floor nurse on an Oncology/Neurology/general medical floor at Kootenai Health in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, where she’s worked for two years. It is a small magnet hospital with 329 available beds. Her floor has been converted into a half-COVID unit, and when numbers rose, into a fully designated COVID unit where they wore continuous personal protective equipment (PPE), only changing their outer layer of gloves between patients. Though she’s faced challenges, Kaydah continues to be an example of dedication, embodying compassion for her patients.

I began my career in the middle of the pandemic. One of the most challenging things has been that a lot of what we were taught never to do has been expected practice—things like reusing masks (such as the N95), keeping the same PPE on for multiple patients and limiting our time spent with patients. It has been especially hard communicating with our population who are hard of hearing or who suffer from dementia, because they rely on faces and expressions to relay messages and understand and relate to others.

Watching patients be isolated has been the hardest thing by far. I don’t think I ever fully realized the effects of having supportive people around you when you are sick. In my experience, it can make or break a situation. I have seen patients who lose the will to live and the only thing that could possibly bring it back would be close contact with family—but this pandemic has made that impossible. I have held so many people’s hands and tried to be that support, but with the barrier created by the PPE, our ability to connect is severely diminished.

I’ve had numerous patients ask me to pull my mask down and just let them see a smile. Patients need some sense of human connection, and, unfortunately, this pandemic has interrupted that.

On the other hand, being a nurse through this has given me the opportunity to be a support and light in my patients’ lives. I can’t do much, but I can bring a positive and uplifting attitude to their care. I will be the first to admit that I get grouchy—we are dehydrated, hungry and straight-up overheating from all the gear. However, when I walk into those rooms, I turn that off because the patients need someone to be positive and bring their spirits up, someone who isn’t doom and gloom. 

One funny thing that’s happened is that I ended up on two billboards, in the newspaper and hospital magazines and on the news, because I work on the COVID unit. I just happened to be there the day they came to take pictures to show the community what was going on. I thought it was great, but I had no warning of how the photos were being used, and one day while driving, I saw my giant head on a billboard. My coworkers often joke that I’m the face of the franchise. 

As a nurse, you learn to adapt and overcome, which for me, is the motto of nursing. It is ten times scarier for the patient to adapt, so if I can adapt to ease that burden, I will. Nurses are crafty and resilient. We do what it takes—sometimes even at the expense of ourselves. Relationships with coworkers and debriefing are necessary to avoid becoming bogged down by the burden of internalizing struggles. 

Healthcare workers need to exemplify compassion, understanding and resiliency regularly. COVID has amplified these. We have to have compassion for our patients who are terrified and frustrated at visitor policies. We have to have an understanding of what is going on and why things are constantly changing. And we have to have resiliency for ourselves and our patients because nothing seems to be the same from day to day, and it’s easy to get burnt out.

Because of NNU, I have been able to be strong and rooted in faith. At times, my faith was the only thing keeping me in this career. There have been instances when I want to give up and quit, but I remember that God picked me to be in this role, to be the image of Him within this setting. Ironically, NNU also taught me to endure things that I don’t want to do with grace and a positive attitude.

Being a frontline healthcare worker during a pandemic has been hard—harder than I could have ever imagined. It has been scary, but somehow I continue to see God’s grace through it. I cannot wait for the day when I’m an old nurse and get to tell all the new nurses, “I was a COVID nurse!” and share my experiences, to see their shocked faces when they hear the things we did. If someone would have told me that this is what my first year of nursing would look like, I don’t know if I could have kept going, but here we are, continuously loving on and showing these people that they aren’t alone and that we nurses are going to care for them no matter what. 

We are here to be good and create goodness, but we are also here for good to stay and remain. NNU supported me as I became a better version of myself. The nursing program staff cared that I was successful and ensured that I would be safe in my practice. They created a strong foundation for me to stand on so that the waves of life would not take me out. 

I am a nurse—this is what God has for me, and even though it is hard and I want to quit sometimes, this is where I am supposed to be. My education at NNU was not easy, and much like this past year of nursing, I wanted to quit at times. But I didn’t because I knew I was making a difference in the lives of my patients. I am a nurse for good.

Abraham Kimeli (’18), 
Family Nurse Practitioner
Abraham Kimeli started his own private practice in Saginaw, Michigan, in July 2020, first seeing patients in December 2020. He is a Family Nurse Practitioner with certification in Psychiatric Mental Health. His practice, State Street Behavioral Services, is a small facility that specializes in psychiatry. Though Abraham suffered much grief and encountered many obstacles during the pandemic, he continues to acknowledge the faithfulness of the Lord and His provision and care for His children.

Abraham Kimeli started his own private practice in Saginaw, Michigan, in July 2020, first seeing patients in December 2020. He is a Family Nurse Practitioner with certification in Psychiatric Mental Health. His practice, State Street Behavioral Services, is a small facility that specializes in psychiatry. Though Abraham suffered much grief and encountered many obstacles during the pandemic, he continues to acknowledge the faithfulness of the Lord and His provision and care for His children.

The pandemic was very hard for me. Because I work as a psychiatrist, I lost several patients to COVID-19, which affected me personally. I had to console and reassure patients and grieving family members. I always tried to encourage them that “we shall overcome this pandemic.” Prayers got me through it. Sometimes I would find myself crying after I would end telemedicine sessions with patients who’d been crying. Everything was so new, so there were no definite answers to provide patients when they needed them. My faith was tested through it all.

We’ve been blessed with three children who are eight, nine and 13 years old. Both my wife and I work in healthcare and could not work from home, but the schools were closed and our kids needed to do at-home learning. We were constantly trying to make the difficult decision of how to juggle work and our kids’ virtual schooling. My mother often stepped in to help when we both had to go to work. Eventually, I had to inform my employer that I had to quit because of the schedule. They offered to let me work just two days for them from home; though this was a blessing, it also was difficult because of the loss in wages as well as the challenges of attending patients over the phone and checking on my kids’ school work and Zoom meetings. 

In the midst of all of this, I was trying to follow my dream of starting my own business. I lost hope at one point, but my wife continued to encourage me. We continued to pray, and our prayers were answered. I thank God every day because the opening of my private practice was such a blessing. We get to provide care to those who could not access care, and we have more time as a family to grow spiritually. I believe that God is always looking upon His people.

The pandemic and its challenges taught us how to prioritize our necessities; we learned how to budget and grew in patience and trust in God. 
Not only did my NNU education prepare me to care for my patients, but I learned how to work in different and adverse conditions. My nursing classes taught me good clinical skills that I apply in my daily work while helping my patients. NNU affirmed—and I believe—that Almighty God is with me in whatever mission I am facing.

Shannon Hemphill (’90), Registered Nurse
Shannon became the nurse at NNU’s Health Services during the 2020-2021 academic school year after serving for ten years as a nurse in family practice. Shannon serves alongside her husband, campus physician Dr. Bryon Hemphill. She acknowledges God’s timing in bringing her to Health Services early in the pandemic, allowing the clinic to be fully staffed and able to handle the increase in patients. The NNU Health Clinic is a board-certified family practice clinic whose target audience is NNU students, faculty, staff and their families. It is the hope and dream of NNU and the Hemphills to grow the clinic to reach the surrounding community while facilitating a place where students in different disciplines of study—from nursing to counseling—can receive clinical experience on campus.

During this pandemic year, we have faced many challenges—starting with a plan to keep students safe and healthy in face-to-face learning and finding ways to provide a big enough clinic space to house the demand of what COVID-19 would bring. However, the biggest challenge was being a source of strength, hope and love to all who came into Health Services. I originally became a nurse to help people when they are feeling vulnerable and scared. I knew that this would be challenging with all of the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus. We were constantly checking our sources so we could stay on top of information that was changing week-to-week, day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. What we could tell someone one day could change by the next day.

The other big challenge was being who we needed to be to those that came in with different perspectives. We had those who were full of fear of the unknown, needing assurance and education to live through this time in a safe but not controlling way. Then there were some who believed it was all a hoax and didn’t want to participate in the health protocols created to protect our NNU community. Education was key, wrapped in love that put Christ in the center of it all. There were many times that the best thing we could do was pray with them. I am so thankful I work in a place where I can stop whatever I am doing and pray with whomever I am with at that moment. It was these special times connecting to students on a spiritual level that gave me what I needed to make it through this year.

Sometimes I felt like my job was the “Official Nose Swabber.” There is so much more to being a nurse, but finding ways to encourage, educate and pray with people kept me going. I believe that nurses need extra doses of compassion and empathy all the time, and during this pandemic, we needed it even more. 

“Here for Good” represents this past year well. We (the NNU community) came together and worked hard to stay face-to-face, and we DID IT!! I believe God has amazing things ahead for NNU, and I am so excited that I get to be a part of it.