WASHINGTON (7News) — 7News continues to salute our healthcare heroes during National Nurses Week and Health and Wellness Reporter Victoria Sanchez visited Howard University Hospital's emergency department to talk with nurses about how they continue to serve the community while coping with the trauma they witness.
"A nurse is a person who has character, who has ethics and morals and values and integrity and kindness, compassion," said India Medley, Howard University Hospital's vice president and chief nursing officer. "A nurse a compilation of all that matters and all that is good."
Medley is one of the hospital administrators with 40 years of registered nurse experience.
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"It's a hard job," said Sanchez. "How do you give that empathy, give that kindness while also taking care of yourself emotionally, because you see a lot of things that people don't want to see."
Resilience plays a critical role in the lives of the nurses, technicians, aids and physicians who work in the emergency department, Medley explained. Self-care and reflection are encouraged to fight compassion fatigue.
In a 2020 American Psychological Association article, Psychologist Heidi Allenspach said compassion fatigue can happen when caregivers and healthcare workers "become so over-empathic that they find themselves growing numb to their patient’s suffering."
"When we talk about compassion fatigue, specifically for trauma nurses, we are continuously seeing terrible injuries and then you have to come back and do it again. You may have to ten times in the day," explained Registered Nurse Kenyatta Hazlewood. "Some of the ways we want to recognize that is to have leaders and each other say, 'OK, I noticed in this trauma you were just kind of going and now you've been in a third GSW today and you seem OK. Are you OK?' And just asking that question.
Hazlewood is the hospital’s director of trauma services and says nearly 18 percent of the trauma patients that come to the emergency department are suffering from one or more gunshots, stabbing wound or some type of injury from a violent assault.
She's been a nurse for 20 years in the DMV and says over those two decades, the violence is involving younger people.
"We're getting patients in their teens," Hazlewood told Sanchez. "Fifteen, 16-year-olds."