Calling on the nation to remember the sacrifices of Virginia’s nurses during National Nurses Week


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Their images and their cries for help have been heartbreaking: The nation’s nurses for more than a year have persevered and improvised when taking on the novel coronavirus.

National Nurses Week ran from May 6-12 this year, celebrating those who work in critically-important health care roles.

Twenty-year nursing veteran Sadie Thurman is the chief nursing officer for Riverside Health. She’s been on the front lines from day one.

“I remember that day going to the ICU, we had to change everything,” said Thurman.

That day was March 14, 2020, the day Dr. Nehemiah Thrash diagnosed Riverside Health’s first COVID-19 patient who was under care at the Riverside Doctors’ Hospital in Williamsburg.

Dr; Nehemiah Thrash Riverside
Dr. Nehemiah Thrash (center) (Photo courtesy: Riverside Health)

“I remember that moment at one of our sister facilities, we transferred that patient here to Riverside regional,” said Thurman.

That patient later died — long before Dec. 16, 2020, the day Riverside administered its first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Riverside health system received its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020.

“I had the privilege of being one of the nurses in our vaccine clinic; you know the only word that I can use for that day is ‘hope,'” Thurman said.

Hope was desperately needed. On that day in history, the virus had so far killed 4,500 people in Virginia and the positivity rate was 11.4%.

Over the months, shots were getting into arms but not the arms of the most medically needy. In response, on March 4, 2021, Riverside Walter Reed co-hosted one of three clinics for the minority population where many have co-morbidities.

Clinic co-hosted by Riverside Walter Reed (Photo courtesy: Brenda Dixon)

“Making sure that we hit our underserved communities patients with co-morbidities, you know, as nurses, we are the most trusted professions. So really, we have the duty to educate our community about the safe use of vaccines,” said Thurman.

To date, nurses and others have administered more than 6.8 million vaccinations across the commonwealth. The virus positivity rate has fallen to 3.9% and Gov. Ralph Northam is poised to reopen society to pre-pandemic levels early this summer.

Thurman is proud of her service to the community and tells 10 On Your Side she can’t imagine not being part of the critical profession.

“I could not imagine doing anything else; it is one of those professions — health care, nursing — it’s really giving and being able to give back,” Thurman said.

It’s a profession that desperately needs more boots on the ground. It’s estimated, as veteran nurses retire as the population grows older, the nation could face a shortage of a half-million nurses by the year 2026.

Nursing school students a NSU
(WAVY photo: Regina Mobley)

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