Culture

Meet Some Of DC's Top Nurses Finding Joy During The Crisis

Meet Some Of DC's Top Nurses Finding Joy During The Crisis

Not all heroes wear capes!

It's been almost a year since the country and the world were thrown into chaos, upending our everyday lives. The economy, infrastructure, and especially the medical industry have taken a beating, yet the essential workers have been a saving grace. One group of everyday heroes has been nurses, who have risked not only their lives but physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. With the pandemic disproportionally impacting our community, Black frontline workers have gone above and beyond the call of duty. They deserve our acknowledgment, praise, and respect.

We've partnered with the National Association of Black Nurses - who recently began an initiative to offer free mental health services to Black nurses - to highlight some of the brave people offering their time, love, and care to those in need. 

These DMV-area nurses have spent years in the field and are continuing to navigate these uncertain times with grace. Because Of Them We Can reached out and asked them to share how they take care of themselves while excelling at their jobs. Interviews edited for clarity and brevity.

Monica Elston Carter, MS, FNP-BC 

Photo Credit: @monicathenp

Years working as a Nurse? 13 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? 

I've found joy having a front-row seat watching my triplet daughters grow and thrive. This past year caused me to slow down a bit and be in the clinic a little less due to telehealth capability. I've been able to be home more with my family. Watching the world through their eyes is a source of joy for sure! I've also found immense joy in helping other nurse practitioners secure jobs, learn the art of negotiation, and transition into the workforce as NPs!

Honestly, self-care has been a bit of a struggle. I've worked full-time through the pandemic. I carry the weight of my patients' experiences, being a mother of three, a wife, and running a negotiation coaching business for nurse practitioners - there's been little time left for me. I've found moments of self-care in cooking new recipes, being a plant mom, getting back to home workouts, and spending Sundays at my parents' house - my only break!

How do you view your job in this moment? Essential! I truly believe I'm living in my purpose as I care for women across their lifespan and, even more so, during a double pandemic of COVID-19 and racial inequities in healthcare. As a nurse practitioner in obstetrics and gynecology, I'm helping women through some of the most vulnerable stages of their life. When the black morbidity and mortality rate in this country is terrifying, I get to be a source of hope and knowledge for my patients. Nurses have always been the heartbeat in healthcare, but at this moment, we are the light on the hill. I'm so proud to be serving at this moment, and don't take it lightly that the care I give will impact generations of women to come. 

Instagram: @monicathenp

 

Shannon Nicole Martin, CRNP

Photo Credit: @thatcrnp

Years working as a Nurse? 13 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? I've been able to find happiness through therapy, family time, and self-care time. I get manicures, pedicures, massages, and girl time. 

How do you view your job in this moment? Critically essential and fulfilling, especially with an integrative approach, which is needed in our community. Stress also comes with the role of caring for others and running a medical practice.

Instagram: @thatcrnp@healthreleaf@justbedope

Facebook: healthreleaf and Just Be Dope, Inc.

 

Shonte Renee Drakeford, MSN, CRNP, AGNP-C

Photo Credit: @Shonte19

Years working as a Nurse? 15 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? Joy is my middle name, "Enjoy life" is my life's mantra. Anyone who knows me understands that I try to find the silver lining in everything I do. I am currently living with terminal stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that has spread to my lungs, hip, spine, and ribs for five years now. There are days where I can't even get out of bed, but I still find joy in my heart. Finding Joy has been my no. 1 priority. I have my fun-loving husband who keeps my heart beating; I have a small farm full of produce, chickens, ducks, bees, and my loving dogs - two German Shepherds. 

My husband and I dealt with infertility, so we could not bear children, but we have six beautiful, fun-loving godchildren that call and visit me, which always fills up my energy and joy meter. I also play video games, read, and have mini dance parties in the house. I don't take life for granted, and I cherish the little things. As long as I'm living, trust me when I say I'm living with joy despite it all. 

How do you view your job in this moment? Having cancer places me at a higher risk of getting COVID-19, which makes getting it life-threatening. Although, I have not been able to work as much as I used to - due to cancer. I do have the privilege of still helping and working once a week as a primary care provider doing telemedicine. At first, I had nurses-guilt because I felt like I should be in the hospital setting helping my fellow nurses, but I then realized that I am still helping. I would be no good to anyone if I were to catch COVID-19. So again, I saw the silver lining.  

I miss seeing my patients in person, but it's good that I can still connect and help my patients while maintaining safety. It feels marvelous being a healthcare professional during these times; the sacrifice, work, and grit that it takes to be a nurse are now being shown. Being a nurse can be tiring, but we do it for our patients and the world's betterment. It's good to see that the world is now appreciating healthcare professionals and seeing how vital we are to society. As long as I'm still breathing, I will continue to help my patients. I also serve as a patient advocate for Metastatic Breast Cancer awareness. I can now utilize my medical knowledge and support in the fight to help cure, provide life longevity, and clinical research for the Breast Cancer Community, especially in the Black community. Statistically, we die at a 40% higher rate than our white counterparts. It's my mission to make sure change happens until my last breath. 

Instagram: @Shonte19 and @Curemore Farms

FB: Shonte C-Drakeford

 

Kiyonna Marie Ellis, MSN, RN

Photo Credit: Kiyonna Ellis

Years working as a Nurse? 14 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? 

My faith in God and love for those I hold dear to my heart, has given me joy. Every day, I live as if it is my last, and I do not take anything or anybody for granted. Those things that I would have usually put off, I focus on enjoying now. Pre-pandemic, I would have worked myself to death with little time to spend with my husband and son. Now I pre-plan my mental health days to pour out all the love I can on my family.

How do you view your job in this moment? 

Currently, I hold a position as a lead nurse in adult and family practice. I enjoy helping those in need. I pride myself on fighting for and doing my best to protect my patients. I'm known as the nurse that can break it down in layman's terms. My patients trust me and tend to have great outcomes because they understand their disease process. As a result, I view my job as essential in [providing preventative medicine]!

Instagram: @kiyonna_ellis

 

Shadonna Williams MSN RN

Photo Credit: @mrswilliam0823

Years working as a Nurse? 9 Years 

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? 

I have been able to find joy in the fact that I am healthy and my household is healthy. Being a nurse during a pandemic is stressful and can take a toll on you physically and emotionally if you don't prioritize yourself. I take care of myself by allowing myself enough time off between workdays to reset and making sure not to take on too much outside of work. 

How do you view your job in this moment? I love my job taking care of women during one of their most vulnerable times in life. Soon I'll be taking care of women on an advanced practitioner level with my new career as a midwife. I'm excited to step into the next phase of my job because I know my presence is needed. The Black maternal mortality rate in the US is insane, and I intend to be a part of that change.

Instagram: @mrswilliam0823

 

Yesie Patillo, RN, CCM

Photo Credit: @yesyesyesie

Years working as a Nurse? 6 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time? I've found strength and support through my family and friends, especially my coworkers— we have grown closer than ever before. We bond through the changes and difficulties. We are in a unique situation together; that relatability and understanding saves us.

How do you view your job in this moment? I've transitioned to a pediatric nurse case manager, which for my situation, combines nursing and social work. We see the medical condition of patients who come in with the virus and how it's affected their families— many of whom have lost their jobs and insurance. Our team provides support, guidance, and options; that's important right now.

Instagram: @yesyesyesie

 

Melena DeFlorimonte, NICU RN, BSN

Photo Credit: @melshonell

Years working as a Nurse? 13.5 years

How have you been able to find joy and take care of yourself during this time?

Being a nurse can be a stressful and emotionally taxing profession, so I've grown to value my self-care truly. Ensuring that I get plenty of rest on my days off is a must! The pandemic has made it a little easier to do since many extracurricular activities have been eliminated. Solo movie dates used to be my jam but have been replaced with Netflix evenings. Scheduled vacations, massages, and creative outlets - photography and music - are ways I find joy and practice self-care.

How do you view your job in this moment? 

One word: Essential. Nursing has and will always be the backbone of healthcare. I don't know that I consider it any differently now than I ever have. The pandemic has brought the nursing profession into the spotlight. I am providing the same compassionate and life-saving care now that I have been pre-COVID. What has been amplified is the emotional support provided to family members. They are trying to navigate drastic changes in visitation policies while managing the stress of a sick loved one.

Instagram: @melshonell

We couldn't possibly thank all who've answered the call, comment with those nurses in your life who are helping to hold our world together!