Virginia nurses make emotional plea as they confront another COVID surge

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 8:23 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia nurses on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 made an emotional plea for help Tuesday morning.

With critical care units filling up again, and nurses increasingly stressed by the continuing pandemic, they asked Virginians to do what they can to prevent the spread of the virus.

Members of the Virginia Nurses Association from Abingdon, Arlington, Charlottesville and Richmond took part in a video conference with reporters. They said they are caring for COVID patients who are sicker and younger, at a time when many health care facilities are facing severe staffing shortages.

Nurses from across the state described emotional moments with patients.

“He’d just hold my hand, and squeeze it so hard it hurt, and tell me how afraid he was,” said Aliese Harrison, a registered nurse in Abingdon.

They said they have experienced confrontations with frustrated family members.

“Those double doors open and sometimes it’s like an angry mob,” said Ashley Fogleman, a relief charge nurse in Abingdon.

And they described a statewide health system and nursing staff straining under the crush of COVID patients.

“Imagine the worst day you’ve ever had at work, then add human suffering, death, personal risk and repeat it every day for 18 months,” said Ashley Apple, a family nurse practitioner in the Richmond area.

“It’s unprecedented right now what nurses are going through,” said Melody Dickerson, a chief nursing officer in Arlington.

“I feel like we’re getting to a level of urgency where we can’t meet the needs of our community without their help,” added Dexter McDowell, a patient care director in Arlington.

Their plea to the public: Get vaccinated. Wear a mask, and take other COVID precautions.

“We’ve been the front line of this pandemic for the last 18 months, and what we’re asking for the community to do right now is for you to be the frontline, for you to take care of us,” said Mesha Jones, a practicing nurse in the Charlottesville area.

“We just need a little kindness, and we just need people not to be so angry with us at times,” said Sheri Harsanyi, an assistant patient care director in Arlington. “I think my last statement would be, please be kind to a nurse and say thank you.”

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