Nashville Nurse Navigates Life on the Pandemic’s Front Line
By Zoe S. Erler
Pandemic's Front Line

A January White House report ranked Tennessee as having the country’s third-highest COVID-19 infection rate, with “unyielding spread.” Rates of infection have plummeted since the dark winter days when the state was averaging close to 10,000 new infections each day. During the second wave, byFaith talked with Becky Kiern, a nurse on a cardiac team in a Nashville hospital and a member of Christ Presbyterian Church, about life on the front line.

How has your life been different from the first wave in the spring [2020]?

It doesn’t feel as unknown. In the spring everything was canceled, and  we were trying to bring the sense of normalcy we all knew back. But now we’ve got this feeling of “yep, it’s gonna be like this for a while.”

From the medical side, the big difference is that during the first wave most hospitals, including mine, had very strict visitor policies. I was walking with a lot of people whose spouses went through major surgeries and they were separated, which was hard and traumatizing. Now, the hospitals don’t have the same visitor restrictions. What we’re dealing with is bed availability. To have multiple hospitals in an area with no beds — it’s hard to walk patients through that.

In 15 years of nursing, I’ve almost always been able to leave it at work. This is the first time I haven’t been able to do that.

How can churches better care for healthcare professionals?

In 15 years of nursing, I’ve almost always been able to leave it at work. This is the first time I haven’t been able to do that. You leave and you still have your mask on, and instead of going out to dinner with a friend, you go home again. This is a different level of sustained stress than I’ve ever seen before.

There is a lot of loneliness and isolation that comes from being so involved in caregiving, even if, like me, you’re not working with COVID patients. The extra work and navigating you have to do because of the pandemic is real. I think from a church perspective and a ministry perspective, part of it is just checking in and asking, “I don’t fully understand, but do you want to talk about it? Are there ways that our small group can be better caring for you?” We don’t have to understand what someone is going through to be able to walk alongside them.

What one thing do you want people to know?

It’s so important for the church to be in the Word every single day, and to be in prayer. This is not the worst thing the church has ever had to deal with, but for our generation, this is what we’re confronted with. God’s Word gives us guidance on how to navigate hard times, teaching us how to both lament and rejoice in this difficult season. God has always been faithful to his people and that remains true for us today.

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