Written by Denise M. Anchico
National Nurses Week* begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year, the American Nursing Association has expanded the celebration of nurses to the entire month of May. Just in time to celebrate these amazing first responders, The Buzz has learned of yet another local hero. She is a young nurse named Kristen Hansen, who started the Adopt-a-Nurse Suffolk County initiative, a program to honor the work being done by her fellow nurses during these trying times of the COVID-19 crisis. Only 23 years old and a recent graduate of NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, Kristen was on her way to becoming a social worker when her younger sister became quite ill. Hospitalized at Northwell Health Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, it was the dedication of the pediatric ICU nurses taking care of her sister that changed Kristen’s mind and convinced her to become a nurse.
After a three-month residency in Cleveland, OH, Kristen, who lives in Smithtown and is a graduate of Hauppauge High School, found herself working in the Cardiothoracic Surgery Division at Stony Brook University Hospital and has been there since January of 2020. In the short time since being hired, Stony Brook University Hospital, like all Long Island hospitals, quickly saw an influx of coronavirus patients that have overwhelmed all aspects of normalcy pertaining to Kristen’s profession. She observed how hard she and her fellow nurses were working – “It’s basically triage” – and the toll it has been taking on them. Exhausted, drained and depressed, it is not in Kristen’s nature to feel so defeated. She told The Buzz that she wanted to channel the energy of being sad all the time into “something bigger than myself’ and thought about what she could do to make a difference. On March 31, 2020, Adopt-a-Nurse Suffolk County was borne out of the desire to affect change in the lives of the nurses working so hard to hold their own lives together while saving lives. “It just came to me one day” after a particularly difficult night shift.
Adopt-a-Nurse Suffolk County is a Facebook page that matches nurses with people who are interested in providing them with wonderful care packages that are assembled with kindness and hand delivered with gratitude. These care packages are a way to show nurses how much they are valued in our community and appreciated for the work they do, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Take some time out of your day to hop on the Facebook page and view all the wonderful pictures posted. Perhaps consider adopting a nurse yourself during National Nurses Month. The Buzz can think of no better way for you to show your appreciation.
Kristen connects nurses to people donating care packages primarily by geographic location. She spends several hours after each night shift making these connections before she grabs a few hours of sleep. Currently, there are about 600 nurses in total who have been nominated to receive care packages and 400 of those nurses have received them. Kristen was lucky enough along the way to pick up a few volunteers to help her with this endeavor. This idea is beginning to spread as other Adopt-a-Nurse chapters are extending to Nassau County, Westchester, Buffalo, Manhattan, and New Jersey. Thank you, Kristen Hansen, first for being a nurse and second for taking care of other nurses on your watch!
Anyone interested in adopting a nurse, nominating a nurse to be adopted, or if you are a nurse hoping to be adopted, please go to the ‘About’ link on the Adopt-a-Nurse Suffolk County Facebook page and fill out the online form. *According to nursebuff.com, Nurses have played a major role in healing humanity—from war, disease, poverty, starvation. And today, they continue to steadfastly do as they have always done—care for the ill, the injured, the infirm, the dying. National Nurses Week seeks to honor the individuals known as the heart of healthcare.