From Coast to Coast, VA Nurses Express Their Solidarity

The Veteran’s Association has played a key role in our nation’s response to the coronavirus. Nurses and care providers have been assisting local and state health departments as they deal with the fallout caused by the pandemic. These providers have been more than willing to roll up their sleeves and join their colleagues on the front lines of the pandemic.

Now, the nurses at the VA center in Seattle are showing solidarity with their counterparts. They recently crafted a patriotic quilt to honor all the brave providers who risked their lives to save our nation’s heroes and those suffering from the virus. It’s a powerful reminder of the connection between nurses all over the country, regardless of where they work or whom they serve.

The Fourth Mission

When the virus first hit the U.S. back in the spring, the chaos played out across private health facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes. VA centers all over the country closed their doors and the department invoked what’s known as its “Fourth Mission,” which is to:

“Improve the Nation’s preparedness for response to war, terrorism, national emergencies, and natural disasters by developing plans and taking actions to ensure continued service to veterans, as well as to support national, state, and local emergency management, public health, safety and homeland security efforts.”

The VA sent clinical staff members, most of which were nurses, to healthcare facilities across the country to assist those in need. For many providers, caring for others was more of a priority than avoiding the risk of viral exposure. This exchange of talent resulted in deep bonds as these brave providers worked together to save as many lives as possible.

A Quilt of Honor

Seattle experienced one of the first outbreaks in the country, and the nurses at VA Puget Sound were the first to take part in this exchange by volunteering at local hospitals. At the time, the healthcare community didn’t have the resources they needed to fight the disease, including adequate testing and PPE. However, that didn’t stop these local providers from racing to the front lines.

The same was true for the VA nurses in New York, which became the epicenter for the virus for months as the disease decimated local health systems. The world watched in horror as the city closed its doors in hopes of containing the virus..

Nurse Executive Geraldine L’Heureux first came up with the idea to make a quilt as a way of comforting those in need. Nurses quilted individual squares using red, white, and blue materials to show their patriotism. Every square represents the heartfelt concern and respect VA Puget Sound staff felt for the true heroes on the front lines of those facilities hit hardest.

The quilt is currently making its way to the Bronx VA center, which continues to report some of the highest infection rates in the country.

The Work Continues

The VA has seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases over the last few weeks, just like the rest of the country. The department has recorded nearly 65,000 total cases of the virus among its patients and staff since the pandemic began, adding nearly 3,700 cases so far in October, a 6% increase. So far, VA officials have recorded a total of 3,585 deaths.

“Trends in new cases generally reflect what is going on in the country and local communities,” VA Press Secretary Christina Noel said. However, she said hospitalization rates are going down for the veteran community. “The best measure of how COVID-19 is affecting VA patients is the rate of hospitalizations, which are decreasing and at their lowest point of the pandemic.”

The VA continues to be a crucial asset in the fight against the virus. The department has already conducted more than 771,000 COVID-19 tests nationwide as of Friday of last week, marking a 20% increase from just last month.

However, black and Hispanic veterans are twice as likely as white veterans to test positive for the coronavirus at the VA; and researchers are sounding the alarm, calling for an “urgent need to proactively tailor strategies to contain and prevent further outbreaks in racial and ethnic minority communities.”

VA data shows that black and Hispanic veterans have made up nearly half of all VA patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus, yet they only comprise about 23% of all VA patients.

Nurses and providers continue to work around the clock to save lives, and this quilt is a beautiful reminder of all the sacrifices they have made over the last seven months. We are thrilled to see these nurses come together, even though they live on opposite sides of the country. 

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