Combined Nurses Week, Hospital Week celebrates frontline workers | News

Now into year three of living with coronavirus and its effects, the celebration of medical professionals across the nation this May is more important than ever.

Area patients and residents will have two reasons to praise many of these professionals as Upper Allegheny Health System is slated to hold both Nurses Week and Hospital week from May 6-12 with each day set to recognize and honor the frontline professionals who continue to serve the community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gail Bagazzoli, chief nursing officer at Olean General Hospital, said the tribute for nurses and the hospitals as a whole will include a variety of activities at both Olean General and Bradford Regional Medical Center who have care for patients through many months of pandemic challenges.

“We’re very excited about what happens this year to recognize not just nursing but all the staff in the hospital,” she said.

Although the nursing shortage started more than two years ago, Bagazzoli said the pandemic exculpated the shortage. She said the lost hospitals nurses who moved on to travel and, like every hospital in this country, they brought on travel nurses.

“The nursing shortage is expected to last another few years or more,” she said. “Because of this, we continue to recruit new graduate nurses including hiring LPNs to promote team.”

Team nursing utilizes a Registered Nurse, License Practitioner Nurse and nurses assistant for a group of patients, Bagazzoli explained. She said this model of care was used years ago and being brought back to help with shortage of RNs, adding this model is being used on Olean General’s third-floor medical surgical unit.

“Olean saw the highest COVID patients during the third wave, for us this started fall of 2021,” she said.

Bagazzoli said there were times up to 40 patients were hospitalized both on Olean General’s COVID unit on the second floor of the hospital and in the ICU.

“The nurses resiliency was tested and because of their dedication and knowledge of the virus/isolation techniques they were better prepared to care for patients,” she said.

After 18 months of working in the hospital amid the pandemic, many area nurses were struggling with seeing so many COVID-related deaths and needed some community support.

Sarah Prymak, a nurse manager and RN at Olean General, shared her and her fellow nurses’ stories with her sister and mother, Amber Peters and Karen Walters-Prymak, they worked together to launch an Adopt-A-Nurse program.

“They wanted to do something that would bring some cheer and happiness to our hurting hospital and show their love and support for all the hard work healthcare workers do,” Prymak said. “They wanted to lift the spirits of the nurses here at OGH before something so devastating as suicide happened to our area nurses.”

Peters asks for the number of nurses in the units and then posts that on the Facebook page, matching each nurse to a person. She then sets a date to have the baskets delivered to her so, if need be, she can make up for the shortage if any so that no nurse is left out.

“Once she has a gift basket or card for all the nurses, she then delivers them to the hospital where I can disperse them to the recipients,” Prymak said.

Items included in baskets range from treats, snacks, lotion, candles, shampoo, water bottles, gift cards, coffee mugs, tea and soaps. Adding a card or a note of appreciation would be appreciated, as are handmade gifts and crafts.

“All the nurses were so happy and so grateful for all the support from the community,” Prymak said. “Seeing how much joy it brought the nurses has restored all of our faith in the support and kindness from the community. It was a beautiful reminder of why we chose to be nurses and serve the community with so much love.”

For those wanting to get involved, join the Facebook page by searching “Adopt-A-Nurse Olean General Hospital” and let Peters know you’d like to help out. For those that don’t have Facebook, email Peters at ajdxpeters@yahoo.com.

Although the overall trend of coronavirus cases in the United States is down from its peak between the November 2021 and January 2022 holiday season, recent data shows numbers are on the rise again and another wave its way, something the nurses and hospitals know they have to be ready for.

“We are prepared for COVID and know it will likely be a daily occurrence,” Bagazzoli said. “We expect to treat and manage like influenza cases.”

Hospital week activities and nurses week combined this year. International Nurses Day is celebrated each year on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. On that day, the hospital will be during the nurses with an awards ceremony ceremony at the picnic area. Awards will honor the nurse of distinction, nurse of distinction in education, outstanding staff nurse, outstanding LPN and outstanding nurse assistant tech.

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