The nursing administrator shares about navigating the COVID-19 global outbreak and surviving the disease.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 disease created challenges for healthcare systems worldwide. Today, healthcare workers continue to be integral in the global response to the pandemic. Despite facing significant health risks, these healthcare professionals have risen to the demands of treating COVID-19 patients.
VBD Magazine is delighted to feature nursing administrator Beverlyn Johnson Wilks, who navigated unfamiliar terrain during the COVID-19 global outbreak and, thankfully, has survived the COVID-19 disease.
“The most rewarding aspect of working in the healthcare industry is the satisfaction derived from helping patients to recover from their ailments and seeing improvements in their quality of life,” says Beverlyn. “For me, nursing is not just a profession, it’s a calling, so at the end of the day, my job is to help patients maintain their health as best as I can.”
During our interview, Beverlyn reveals her inspiration to serve others, the challenges of being on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to prevent burnout while being a healthcare professional.
Originally from central Jamaica in the parish of Clarendon, Beverlyn is the second born of eleven children. She was encouraged by her now deceased parents, Stanley and Estrina Johnson, to pursue higher education.
In 1976, she entered the 3-year Secondary Education diploma program at Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville, Jamaica. After graduating, Beverlyn sought and gained employment as a teacher at Denbigh Secondary School. A year later, she migrated to the United States of America. In 1984, she enrolled in the nursing degree program at City University of New York, and later graduated as a registered nurse in 1988.
As a graduate nurse, she worked at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. However, her goal was to specialize, so she began to seek opportunities elsewhere. Soon, she gained employment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at St. Mary's Hospital, New York, where she acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience. Later, she served as the nursing director for the unit, spending a total of 16 years there.
In 2005, St. Mary's Hospital closed its doors, but Beverlyn was fortunate to move into nursing leadership at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn. She worked at the hospital until 2021, completing 33 years in nursing.
INSPIRATION TO PURSUE NURSING
The healthcare industry has many compelling careers, no matter your skill or educational level. Many of these jobs come with appealing earning potential, stimulating work environments, and flexible work schedules.
“I have always been passionate about helping people and making a difference in their lives,” Beverlyn tells us with a smile. “From a tender age, I demonstrated compassionate tendencies towards the suffering of others, wanting to relieve their stress. When I played with my siblings or friends, I wanted to be the teacher or nurse. As I matured into adulthood, I realized the important role that nurses play in improving people’s lives. Plus, there are lots of opportunities for growth in the industry.”
“The healthcare industry offers an unparalleled opportunity to assist others, and I love that. Every day, I get to help patients, staff, and families, cope with challenging situations. Also, I get a chance to brighten their day, and hopefully, witness their improvements. That’s just amazing.”
To be a successful nurse you must fulfill the educational requirements. But how important are essential skills such as teamwork, communication, and work ethic?
“A good work ethic is critical and goes a long way. In this fast-paced environment, you can’t go wrong with timeless skills such as professionalism, being able to work in a team, and practicing effective communication. Critical-thinking, conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills are essential for success. These skills can have an enormous impact on patients, colleagues, and others.”
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The pandemic caused healthcare professionals to pivot to new protocols as they work and perform acts of heroism under stressful conditions. Before the pandemic, healthcare workers had been vigilant about protecting themselves while saving patients’ lives. However, the novel coronavirus has propelled healthcare workers into uncharted territory, where many patients with an infectious disease were housed in one facility.
“The year 2020 was a significant year because as a healthcare worker the challenges were unbearable. Nevertheless, we encouraged and helped each other as we stood on the frontlines. We had to assess each situation and take into consideration the risk accompanying it. Of course, we followed the hospital’s new protocols.
At that time, I served as an administrative nursing care coordinator covering a geriatric population of 220 residents. I made my faith bigger than my fear as I went to work each day. Once I hit the hospital floor, my knowledge and experience took precedence. Even so, the rate at which people were getting severely sick and dying was extremely scary. We faced staff shortages because my coworkers were also becoming sick.
I pressed on though because as a registered nurse I had solemnly pledged, before God and in the presence of those who had assembled at my graduation, to practice my profession faithfully.”
EXPERIENCING THE COVID-19 DISEASE
“I’m thankful to be alive today. Lord knows, it could have been otherwise, because on October 3, 2020, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. The ambulance transported me to the hospital where I was currently employed.
The acute treatment started in the ER and as my COVID symptoms worsened, I was transferred to the ICU. I spent three weeks facing this intense illness and was cared for by my amazing coworkers. The quality of care I received made me love my coworkers even more. Kudos to them and cheers to all who visited with prayers, food, and words of encouragement. Sometimes, my visitors were not allowed into my room, but they could see me through the large glass window. I’m grateful to them for letting me know that they were standing with me. I will never forget all that they did to bring me back to life. They absolutely exceeded my expectation.
I was transferred from the ICU to a stepdown unit and there I spent another three weeks, slowly recuperating. On November 10, 2020, after approximately six weeks of hospitalization, I was discharged. I went home with oxygen therapy and was further assisted by outpatient medical care, family, friends, and God, the Almighty healer. Four weeks post discharge, my oxygen therapy was discontinued. Today, my respiratory status has greatly improved, and I continue to follow-up with appointments, treatments, and home remedies.
The fact that I’m still alive means that the Lord has more work for me to do. I was intrinsically motivated by that and the fact that I would have more time to spend with my family, siblings, relative, friends, and associates. For sure, I have a testimony about the goodness of God.”
TIPS TO AVOID BURNOUT
Healthcare workers are unsung heroes. With many still in the COVID-19 war zone, we asked Beverlyn how they can prevent burnout. Here are her tips:
· Set boundaries between your work and personal life.
· Listen to your body.
· Plan time for rest and relaxation.
· Do self-reflection and make wellness a part of your daily routine.
· Protect your mental health and get help when you need it.
· Exercise regularly and practice stress reduction techniques.
· Eat a well-balanced diet and get enough sleep.
· Acknowledge your hard work and celebrate your progress.
· Reach out to your supervisor or a therapist for help, if necessary.
“I’m relaxing and spending time with my family, siblings, and friends, and travelling. Next on my list is perfecting my skills in interior decorating, crafting, event planning, and writing. With respect to writing, my life lessons will be beneficial to those who will read my books. Of course, I’m available to do voluntary work in the healthcare industry. Above all, I’m open to where the Lord will lead for I am His workmanship, created to do good works, which He prepared in advance for me to do.”
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