December 2, 2021

A Picture for a Thousand People

Sketch shows healthcare workers helping each other put on PPE, masked healthcare worker cries

From an ICU bed, an Idaho hospital patient watches nurses hard at work. The ICU is filled with COVID-19 patients, and she is one of them. It’s been a long battle with the illness so far, but her nurses aren’t giving up on her.

“She was one of the best fighters that I’ve ever seen in the ICU especially with COVID,” said Zane Ferguson, a TNAA ambassador and ICU travel nurse. “So many times with COVID, people just kind of give up because their bodies are too tired and they can’t deal with it anymore. She definitely had many instances where she could have said, ‘You know what? I’m done with this. It’s too much work.’ And she never did.”

Keeping the Patient Motivation

To healthcare workers like Zane, taking care of COVID-19 patients is just part of the job, but the heart nurses put into their work doesn’t go unnoticed, especially to this patient. 

From her hospital bed, she watches and draws in a sketchbook. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. Despite her lengthy hospital stay, Zane is there to encourage her and remind her that she has a new grandbaby to see.

“I said, ‘We’re gonna work with you every day and do everything we can to get you out of here. You just need to work with us.’ She was totally up for it,” Zane said.

They worked together doing simple things to keep her going with a positive outlook, like getting up to a chair and eating at every meal. As Zane cared for her, just wanting to see his patient get better, she was checking on him, too.

“We always did this for each other, which is one reason I think we bonded more,” Zane explained. “Every day, we’d ask how the other person was doing. I would always ask her because I’m the nurse, and I’m assisting her needs. But she would recognize that we were humans as well and would ask us, ‘How are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?’”

A Hard Day on the ICU Floor

On the unit, Zane and his fellow nurses care for COVID-19 patients in teams, often with nurses from other units coming to help. It’s a united front.

“Especially with team nursing, it’s not just one of us taking care of a patient. It’s literally like a family raising a village kind of thing,” Zane said. “We are all trying to get everybody through this, helping each other out, helping our patients, helping another team’s patients.”

Despite healthcare workers’ best efforts, some patients still don’t make it. On a particularly heavy day in the ICU unit, two families said goodbye to their loved ones. It took a toll on all the nurses, who wanted so badly to see them get better. 

Picture Captures COVID-19 Impact

As Zane was wrapping up his shift this day, he went to check on his patient. She asked how he was doing, and he was honest. It was an emotionally painful day.

At that moment, the patient reached into her sketchbook and gave Zane a drawing. He had seen her sketching before, and this illustration had a powerful message that Zane and his coworkers needed to hear. 

Sketch shows healthcare workers helping each other put on PPE, masked healthcare worker cries

The picture showed two healthcare professionals helping each other don their head-to-toe PPE – a necessity in the days of the pandemic. To their left and right are more masked healthcare workers, one with a tear streaming down her face. At the bottom of the drawing, the patient had written, “Thank you!”

“She pulled out this picture and handed it to me and said, ‘I was going to save this for when I was getting out of here, but I feel like you all need this now,” Zane recalled. The drawing showed how much she appreciated all the nurses had done for her.

Zane was immediately speechless and tearful. The picture captured the love, the struggle, and the care that goes into each day of work for nurses in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The fact that she could see this from her little tiny room while stuck in a corner and portray it is just unbelievable,” Zane said.

It was a lovingly made gift that touched the hearts of each healthcare worker on the unit, and to this day, the drawing still hangs above the charge nurse’s computer – a spot where all can see it. But there’s one thing in the sketch that stands out to Zane the most.

“There are no badges. There’s no way to tell this is an RN,” Zane explained. “A lot of times, the nurses and doctors are the faces that are put out there with the pandemic. In the picture, there’s no labeling of what role these people were playing. It was all of us in that one picture.” 

The picture is for every housekeeper who has cleaned hospital rooms, every RT helping patients breathe hours on end, every doctor diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medicine, every nurse advocating for and assisting the patient, and more.

“It’s every single person who has facilitated in some way to take care of people in their worst time,” Zane said. “There’s no specific call out that this is a picture just for nurses. When it says, ‘Thank you,’ it’s definitely for everybody.”

It is a picture for a thousand people, and it’s the reminder they need in a time that is so rough. Despite the struggle that keeps on going, Zane tries his best to take his wife Ally’s approach to ‘just keep swimming,’ keep his head up, and help his teammates as best he can.

man and woman biking in the mountains

“Just remember there is an end to your day, an end to your shift, an end to your assignment,” Zane said. “There’s always going to be a brighter side that comes around that you won’t be expecting. Rely on each other, reach out to one another, make sure your team is staying strong because it’s so easy to be swept along as the pandemic continues.”

By relying on her nurses’ care, the patient’s hospital stay also comes to an end. Zane said she was in the ICU for approximately three months before going to step-down floors for almost another month. She watched seasons change from a hospital bed and witnessed the emotion that healthcare workers put into their jobs every day. 

TNAA’s #bethegood Campaign

TNAA is amplifying the stories we hear of how you are making a difference in the lives around you through #bethegood. Nominate yourself or someone you know by tagging #bethegood and @travelnurseacrossamerica on Instagram. Tell us how the patient care of a healthcare worker you know (or are) is bringing to light the good our world needs to see more.