…Resilience —The ability to bounce back from setbacks while maintaining optimism. Many nurses are working as traveling nurses, leaving family behind despite exposure to COVID-19 daily. They face the emotional toll of patients dying without family or friends nearby and come back to work each day, facing it with a smile and optimism.
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Gimper Donohoe co-founder of Nightingale 2030 Resilience Fund.
Patricia Donohoe is the former co-founder and chief nursing executive for Accountable Healthcare Staffing. Currently retired from nursing, she has held positions as a critical care nurse, nurse educator, director of nursing board review programs and leader in supplemental healthcare staffing. Her career has successfully combined nursing, education and business. Prior to joining Accountable Healthcare Staffing, she was a cofounder of TBM Staffing and Medical Staffing Network. At Medical Staffing Network (MSN) she served in various roles — COO, Chief Nursing Officer and executive vice president. Donohoe served on the Joint Commission Expert Advisory Panel responsible for establishing the Joint Commission Healthcare Staffing Services Organization Certification Program. This program is now the gold standard for healthcare staffing companies in the industry.
Donohoe received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Carlow College. She has been a speaker at numerous Staffing Industry Analyst Healthcare Staffing Summits, a finalist for Florida’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, past co-chair of the Healthcare Policy Group of the American Staffing Association, a member of Sigma Theta Tau and recipient of the prestigious Carlow University Laureate Award. The award reflects Donohoe’s service and commitment to the nursing profession and volunteer nursing in Africa and India.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?
I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and always knew I wanted to be a nurse. I started as a candy striper and was trained as a nurse’s aide which helped tremendously while attending college to become a nurse. As it became a reality, I prayed that somehow I could make a difference in nursing. My career has spanned being a critical care nurse, critical care nurse educator and director of nursing board review programs which prepare new graduate nurses to take the NCLEX-RN exam. Later I worked for a nurse staffing agency, training nurses to become proficient in critical care. It was here that I saw and understood the agility, skill and commitment that agency nurses carried with them from setting to setting — bringing best practices. This experience changed my life. It became my passion and commitment to nursing to show the world that ALL nurses, regardless of employer, bring dedication, skill, insights, critical thinking and expertise on a daily basis.
From there, I co-founded two supplemental nurse staffing organizations. I’m especially proud that I helped formulate standards that differentiate quality nurse staffing companies through certification by the Joint Commission. As a co-founder and executive director of the Nightingale 2030 Resilience Fund, it is my honor to bring stories of frontline nurses caring for sick patients, especially those with COVID-19 to the forefront. We needed to do something concrete and meaningful for nurses that so selflessly give of themselves, of family and their own physical and emotional health.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis there were already growing concerns of a nursing shortage. With the pandemic, as nurses become exhausted, experience burnout or leave the profession for the health and well-being of their families, an imminent shortage of nurses is on the horizon which will severely cripple the US healthcare system. As The Atlantic magazine recently stated, “The most precious resource the US healthcare system has in the struggle against COVID is not some miracle drug. It’s the expertise of its healthcare workers and they are exhausted.” For this reason, sharing the stories of nurses on our website through a series of interviews entitled “What is a Nurse” allows me to show the diversity of roles — traditional and non-traditional — that nurses hold and their impact in health, wellness, sickness, education, business, the environment, entrepreneurship and more.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Nurses Cry Too by Kathy Douglas and Rashini Rea touched me. As a nurse and someone who lost parents too early in life, it was a book that gave permission to reflect on losses (patients that touched my heart — such as an elderly lady I cared for for months before she died of breast cancer), the deep sadness I felt and buckets of tears shed. It gave me food for thought, contemplation and inspiration to better deal with the joys and sorrows of nursing.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” Eleanor Roosevelt
My life lesson was that it’s ok to admit fear and not knowing or remembering basics that, as a nurse, I should know when it comes to self-care. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to see a surgical oncologist and radiation oncologist to name a few! Out of the blue a “nurse navigator” introduced herself to me announcing she would be with me through doctor appointments, surgery and any follow-up procedures post op. I politely told her I was a nurse and to please spend her time with patients unfamiliar with what would/could happen with a breast cancer diagnosis. She refused to leave my side. I’ve never been more grateful for her “stickiness” to me since fear overwhelmed me and all the experiences of being a cancer patient myself were so new: breast radiation implants that failed, leaving me badly bruised with painful hematomas, to daily radiation and a slew of new pills to take. She was even there to listen when I had more than one meltdown and personal “pity party.”
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
The Nightingale 2030 Resilience Fund is about supporting and celebrating nurses and midwives throughout their lives beginning when licensed or certified in healthcare specialties and continuing through retirement. We give nurses the tools and resources to be resilient in their professional and personal lives. We are committed to making a difference in the advancement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals impact the world in which nurses play a vital role.
Nurses are experiencing incredible stresses from caring for three to four ICU patients during the Covid-19 pandemic that otherwise would be 1:1 care, and always second guessing themselves — “did I forget anything?” or “what more should I be doing?” All of this stress has resulted in increased incidents of depression, anxiety, insomnia, drug and alcohol abuse and even suicides.
We have a hotline called “Nurse2nurse” to serve as a sounding board for now with the intent of having nurse coaches and mental health experts available in the future.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?
I think a hero is someone that finds courage and strength to affect positive change in the midst of adversity.
In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.
- Selflessness — nurses leaving full time jobs and their families to go to COVID-19 hot spots to help
- Emotional strength — a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) I know says a prayer over her patients as she “puts them temporarily to sleep” for surgery. It grounds her in faith of God for the safety and well-being of the patient.
- Shared wisdom — an ICU nurse mentors and guides less experienced nurses in managing multiple critically ill patients
- Shared credit — when success happens, the success is often a team effort and the credit is shared with the team, not just one individual
- Resilience — ability to bounce back from setbacks while maintaining optimism. Many nurses are working as traveling nurses, leaving family behind despite exposure to COVID-19 daily. They face the emotional toll of patients dying without family or friends nearby and come back to work each day, facing it with a smile and optimism.
If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?
There is a humble confidence that they can make something better with their touch or presence.
What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?
2020 is designated by the World Health Organization as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife in celebration of Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial birthday. Her legacy is very much alive today in modern nursing. We wanted to support, recognize and celebrate nurses.
Through many interviews with nurses across generations and scopes of practice, it became obvious there were needs not being addressed. And, this was before the pandemic hit! I realized that if we were to make a meaningful difference, it had to be of value to nurses and bring awareness of the sacrifices nurses make every day.
With the help of colleagues, I determined that to support nurses, they wanted access to continuing education to advance their clinical skills. In order to be more than a “voice” at the table they wanted to be equipped to have influence and decision-making skills through financial understanding. This helps them personally and professionally, something not taught in a basic nursing education. We established a Wisdom Circle to mentor less experienced nurses and to use the wisdom of seasoned nurses to offer guidance in common hospital issues of staffing, floor ergonomics, retention and recruitment strategies.
Nurses no longer practicing at the bedside and in retirement wanted recognition for their lifetime career. We are working to establish an internationally recognized designation for retired nurses. “Once a nurse, always a nurse.”
To recognize and celebrate nurses we designated November as “Thank a Nurse” month. We’ve been blessed with partnerships such as True Purpose Brands, Evolve Wine and Vessl Inc. who have generously donated products and profits for the month to Nightingale 2030. True Brands distributes Clyraguard, a nontoxic personal protective spray which is skin safe and designed for use on hospital PPE.
Additionally, we have a Legacies of Light wall to memorialize nurses retiring or leaving the profession where friends, colleagues or family members can highlight the contributions made by these hero nurses. On our website, we celebrate the diversity of nurses’ roles in the world and encourage people to consider nursing as a career choice. Finally, I’m excited about our upcoming state-of-the-art virtual reality play titled, “What Would Flo Do?” A modern story of a young nurse encountering Florence Nightingale via a mystical Zoom call.
I’m not sure you can call me a hero but I’m advocating for nurses worldwide by bringing focus to who they are, what all they do and how, as a community, we can better help and support them now and through this next decade.
Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?
My heroes are the individuals that saw potential in me; who took the time and interest to mentor me in business that I
could apply to nursing. Robert Adamson; Arthur Flaster; Lynne Mathews, RN.
Today’s true heroes are all nurses leaving family and friends behind and moving from state to state during this pandemic crisis to help hospitals, clinics, jails/prisons and school districts care for those brutally attacked by this virus. They’ve forfeited vacations, holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and more to be at the bedsides of the sick and needy providing life-saving drugs;they’re holding one hand of those dying and with the other hand, holding an i-Pad listening to family members say last goodbyes and cry.
Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?
What frightens me most is the fear of getting it myself — I’m high risk with hypertension, a history of cancer and strokes. It angers me that people can’t and won’t wear a mask because it’s their “right” to do as they please. I fail to understand the selfishness of this mentality. Our country is the major harbinger of this virus and is willfully spreading it, it saddens me that we can’t all pitch in to help by doing simple things like wearing a mask and washing hands. Not only are moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles dying but so are those showing up to work to care for them. Over 1,400 healthcare workers have died and that number is growing.
Before the pandemic, it was estimated that there would be a shortage of almost one million nurses by 2020. Since the pandemic, I fear many will leave the profession from burnout and exhaustion. Through Nightingale 2030, I’m working toretain nurses and bring new individuals into this wonderful, life-changing profession that offers a variety of opportunities and specialties.
Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?
I believe in the inherent goodness of the American people and that a uniform message coming from nurses will help convince the naysayers that we can control and overcome this deadly pandemic. We need the media to speak with more nurses and share their vivid stories. After all, nurses are the most ethical and trusted profession according to the recent Gallup poll and the PEW Charitable Trust Foundations.
The hearts and souls of millennial nurses stepping up to quickly adapt to new work environments and clinical settings is truly impressive. They are our future and seem ready to innovate for better outcomes.
Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.
Yes. Can more kindness in day-to-day living make us less self-centered? Can being more aware of the elderly, disabled and those living alone in the community, and reaching out to them with food and invites to the table for shared meals make a difference? If we all did daily acts of kindness, would our society be less selfish or is it too late? I do see people stopping to feed a homeless person, looking after a working mom’s kids and baking cookies for an isolated senior. If we focus more on the positive, it will realign the negativity that prevails today — I pray!
What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?
Recognition and understanding that we are part of a global community. We can’t live in isolation from other parts of the globe, states, cities or neighborhoods. Pandemics impact all of us and it’s upon each of us to do our part to reduce the spread of powerful infectious diseases regardless of gender, race, religion, personal or political belief. COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic in our lifetime.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to find what brings them happiness and joy, and make it into your own job description. Passion in what you do makes you want to learn more, excel and share your understanding to influence others. By gaining consensus through understanding, you begin to change the world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d like to start a movement to further support nurses. As they work without relief and long extended shifts, we develop community supporters that care for the nurses’ families during pandemics, epidemics, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, and blizzards. An outreach that is part of the emergency management services network of offerings in which a community family “adopts” the nurse family during these times of crisis. Nurses can stay focused on caring for patients knowing their families are safe until they can return to them.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Two people I’d like to have lunch or breakfast with are President-elect Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey. I’d like to talk to Biden about nurses being on the Pandemic Task Force and other healthcare related committees such as ACA and the value they bring to an organization. With Oprah, I’d like to share the vision of Nightingale 2030 and how important it is to grow awareness of the nursing profession in Africa. There is such an overwhelming shortage of trained nurses and so many villages still in need of basic health care and education. I work with and support the Akilah Institute in Kigali, Rwanda and know first-hand the need for nurses, especially in women’s health.
How can our readers follow you online?
The Nightingale 2030 Resilience Fund:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!