By CONTRIBUTED REPORT

Sacrificing for the Greater Good

Not all heroes wear capes. Some are clothed head to toe in blue scrubs, face shields and masks. Under all that gear, you find people who sacrifice for the greater good.

Last spring, the coronavirus outbreak temporarily closed Southeast Georgia Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services, where Terri Mauldin, R.N., CCRN and Kristy Rose, R.N., worked. They could have retreated to the safety of their homes, but that’s not what heroes do. Instead, when their department closed, they immediately began coronavirus screening and testing at the Georgia Department of Public Health. “They did not complain and jumped right in to help where needed. I am very grateful for the sacrifice these ladies made and their willingness to do their part as health care workers at a very uncertain time in the world’s history,” says Candace Anderson, BSN, R.N., team leader, Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Services.

Mauldin’s efforts were especially meaningful. “Terri is an example for all of us in nursing. She is a high risk patient due to her immunosuppressive therapy, but was steadfast in her responsibility to her community. I appreciate Terri’s commitment to this profession and to those she has served,” Anderson says.

Mauldin retired at the end of July, after 44 years of nursing and 10 years at the Health System.

A Calling Becomes a Career

Setting aside personal concerns to serve others comes naturally for these women. Early on, both knew they wanted to help others. Mauldin remembers seeing a poster of a nurse beside a critically ill patient. “It said, ‘This morning Kathy saved her patient’s life. What have you done today?’ I thought, ‘WOW – that could be me!’” Rose’s epiphany happened in second grade. “For career day, I made a drawing with my picture that said ‘future nurse.’”

Reaping Professional Rewards

Rose, employed at the Health System for the past 13 years, acknowledges that nursing is hard work, but she adds, “Having the opportunity to encourage, advocate and care for someone in their time of need is an absolute privilege.” Her former colleague agrees. Reflecting on her long career, Mauldin comments, “I rarely had a day where someone did not say, ‘Thank you, I could not have done this without you!’” Both find rehabilitation especially fulfilling because it helps patients return to an active lifestyle while living with cardiovascular disease. Mauldin recalls a particularly rewarding experience with a patient who had heart rhythm problems. “The decision was made to admit him to the hospital. Convincing him that he needed to be admitted and could die if he left the hospital was a monumental task! Finally, he relented and had a pacemaker implanted. Several weeks later, he brought his wife to meet me and introduced me as ‘the nurse who saved my life.’”

Focused on Safety

The coronavirus dramatically altered life, especially for frontline workers. “Our day to day is no longer what we have always known. These ladies reassured others that they were safe and continued healthy practices to keep themselves, their patients and families secure,” notes Anderson. Masks are mandatory throughout the hospital and infection prevention is paramount. Once the Rehabilitation department reopened in July, nurses began prescreening patients and decreased class sizes to ensure social distancing. “We are here to help. It is safe to come to the hospital,” says Rose.

An Extended Family

Even as the pandemic adds extra work and worry to the job, the workplace culture lightens the burden. “Southeast Georgia Health System is like a big family. It has been the foundation of many blessings in my life. It is where I’ve spent my entire nursing career, where I met my husband and where my daughter was born,” says Rose.

Looking back on her decades of service, Mauldin has high praise for her former colleagues. “Everybody is friendly, kind and goes out of their way to help you. In a small town, you have the opportunity to care for, or be cared for by your peers and their families. It brings us closer.”

A Word to the Wise

The women echo the advice of their fellow frontline workers. “Please listen to our local health officials. Wear a mask, maintain social distance and wash your hands frequently,” says Mauldin. If you, a friend or a loved one is exposed to the virus, have symptoms or questions about the virus, Mauldin urges you to contact the Glynn County Health Department at 912-264-3961 or the Health System COVID-19 hotline at 912-466-7222. “They are an excellent resource.”

If we look hard enough, we can find silver linings in this crisis. For nursing veteran Terri Mauldin, it’s apparent. “Everyone wearing a Health System badge is truly a frontline hero. It takes all specialties and all departments to make a difference in the lives of our patients.”

To support your community hospital, please call Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360.

Today’s Frontline Heroes is sponsored by Southeast Georgia Health System. Visit their website at sghs.org.

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