Kathie Seerup

My dad had a heart attack while jogging when he was just 40. I was 17. Throughout his quadruple bypass surgery, his nurses were immensely helpful to him and our entire family. The compassion they showed every time they checked his vitals and gave him his medications touched my heart. I felt seen and supported when they looked me in the eye, asked how I was doing and truly listened.

When it was time for me to consider career options, I began an accounting degree.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about the nurses who took care of my dad, and I had a cousin who cared for children with cancer as a pediatric oncology nurse. Hearing about her experiences motivated me to consider a change. I switched majors, went into nursing and never looked back.

I’ve now been a nurse for more than 30 years. Never during that time would I have imagined leading a team through anything like this pandemic. My colleagues have helped patients say goodbye to loved ones via video calls, held people’s hands while they took their last breaths and treated children for COVID pneumonia and MIS-C, the rare inflammatory disease caused by COVID-19. Even nurses who haven’t treated COVID patients directly have been directly impacted, whether by widespread staff shortages and heavy workloads or rising emergency room visits for non-COVID conditions.

Frontline health care workers have operated in crisis mode for nearly two years, a wartime-like situation that wears on them in visible and invisible ways.

To the nurses who love their work and yet feel as if they might buckle under the weight of this load: I see you. To the aspiring nurses who now doubt what they thought was their calling: I see you. There is no question that being a health care provider during a pandemic is an incredible challenge.

I also know that even now, my colleagues and I experience the same sense of purpose and fulfillment that inspired us to become nurses in the first place. We find it in a father’s tears of gratitude when his teenager comes through surgery, in a child’s glee when she can finally go home, and in the relief of an exhausted new mom who can nap because her nurse is holding her baby. We find it even on the worst days, when sitting with loved ones who must say goodbye or with colleagues who lost a patient.

In difficult moments, I look at the thank-you note I received from a young man who was 10 when I treated him after a liver transplant, or the Christmas card from the mother of a cancer patient whose nurse I mentored, saying that her son’s nurse cared for him well because of my training.

I find inspiration in the collaboration among our nurses and respiratory therapists and the way our team members show up for one another and their patients – no matter what.

I think about the future, too. About how one nurse I recently mentored at our Children’s Hospital Colorado facility in Colorado Springs is becoming a clinical nurse specialist and another is pursuing executive leadership. This pandemic will end, but the reasons to become a nurse will remain: The array of clinical specialties, the many work settings to choose from and the satisfaction that comes with providing service and care in your community.

To all the nurses showing up with grace and grit to care for patients every day: I commend you and thank you. I also want to remind you to take care of yourself, because we can’t pour into others unless we are filled ourselves.

To those who have left the field: Thank you for serving with us. And to those of you considering nursing, I can promise you this: Being a nurse won’t be easy, but it will inspire you, give you purpose and touch people’s lives in innumerable ways.

Kathie Seerup is regional vice president and chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado — Colorado Springs.

Kathie Seerup is Regional Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado – Colorado Springs.


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