Kari-Lynn Malec, RN, Interventional Radiology at Henry Ford Hospital

What is your warm blanket? A nurse collecting unemployment during a COVID crisis, a global healthcare pandemic? Who thought this could happen? An RN was redeployed from a navigator position to ED to home care and eventually to taking a personal leave and then a furlough. Wow! How did this happen? How come I couldn’t go? Every day upon arrival at work I asked to be redeployed. I was not sent. Thirty-one years of experience, a graduate degree, a national certification and a plethora of experience. Wanting to support the true hero—the nurse at the COVID patient’s bedside. The hero nurse—I sure didn’t feel like a hero. The media told me I was one. My neighbors dropped off gifts, leaving them on the front porch. They were supporting the hero. I was not. I was sitting home guilt-ridden because I was not at the bedside.

The development of a basic concept of nursing emerged. I could not find my warm blanket to hand out or a pillow to fluff. Reflecting on my position and wondering what the warm blanket I was providing was, as I was not supporting my colleagues, nor did I feel I was contributing like a hero. I was looking inward when I needed to be looking at finding a place back at the bedside where I could put a warm blanket on someone. I sunk to a dark place with no self-worth and felt for the first time in my career no one wanted me. I didn’t feel like a hero. I didn’t feel like a real nurse.

My colleagues were struggling around the country as I sat and did my office job. I didn’t know where my warm blanket was. Often, my thoughts would drift to bedside patient care. How could I change jobs in the midst of a crisis when nurses were furloughed? Knowing the crisis could come back in the fall and winter and being in the same position again but wondering whether I would be paid this time. It all came down to the general concept of the warm blanket. Maybe I couldn’t support my colleagues, but maybe I could go somewhere where I could be with the patient. I needed to change my focus on how or when to apply the blanket. I needed to suppress the guilt or release it. I always wanted to teach a class on giving love—fluffing a pillow, putting a warm blanket on a patient and tucking them in—not innate in some people.

People learning with the overwhelming nature of academia have a difficult time applying concepts and “giving love.” It is significant to look in a patient’s eyes and share the love. Supporting, guiding—and the true nature of our calling to nursing. The education to support the practice, and the love to help guide the patient through their journey. As an ED nurse for many years, recognizing that an injured toe or a GSW is still a journey for that patient. And everyone can close their eyes and feel the nurse through the application of a warm blanket. My thoughts continuously flowed to the bedside. Holding a hand, fluffing a pillow. Helping guide a patient through their journey while I am at the bedside. This is my true calling. This is where I belong and where I can support my colleagues. I don’t need to be a hero. I just need to hold the warm blanket for when it is ready to be applied.

What is your warm blanket?