PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program focuses on the many nurses who deserve recognition for the dedication, sacrifice, and resilience they bring to work every day. For the inaugural Nurses of Note Awards, we have the privilege of highlighting a new level of commitment, strength, and integrity in nurses from around the country who have battled on the front lines of the still-raging coronavirus pandemic.
The actions of this diverse group of nurses highlight the extraordinary among us. Their stories give us a glimpse into the unique ways our nurses have fought this pandemic and made a difference in the lives of their patients and the communities they serve. Out of hundreds of nominations, we selected three nurses and one team of providers to spotlight as recipients of this award.
Honoree 2: Vera Hall, SVP/Chief Nursing Executive for St. Elizabeth Healthcare (Cincinnati, OH Area)
In the fourth grade, Vera Hall wrote that nursing was her dream profession. Her older sister told wonderful stories about her time in nursing school, and it made Vera want to help people in their time of need. As it turns out, that dream never faded. Vera now serves as the SVP and Chief Nursing Executive at St. Elizabeth Healthcare in the Cincinnati area, and she has amassed more than 26 years of experience in the field.
Vera’s service throughout the pandemic can best be described as proactive, innovative, and transparent. Before the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was fully realized, Vera took immediate and strategic action to designate one of the five St. Elizabeth Healthcare facilities as a COVID-19 facility. She then worked vigilantly with supply and management teams to purchase 30 HEPA filter fans and to convert over 160 patient rooms to negative pressure rooms.
Vera’s perceptive planning didn’t stop there. She deployed the Infectious Disease Response Team (IDRT) to provide comprehensive care for patients with COVID-19, protecting both patients and healthcare workers. She then expanded the IDRT team from 50 to 400 associates—an 800% increase—when the pandemic continued to intensify.
To protect the jobs of many coworkers, Vera also implemented a Surge Staffing office, placing associates and healthcare workers where additional staff were needed instead of furloughing them or eliminating their jobs. Workers were able to call Vera’s Surge Staffing office to receive shifts and help alleviate some of the pressure caused by high case numbers. Due to Vera’s novel and proactive approach, no St. Elizabeth associate was furloughed or laid off.
Vera collaborated with many local health departments, colleges, educators, healthcare facilities, and others during the height of the pandemic and as vaccines became available. Innovative solutions during times of peak case numbers included manual proning beds for improved oxygenation of patients, iPads for patient communication with families, cameras in rooms for remote patient monitoring, and expanded telemetry monitoring capacity as need arose. Vera also worked to onboard 33 retired nurses to assist with vaccinating the public.
Vera has been intensely dedicated to her facility and team during the pandemic. She visited nursing units day and night to provide much-needed support for nurses and other staff. Vera made sure to provide timely COVID-19 communication to keep all St. Elizabeth associates safe and informed over the past 14 months, and she continues to do so today.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
In the fourth grade, I had a class assignment to write an autobiography that included my dream profession; I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a nurse. My sister was in nursing school, and I had always looked up to her; hearing her stories and experiences really inspired me. I wanted to help people in their time of need and make their patient experience as personal as possible. I followed this career pursuit and have never looked back. This career has been an absolute blessing to both me and my family.
What’s one piece of advice for nursing students entering the field?
First and foremost, embrace every moment and experience. Some days will feel longer than others. No matter what type of day or challenge you have, there will always be something new to learn. Nurses are trusted, valued members of the healthcare team, and this has never been more evident than it is today. Your success will continue to grow as you remain open to new experiences and new ways of doing things. Support your peers who are entering the profession, prioritize your health and wellness, and above all, always remember why you decided to become a nurse!
What would you like to see change for nursing in the future?
Even prior to the pandemic, demands in the nursing profession had intensified due to a high volume of nurses retiring in the last decade and a patient population that is more and more composed of aging individuals. In addition, we’re experiencing physician shortage nationwide. We are seeing nurse practitioners practicing independently in a greater capacity. That said, we need to continue to offer more nursing education options—whether that be online or for specialized areas of nursing—so that these growing healthcare demands can be satisfied.
How do you combat burnout in your professional life?
As a young nurse leader, I was not the best example of managing a work-life balance. I eventually learned to leave work at work so I could fully embrace my life outside of it. I value time with my husband and family, though at times work crosses over into my personal life (especially over this past year). I have been doing a better job of disconnecting; whether it be through travel or simply reading a book, I can allow my mind to rest, which is the best way I can manage burnout.
What’s your passion outside of nursing?
I absolutely love the beach—it’s always on the top of my travel list. The laid-back atmosphere, smells of the water and air, and beautiful natural sights and scenery; the overall environment is so relaxing.
If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?
The song “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson Five!
Thank you, Vera!
Vera’s nominator described her as someone who “lives for others.” It’s an apt testament, because her unwavering efforts and focus on readiness over the past 14 months have likely saved lives in her community. From the entire team at PerfectServe, thanks for the work you do every day, and congratulations for being named a 2021 Nurse of Note.