CNO Roundtable 2021

Moments of Inspiration

Q: Please share a pandemic-related story that you found especially moving or inspiring.

Raye Burkhardt

Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center

One of our frontline nurse managers, Maria, had an elderly COVID-19 patient whose prognosis was not good. Maria arranged for limited family visitation — they were able to come in and see the patient from outside a glass door, but could not enter his room.

The patient’s son seemed uncertain, so Maria said, “I can tell him that you love him. I can let him know that you are here.” The son smiled and said, “Can you tell him that he is going to be a grandpa?”

Maria shared this news with the patient, who immediately perked up and looked out the window, grinning. Tears streamed down the son’s face, and he thanked Maria for allowing him this opportunity to communicate with his father. The patient passed away two days later. Stories like this show the highs and lows of being on the front lines — joy, sorrow and hope for a better tomorrow.

Lori Burnell

Valley Presbyterian Hospital

One of our esteemed nurse leaders was struck by the COVID-19 virus. After five months of laboring in hot zones, she was struggling to breathe like those she had worked so hard to save. As her condition worsened, the hospital team became stronger for her sake. We upheld the limited visitation practices, but we talked about her frequently, sent her cards, remained connected via text and kept her in our thoughts and prayers.

After six months, she was able to return to work part-time. She will never be the same, but surviving the virus has made her a more compassionate nurse and leader.

Ruby Gill

Kaiser Permanente Irvine Medical Center

It has been inspiring to witness creativity, innovation and willingness to adapt to new workflows. I am most proud of the interdisciplinary collaboration at the local and enterprise levels to ensure safe care while protecting our staff. I was also impressed that our staff has used the regional stay-at-home orders as an opportunity to advance their education, enrolling in BSN, MSN and even doctoral programs.

Karen A. Grimley

UCLA Health & UCLA School of Nursing

After we had to eliminate visitation, our information system professionals came up with a one-touch technology to enable patients to connect with their families using the bedside tablets. It is inspiring to see our nurses incorporate this technology into patients’ daily routines.

One nurse on our COVID-19 unit actually stopped the medical team from extubating her recovering patient while she ran to get the tablet. She dialed his wife and set up the tablet so that the first thing the patient heard as he roused was his wife’s voice, and the first thing he saw was her smiling face.

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Katie Hughes

Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare

SARS-CoV-2 is a novel virus, so it was not surprising that caring for COVID-19 patients caused trepidation and anxiety for many clinical staff. What I was not expecting was the number of patient care technicians, RNs and LVNs who volunteered to work in the COVID-19 unit.

Nurses would offer to take each other’s runs, saying, “I don’t have kids or elderly parents at home. It is safer for me than it is for you.”

I was so impressed and touched by the selflessness of so many of our nursing staff. I am blessed to work with so many amazing nurses. Thank you!

Erin Keefe

Dignity Health – St. Bernardine Medical Center

I have been awed by the response of our staff throughout the pandemic. Despite being overwhelmed with critically ill patients every day for an entire year, and although many are worried about their families and their own health, our team continues to live our mission, and they show up every day to serve our community.

Evelyn Ku

Alhambra Hospital Medical Center

Unfortunately, many COVID-19 patients died alone, without their loved ones physically present due to the no-visitor policy. I am so grateful that our nurses treated patients like family and held their hands as they took their last breaths.

David Marshall


During the COVID-19 crisis, I have been inspired by the response of our Cedars-Sinai nurses and their unwavering commitment to our patients and communities. Another, recent source of inspiration has been the hope and joy of people who have received the COVID-19 vaccines.

I worked in our vaccine clinic the first day the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was available, and there were healthcare workers in tears — not because the injection was painful, but because they were so moved to have been prioritized to receive it.

Deborah McCoy

Methodist Hospital of Southern California

One of the most difficult aspects has been the isolation, which is a burden to nurses, patients and families alike. We received a beautiful letter from one family whose loved one we’d cared for.

The letter read:

“Thank you for answering our many phone calls, holding the phone up to his ear, letting him know we loved him, hanging pictures by his bed, delivering messages to him when our call came at difficult times, and caring for him. There were so many of us calling (you know us by our family tree), and it meant a lot when someone would tell us they could see him from their station. He was very special, and we appreciate how you made an effort to know that too.”

Nursing Education

Jinhee Nguyen

Adventist Health Glendale

One inspirational story was of a nurse who made a homemade Armenian breakfast for a COVID-19 patient. She went home after her shift, prepared the food and brought it in the next morning to feed him. What a loving act of kindness! This is one example of how our clinical team not only worked tirelessly during the pandemic, but also went above and beyond to provide a little extra tenderness.

Sherry Nolfe

Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital

During my time in the ED, before becoming CNO, I had the privilege of hiring Tad Worku, RN, who is not only an incredible nurse, but also a professional singer and songwriter. After 11 months on the front line combatting COVID-19, Tad wrote a beautiful song entitled “Keep Standing” as a tribute to healthcare workers. Thank you, Tad, for providing inspiration to all of our nurses during these trying times!

Melanie Patterson

CHOC Children’s Hospital

We had a teenage girl admitted through our ED in serious distress. Several times, she was dangerously close to being placed on ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation]. Our PICU nurses and staff showered her with love and worked endlessly to allay her fears, treating her and her father and sister as if they were members of our own families.

As she came out of sedation, the patient discovered the nurses painting her nails and braiding her hair. When it was time for her to be discharged, we made sure she had a celebratory sendoff she’d never forget. (She has completely recovered.) Months after she left our hospital, the PICU staff “adopted” her family, who had been struggling financially, for Christmas.

Darlene Scafiddi

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center

Deeply moving moments of inspiration have been everywhere I look. Just seeing the dedication of our staff every day keeps me going. They come to work, give their all, lean in and support each other. These have been the most challenging yet rewarding times of my 43-year career. I will never forget the unwavering dedication of our team.

Lauren Spilsbury

Redlands Community Hospital

There have been many moments of inspiration, some coming from great pain and others from great happiness. One incident that nearly broke my heart involved an elderly couple, both with SARS-CoV-2.

As the wife lay dying, her husband refused to be placed on comfort care until he was assured his wife had passed comfortably. This was difficult for our staff, but they supported his decision and cared for him until he was ready to join his wife. I continue to share many such stories with hospital leadership and the board of directors in an effort to keep us grounded.

Patricia Vasquez

Adventist Health White Memorial

While we faced the challenges of the pandemic, groups of volunteers from our organization continued our tradition of feeding and serving the homeless of our community at the Dolores Mission. Community members, including local car clubs and mariachis, came to our hospital to recognize, support and acknowledge our frontline staff. This encouragement was a driving force that reinvigorated us in the fight against COVID-19, during a time when many of our staff were dealing with facial bruising due to PPE.

Ron Yolo

Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center

COVID-19 has challenged the entire healthcare community, from novice frontline staff to the most seasoned healthcare leaders. Our values and skills were tested in unimaginable ways. The way our team worked diligently and cohesively during the past year has been beyond commendable. I was inspired by their collegiality, expertise and innovation as we traversed the uncertainties of the pandemic.

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