Inspiring Stories

'Do Not Let My Smile and Laughter Fool You.' I'm a Nurse. And I'm Scared, Too

Published: May 6, 2020

“Do not let my smile and laughter fool you. I am still terrified of this unknown virus.”
Stephanie Butler, RN,
Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital

Words like that from a frontline worker give the rest of us permission, in a sense, to be scared and fear the unknown. Words like that tell us we’re not alone – that this is indeed a terrifying time.

But as the rest of us retreat by doing our part and staying home, words like that remind us there are others running toward the threat.

There are others risking their health and the safety of their families by simply showing up for a job that chose them. There are others who obsess over their hygiene and recount their every step. There are others who stay late to cry their tears at work to avoid worrying the ones they love. They’re not thinking about themselves as they carefully and cautiously put on their masks, gowns, gloves and shields. They’re thinking of the time it takes, the minutes lost and the patients who need them now.

There are others who’ve been given the title: nurse. They may be human, but they do the superhuman every day, pushing aside their fears and apprehensions to be exactly who the rest of us need them to be.

May these real and raw accounts of the COVID-19 pandemic give us all a greater appreciation of the sacrifices nurses make.

“Never in my 16 years at Methodist did I think I would be involved in this. Mental exhaustion and a breakdown occurred my third week in the COVID-19 Unit. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I just wanted normalcy back. But the group I was placed with is one I’ve never known. We push each other. We support each other. We make each other laugh when all we want to do is cry. It makes me proud to say I work at Methodist. We are The Meaning of Care.”
Natalie Hein BSN, RN,
Methodist Hospital

 “I’ll never forget the moment a patient’s wife called to report that her husband with COPD was not feeling well. He had testing done. He was seen in the respiratory clinic. He was sent to the Emergency Department, hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit and placed on a ventilator that same day. Thoughts kept going through my mind. What if I hadn’t gotten to this message right away? I’m proud to be a nurse – even when I’m working the telephone!”
Beth Edwards MS, RN, Methodist Physicians Clinic 


“We are all out of our element here, but as everyone knows, nurses adapt to anything!”
Jessica Galles, RN,
Methodist Hospital

“If this pandemic has taught me anything personally, it’s that I need to do a better job of taking time away from work to recharge and relax.”
Kemla Prathan, MSN, RN, Methodist Physicians Clinic

“I wear different clothes to work and three different pairs of shoes. I keep a tub in my vehicle to keep the shoes I wear from home in it. I wear a different pair of shoes into work. And I wear another pair of shoes while I’m working. I disinfect my shoes and badge before I put them into my vehicle. I also clean my badge prior to leaving work. I’m here to help people. I’m here to save people. And every step – every precaution I take – matters.”
Gena Popken, BSN, RN,
Methodist Fremont Health

“When all of this madness started, I was scared. My coworkers were scared. My family and friends were scared. Society as we know it was scared. There were times that I absolutely did not want to come to work due to fear. I stopped telling people that I was a nurse. I would lie and say that I don’t work directly with COVID-19 patients. I didn’t want my family and close friends to worry about me or look at me as if I was infected.”
Carleigh Saathoff, BSN, RN, Methodist Hospital

“This pandemic has showed me the importance and value of routine, family, friends and more importantly, good co-workers. I work on a floor where everyone has your back. Without that, working through a pandemic and constantly implementing new changes would have been even more challenging.”
Lauren Jaworski, BSN, RN, 
Methodist Hospital

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work directly with patients who are in the COVID-19 crisis, but I’m even more thankful for the nurses beside me.”
Katie Holling, RN, BSN, OCN, Methodist Hospital

“Seeing my very first COVID-19 patient in their home was mentally exhausting. I was scared. I was nervous. I calmed myself by repeating the steps of my training. There are so many unknowns when walking into a stranger’s home. Once I was there, though, it was no longer about me. I made sure to follow precautions, but my focus became the patient. As a nurse, you just do what you have to do. It's scary, but I'm here to make a difference, be impactful and educate. At the end of the day, I can only hope I've been successful.”
Carly Vachal, RN, Methodist Fremont Health

“My coworkers got me through the worry and anxiety. We are an amazing team-based unit, and we took a stance in fighting this together. What also helped was something my mom always said to me when things got scary: ‘It's time to put your big girl pants on. There's nothing you can't do.’”
Mia Herek, RN, Methodist Hospital

“Initially, it was an overwhelming experience to see the breadth and complexity of the issues needing to be addressed as the COVID-19 pandemic knocked on our front doors. This was coupled with seeing the true devastation already caused by this pandemic throughout the world. What’s truly gotten me through this is the support of my fellow frontline workers.”
Lisa Kollasch, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, Methodist Hospital and
Methodist Women’s Hospital

“One weekend a patient had coded. I wanted to run into the room and help my fellow coworkers, but I couldn't. I had to wait outside the room in an effort to limit the number of people entering. The unknown behind the closed door really stressed me out. Are they OK? Do they need anything? I can't hear through the door if they’re trying to call out. Seeing the distress in my coworkers’ eyes was really tough. But my team is tough. We’re a family. We always have been and always will be. Together, we’ll get through this.”
Kalie Holtz, BSN, RN, BC, Methodist Hospital

And as nurses across the country continue supporting each other, the rest of us continue supporting them. Because deep down, we know it’s true: We will get through this. Just not without them.

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About the Author

Jessica Gill, the External Communications Manager for Methodist Health System, is a former television news anchor and journalist. She has a passion for story-telling and illustrating Methodist’s Meaning of Care.

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