How one nurse made sure her patients were never truly alone
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Nicole Abate, a Registered Medical-Surgical Nurse living in New Mexico, starts her workday around 5:00 a.m. During her 20-minute drive to work, she gets to watch the sun rise over the Sandia Mountains as she sips her coffee.

"It's one of my favorite things to do," said Nurse Abate. "A lot of us need a little calm before the storm."

Nicole | Heroes Behind the Masks Presented by CeraVe youtu.be

In March 2020, after a fairly quiet start to the year, Nurse Abate's unit became the official COVID unit for her hospital. "It went full force after that," she says. Abate was afraid, overwhelmed with uncertainty, never knowing what was next on the wild roller coaster in this new territory, "just when you think ...we know exactly what we're doing, boom, something else hits so you adapt… that's part of nursing too." Abate faced her responsibilities courageously and with grace, as she always does, making life a little better for patients and their families "Thank you for taking care of my father," reads one recent letter from a patient's family. "You were kind, attentive and strong and we are truly grateful."


Nurses are accustomed to losing patients—it's part of the job. The difference for Nurse Abate during the pandemic was watching her patients go through it alone. That's what hit her hardest and prompted her to bring an iPad into a patient's room so that the family could say their goodbyes via FaceTime before the patient passed away. "I don't think I have a greater honor than to be the person to hold someone's hand while they take their last breath," she says.

"Nursing can be a traumatic field to work in," says Wendy Mason, PhD, a faculty member in the School of Nursing at Purdue University Global. "Nurses are exposed to pain and suffering and trauma, and we are often traumatized and not even realize it. If we aren't caring for ourselves, we can't care for others."

Self-care is important for workers in every field, but especially for nurses, who spend their working hours serving the needs of others. A recent study found that self-care reduces stress, replenishes a nurse's capacity to provide compassion and empathy, and as a result, improves the overall quality of care. But nurses aren't always very good at making themselves a priority.

Nurse Abate says that because she wasn't taught the importance of self-care early on in life, learning how to put herself first has always been a struggle. "As I've grown older, I realized it's imperative," said Abate.

"I'm stressed until I finally walk in the door and my dogs come up and greet me … it's hard with COVID because you come home and it's all over the news and you just can't escape it," said Nurse Abate. "It's very hard work but it's the most rewarding work that I've ever done in my life."

Abate feels she's become more resilient over the past year and a half, finding other ways to ground herself like taking walks, reading, and visiting her parents from a safe distance. While she's managed to make the best of a terrible situation, she's looking forward to getting back to her normal self-care routines of monthly massages, going to the gym with friends, and antiquing. After all, even nurse heroes need a little downtime.

CeraVe® is a brand rooted in the medical community and committed to supporting healthcare professionals. As part of its commitment to nurses, CeraVe® is also a proud sponsor of the ANA Enterprise and their Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ initiative, a movement designed to transform the health of the nation by improving the health of the nation's 4.2 million registered nurses. Through the initiative, ANA is connecting and engaging with nurses to inspire them to take action in five key areas: activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life and safety.

Additionally, over the past year, CeraVe® has donated more than 500,000 products to hospitals to help provide therapeutic skincare relief to healthcare workers and is continuing the product donation efforts. Nurses looking to engage with the brand and learn more about these initiatives can join the Shift Change: Nurse Essentials Facebook group, an online community hosted by CeraVe® where nurses come together for personal and professional empowerment.

To see more stories about nurse heroes, visit https://www.heroesbehindthemasks.com/.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.

Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.

Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.

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