by Terry Ritter, RN
Terry Ritter is the Nurse Manager at Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice. Mount Evans provides individuals and their families in the mountain communities of Jefferson, Park, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties with compassion, comfort, healing, courage and hope during challenging times.
At Mount Evans, we have 18 amazing nurses. They travel hundreds of miles every week to care for patients in their mountain homes. Under the best of circumstances, I am proud of the skill, love and care our nurses provide. Now, facing some of the worst possible circumstances, there are hardly words to adequately describe their selfless commitment to patients in the mountain community.
From the beginning of this pandemic, Mount Evans nurses’ greatest concern wasn’t for themselves, it was for their patients. They worried about how to continue providing not just medical care, but the extraordinary care that our nurses are known for, it’s what we like to refer to as “loving our patients up.”
In honor of National Nurses Week, we asked a few of our nurses to share in their own words why they wanted to be a nurse and how COVID-19 has impacted their work.
Kim Kitterman, RN
“COVID-19 has greatly impacted everything I do as not only a nurse but as a mom and a local community member. It has made me evaluate all my decisions and actions whether it be walking into a patient’s home or stepping into the grocery store. It has also changed the care we give in the home. My patients get to see me with full isolation garb. For many patients, it can be very scary seeing your nurse looking like a member of the hazmat team. It also makes it much more difficult for them to hear and understand me which can be frustrating for them. What keeps me caring for the mountain community is my amazing and wonderful patients. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that at a very scary part of their life I can make a difference and be there for them.”
“I knew from the time I was quite young that I wanted a career doing something that helped others. I had planned on becoming a teacher but after an experience with a wonderful nurse, I knew that I was meant to be a nurse.”
Kris Schuld, RN
COVID-19 has made me appreciate the freedom I had before the virus. I miss hugging my patients. I think they also miss their freedom. They miss not having their care providers come to visit in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and they miss being touched without gloves. They are also scared. They fear the pharmacy will run out of the medications they need and they worry they won’t be able to buy foods they like. Despite all the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus, I keep caring for my patients because it’s what I was created to do. I feel truly blessed to be able to care for my patients, many that I’ve had since I started at Mount Evans almost eight years ago.”
“I really didn’t know I wanted to be a nurse. I was a kitchen/bath designer for Home Depot for way too many years. One day one of my friends said to me, ‘Know how we can get out of here? Let’s go to nursing school!’ At the time, I didn’t even know what a nurse did. I graduated with 3.9 GPA and I haven’t ever wanted to do anything else.
Lysha Foster, RN
“I wanted to be a nurse since 8th grade when I watched a video of infant brain surgery. I have been working in home health and hospice since 2004 and never want to do anything else. I love that I can spend as much time as a patient and their family needs. When I worked in a hospital I was lucky if I had five minutes with a patient, working for Mount Evans I have spent five hours with a patient and not been questioned why.
Covid-19 has impacted how I care for my patients. In order to protect my patients from possible exposure, I am no longer able to do as many in-home visits. I can’t hold my patients’ hands (without wearing gloves) or give them a hug, these small things can mean so much to a patient (and to their nurse). The smiles I get remind me why I love my job. Home health and hospice is a field that requires you to be ready for anything and adapt when you need to, this pandemic is just another one of those times.”
When I was a senior in High School, my mom was in nursing school. I attended a couple of her college courses and was hooked. I was awarded a Navy ROTC scholarship and after a year of enlistment. Believe it or not, I wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to be a nurse until my first assignment as a Navy Nurse in the Emergency Department at Camp Pendleton, CA.
Historically, working in home health and hospice offers the opportunity to take as much time as you need with each patient visit. COVID-19 precautions require us to choose efficiency. We have to minimize the amount of time we spend with them to keep them safe. For some of our more mature patient population, we may be their only opportunity for social interaction.
Wound clinics, primary care providers and specialists have all decreased in-person access to their services as a result of COVID-19. This decrease in access doesn’t mean patients don’t need these services. Enter home health: We take the care to the patients. Our ability to care for patients in their homes decreases the risk they would take by leaving their homes and keeps them on track on the road to recovery.”