Kerri Young, RN, began working the night shift at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in January 2020 after earning her nursing degree from Butler County Community College.
On Nov. 7, her unit, 5SE, was converted overnight to one dedicated to caring for the increasing numbers of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Young, who was a school secretary for 10 years before leaving the workforce to care for her dying father-in-law, says while her first year as a nurse has been anything but easy, it's been one where everyone was learning together.
"When I came to St. Francis, I just knew I had found my home," says Young. She says she decided to pursue a career in nursing at the urging of her father-in-law's hospice nurses and with the support of her husband, Tyson, and three adult children, one of whom is working toward her own nursing degree.
While she says working in a COVID-19 unit is exhausting, it's typically a good kind of tired because she's doing what she loves.
Even so, Young says, "Sometimes we all just need a win," which is what led her to share her "unicorn" night experience in a Facebook post addressed to her fellow nurses "struggling in the land of COVID."
After endless shifts of running room to room checking O2 sats, seeing patients' sats drop and praying that they would go back up, and hoping for the best when transferring those whose didn't improve to the ICU, she says she finally got "a sweet reminder" of why she went into nursing.
Her patients were stable, the unit was well staffed and the nurses were supported by some "awesome" patient care techs, allowing her to be the nurse she wants to be for every patient.
"I got to sit down and educate and learn about my patients. I got to assist with a shower for a patient who hadn't been able to shower for a week because of oxygen needs. I got to deliver good news to family members. I got to get a patient so comfortable that when they woke up they said that was the best sleep they'd had since they'd been here.
"It was just the kind of night I needed: A total win!"
It was the kind of moment, she says, that helped renew her weary spirit by reminding her of the joys of her job.
"So hang in there, brothers and sisters," she wrote in conclusion.
Since that night, the number of patients has begun to trend down and all frontline caregivers have had the opportunity to get vaccinated.
"I've received both of my vaccinations now, but I still have to continue to wear all my personal protective equipment at work," says Kerri. "Eventually, I hope everyone will get it because I would love for our unit not to be needed for COVID-19 anymore.