Celebrating National Nurses Month – Interview with Anthony Harris – Interview and Photos by Naomi Harris
May is National Nurses Month, and in recognition of these amazing caregivers still battling the frontlines during a global pandemic, we are proud to highlight a local nurse in celebration and appreciation for all they do to go above & beyond for us. Anthony Harris is an Emergency Room nurse at Northern Dutchess Hospital in beautiful Rhinebeck, New York.
Naomi: Tell us about your nursing career journey – where did you go to college? How long have you been a nurse?
Anthony: I was first drawn to the nursing profession when my brother was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 15. While staying with my brother during hospital visits I encountered many healthcare professionals, but those who resonated most were the nurses. Their mannerisms, empathy, and caring attitudes were inspirational.
I attended undergrad at Siena College, and then enrolled in the nursing program at SUNY Ulster where I achieved my nursing license. I then acquired my BSN and subsequent MSN shortly after. I have recently finished my MBA with a concentration in Hospital Management. My nursing career has been relatively short thus far with 9 years under my belt.
Naomi: Impressive! What drew you to Emergency nursing in particular?
Anthony: Emergency rooms, by their very nature, are chaotic – organized chaos, but chaotic nonetheless. Honestly, the aspects that I love about emergency nursing fall under that umbrella. When it comes to emergency nursing there is no such thing as predictable. I have helped deliver a baby, to perform CPR, and everything in between – and I do mean everything! Additionally, I have more autonomy in the ER than I would in other departments, which I really love. When caring for critical patients, you quickly adapt to urgent situations and must make a lot of executive decisions. I think most of all I love making a difference in someone’s life no matter what their medical emergency might be.
Naomi: I’ve always heard that “nurses are the backbone of health care.” Why is that?
Anthony: There are so many reasons! Everything we do not only affects the outcome of care patients receive, but also the general impression a hospital presents to the public. Nurses bridge the gap between the doctor and the patient. We administer patient care and provide solace when needed, we handle medication management and assist with surgeries. More often than not, it is the nurse that will educate patients and family members every step of the way. Nurses are the ones advocating for you, the patient.
Naomi: How has your job at Northern Dutchess Emergency Room changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Anthony: Things are definitely different. We are very much still navigating these unknown times. We now wear full PPE (masks, goggles, gowns & gloves) continuously for 12 hours, restricted access with screenings at the door for anyone entering the hospital, limited visitors a patient can have, and having to treat every patient as a potential Covid-19 carrier. These added elements have definitely increased the stress load of an already stressful occupation.
Naomi: You nurses are really in the trenches! There must be joy to keep nurses pressing on – what do you find most rewarding about your job?
Anthony: For me, it’s the ability to put the human element in today’s modern medicine. It makes caring for a complete stranger, no matter their gender, ethnicity or background – authentic and real. It is that standard of humanism that is most rewarding.
Naomi: What a wonderful perspective! I know that your professional responsibilities often extend beyond patient care; what other hospital or nursing career projects are you involved in?
Anthony: True! I am currently the co-chairmen of the unit council of the emergency department (unit council is a leadership position to convene with other nurses to collectively work towards making clinical decisions that affect nursing care in the ER). Additionally, I just finished a research paper on how COVID-19 has impacted burnout among the ER staff. I hope to be able to publish my paper in the American Journal of Nursing.
Naomi: Wow, I never knew Nurses were involved in things like that. What do you wish more people knew about your job?
Anthony: That nursing is a self-sacrificing profession. We leave our families and loved ones to care for someone else no matter the time of the day or night, even holidays. Nurses are always there when you need us even when we are not on duty. Acknowledgment, appreciation and gratitude for the nurse caring for you or your loved one goes a long way.
Naomi: OK, so after taking care of so many others, what do you do to practice self-care? Tell us what you enjoy doing outside of work.
Anthony: Kicking back with my wife, family & friends, going to the gym, being outdoors – I love to play golf and hike around the beautiful Hudson Valley.
Naomi: Thank you so much for chatting with us, and for everything you do as a nurse! We are thankful for not only your knowledge & care, but for how you continue to show up with compassion. To all of the nurses out there, we salute you!