Her days are full of emotional turmoil—trying to provide care and support for patients as they battle through harrowing respiratory infections. But she keeps a smile on her face and pushes herself no matter if it’s her first patient of the day or her last. And after she disinfects every inch of her being to head home, Chamberlain University’s RN to BSN student Nicole Suter, RN, doesn’t rest. Instead, she becomes an activist for those entrenched in the front lines alongside her.
“I wouldn’t have thought that my voice mattered,” said the Stanford Healthcare nurse who has reached out to congressional leaders and utilized social media platforms to motivate others in her fight for more personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. “I need to make sure they are doing everything they can for us to have the necessary tools for this pandemic. There’s a critical shortage and things are going to get worse. The deficit is putting us, our patients and their families at risk.”
Advocating for the Healthcare Team
Nicole, one of many nurses Chamberlain honors as a Portrait of Courage during this year's National Nurses Week celebration, reached out to her local constituents in San Francisco and then took it a step further, sending her message to state leaders and those housed in Washington, DC. “Our ability to provide high-quality nursing care depends on a safe and effective work environment,” she wrote in a plea letter. “Your urgent action is vital to provide the equipment I need to care for my patients—the people we both have pledged to serve. Please partner with us to combat COVID-19. Without your support and action, our country faces a devastating loss of lives.”
Some local leaders have heard Nicole’s rallying cries and responded to her directly, providing updates on their role in assisting with relief efforts:
- U.S. California State Senator Dianne Feinstein emailed last month, saying she joined congressional colleagues in passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide support for individuals and businesses across the country, and said Congress passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, which was signed into law.
- U.S. California State Senator Scott Wiener informed her that Governor Gavin Newsom signed budget bills in March to provide $500 million and up to $1 billion in financial assistance to help California fight COVID-19, and that 22.4 million N95 masks were distributed throughout the state and another 100 million had been secured. He also highlighted a local utility’s donation of nearly 1 million N95 and surgical masks to hospitals and others in need and informed her of the Defense Production Act invoked by the President that ensures the production of ventilators and medical supplies.
- San Francisco County Mayor London Breed reported that the city received more than 1 million masks and other PPE that would be distributed to first responders, and that she expedited the hiring of more healthcare professionals and issued a stay-at-home order in mid-March to keep community members safe.
Nicole commends each one for their swift actions and promises to continue advocating for more supplies until there’s a way to vaccinate against this disease. “Every day we go in and we’re getting prepared for the worst. I want everyone to remember we are all in this together.”
An Oklahoma girl at heart, Nicole served as a traveling nurse before settling in the Bay area. “I’ve been in love with the medical field since I was a kid.” And the global pandemic has not altered her mindset. “I know that I’m the best possible person to go in and do this job in the best possible way—to give back to the community at this time,” she said, adding that family support and words of encouragement push her to do more.
“Initially I was quite scared but now I’m arming myself with knowledge. It gives me comfort to know I’m doing it correctly,” referring to the donning and doffing of her PPE. “It gives me more confidence to go into that room.”
One of Nicole’s daily challenges is staying on top of the ever-changing information about the disease and trying to relieve patient fears and anxieties about extended hospital stays without visitors. “People are very scared—they feel like they are in a cage. A lot of people are in hysteria.” But she finds a way to connect with them and embrace the positive. “We offer them a light during the scariest time in their lives and help them feel normal even though this isn’t ideal.”
To those who watch her social media videos, Nicole offers words of encouragement— “remain calm and stay at home. We can manage you remotely. Call a triage nurse and let’s talk about your symptoms.”
And to those in the battle with her— “Thanks to all my brothers and sisters out there on the front lines who are fighting this with me. I want everyone to lead with love. Take this time to come back and reflect on ourselves. Stay at home, wash your hands and stay safe.”
Appreciative and Thankful
We appreciate your commitment to the continued well-being of our Chamberlain community and support during this unprecedented time. Please visit the Chamberlain University website for the latest updates regarding COVID-19.
By Heather L Hurtado
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