Transcript

Judy Woodruff: Today is International Nurses Day.

And there probably has never been a more important time to stop and recognize this profession.

Betty Ferrell of City of Hope National Medical Center in Southern California has worked in nursing for more than 40 years.

In tonight's Brief But Spectacular, she reminds us how nurses show up for us and how we can show up for them.

Betty Ferrell: Across America and around the world, nurses are delivering excellent care.

It is a nurse who is holding the phone as a family member is saying goodbye to a patient that they can't even see. It's the nurse who will be in that room when the ventilator is withdrawn. And it is a nurse who will be bathing the body of that patient and calling that family to comfort them after the death.

Nurses are really the predominant work force across all settings of care for every population impacted by this disease.

So, palliative care in this country has evolved over the last 20 years to be serious illness care that's focused on quality of life. I have been an oncology nurse my entire career.

Our project ELNEC is the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium, an international effort to try to provide this training for nurses to help them acquire these skills.

It's nurses at the bedside at 3:00 in the morning, when the patient asks the question, am I going to die? It's so important for nurses as the front lines in every setting of care to have this knowledge and skills and support, because the end of life, even in the midst of crisis, should be a sacred time.

Right now, nurses don't have time to stop and go through training. Fortunately, our ELNEC project has trained about 24,000 nurses across the country who are now supporting their colleagues.

Another key principle of our ELNEC training is, how do we take care of the nurses? These nurses are so busy. They have just cared for a wonderful, loving, kind, amazing grandfather who just died. But you know what? Five minutes from now, they're going to fill that bed with another patient. So there's no time to grieve. There's no time to care for themselves.

My daughter is a pulmonary critical care physician. She is on the front lines and she is working in a COVID ICU. And so I'm afraid. I'm fearful for my daughter's safety.

But I'm also very proud of my daughter. I'm proud that my daughter has made a commitment to care for really sick people. I think everyone in the country is very well aware of the fact that one of the greatest tragedies of this current pandemic is that mothers like me have had to see our children go into their daily work without protective gear.

I hope that we take the time to think of, how can we support every first responder?

Whether I'm putting on my hat as mother, as grandmother, as a nurse, we first need to say, let's all celebrate what we have done. Let's celebrate the good care, because, at the end of the day, what we all have to say is, we showed up. You know, nurses, doctors, everyone has showed up for this pandemic.

And it's our obligation now to see how we can better support them for the future, because they have done amazing work.

I'm Betty Ferrell, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on showing up.

Judy Woodruff: And thank you, Betty Ferrell.

And thank you on this and every day to all the nurses out there. Thank you.

And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.