At the beginning of 2020 when news of the coronavirus, and the virus itself, spread quickly around the world, life changed drastically in a lot of ways. As a 74 year old woman and 41 year veteran nurse, I did what we all did – pulled up my boot straps and got to work. My advice to nurses this year: Find a vehicle to offer your skills and services within the systems and communities you serve. Help our patients and communities help themselves.
Before COVID-19, I was traveling out of the country multiple times each year to medically underserved communities in El Salvador and Columbia. Although I was unable to get there in person, the work morphed into ensuring that partnering communities have the resources they need to sustain their medical clinics in this new world of COVID-19. I have a flight booked to Columbia for this coming September and I am thrilled to see what these communities and people have been able to accomplish.
While at home in Maryland, I stayed busy looking for opportunities in my own community. I asked myself, “What do my neighbors need and how can I utilize my skills to help them meet those needs?” I sought out already-active resources and programs that I could join within the community.
I found purpose as part of the Emergency Response Team, as well as Maryland Response, within the American Red Cross. My team began rigorous testing for COVID-19, and as the pandemic-response surged forward, we transitioned our testing site to a mass immunization center. We worked with families who were undergoing traumatic loss (multi-family home fires, extreme weather conditions, etc.) on top of the raging pandemic to provide basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, medications and medical equipment. Overcoming barriers, like many things in nursing, was a matter of creativity and locating resources. I did, and am still doing, more counseling with my patients than ever before. This year has taught me the important role that public health nurses play in the health and well being of marginalized communities both at home and around the world. It has also brought the seriousness of self care in health care workers to the forefront. We cannot pour from an empty cup.
Ginni Cook is a 41-year veteran nurse with experience in emergency response, home care, nursing education, case management, and liaison work between hospitals and rehab centers. She has spent the last 2 1/2 years practicing as a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner graduating from Bradley University and passing her boards in December of 2018. Ginni also obtained her Masters in Public Health and Community/Environmental Health Nursing from the University of Maryland. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, sewing, kayaking, crafting, writing poetry, Bible study, and being involved with her ten grandchildren.