How did you get into nursing, Annette?
When I was in the fifth grade, I wrote a report. I wanted to be an attorney or a nurse. I guess God just called me to be a nurse because that’s what I ended up going to school for. When we moved to Tennessee, Vanderbilt was the only place I wanted to work. I’ve been with Vanderbilt ever since I finished college. They’ve always been very good to me and I’ve learned a lot from them, new and old.
Can you tell us a little more about Vanderbilt?
Vanderbilt is a great institution to work for. Monroe Carell was a great man. I love working for Children’s and it’s just a great place for teamwork. The whole facility, we’ve banded together, helping each other out during this difficult time. Managers, they’re all supportive. What more can I say?
How has the outbreak affected your day-to-day operations at work?
You’re just really cautious about everything you do. That and cleaning. Sometimes I feel like I clean a lot more than I’m taking care of patients. We also don’t get to interact with families as much as we used to. Of course, we have restrictions. We’re doing a lot of things virtually. We have to take a lot of things people tell us by their word.
It’s also different for us having to wear masks all the time. Constantly cleaning hands. We always did that anyway, but now it’s like, religious. So, our hands are burning. We can’t cluster together. It’s kind of like we’re friends and peers, but from afar. It’s changed the whole dynamics of getting together, really.
We always have our group meetings and we have to do that by phone now. I’m in the float pool so I’m used to moving around and seeing a lot of units and a lot of different people. Now it’s almost like we all live in our own little bubbles. We were all so close from the beginning. I feel sorry for the new nurses coming in, the new care partners, and new doctors coming in. It’s a whole new generation, a whole new way of doing things. I don’t know how this is going to affect us a month or so down the road. I’m hoping it gets back to normal, but yeah, it affects us because we can’t really get involved with our families, coworkers, or our patients like we want to or like we were used to doing.
Why is it more important than ever for you to continue your work?
I am blessed enough to be able to still come to work, take care of my patients, and provide for myself and my family. When this first hit, I had just gotten over pneumonia. I was sick for four weeks. Of course, my family and my children were worried, still are, but I’m driven. It’s my calling in life. It’s my love of my patients and taking care of people. That’s why I do it. That’s why I take that chance. And of course, my age and having an immune system at the moment that was down when all this hit, it didn’t matter because I knew I was needed and I knew where I needed to be.
A lot of people thank me and I tell them there’s no thanks needed. A lot of people call us heroes. To me, I’m not a hero. To me, I’m doing what I love to do. The other nurses, doctors, care partners, and EMTs, and techs who a lot of people leave out, to me, all of those people are heroes. I don’t find myself a hero, I’m just doing what I was called to do. We [nurses] love it. It’s our passion.
What advice would you give people during the pandemic?
Listen to what the news is telling you and stay home. I get it. I miss going out. But I want people to listen to that advice. Not because I’m not worried about how many sick people are coming into the hospitals, but because I’m more worried about people losing loved ones. You’ve stayed in this long, what’s a couple more weeks? Then when they start to reopen things, wear a mask until we’re sure. I just want them to find a cure or vaccine.
That’s the other advice I would give. When this first hit, I wanted to ask so many people, did you get your flu shot? Being a nurse, I’m required to get it. But that would be something I would still get. I even fuss at my kids. You’ve got to go get your flu shot because we lose so many people every year to the flu and people don’t realize it. But yet [COVID-19] hit and it struck so hard and I was thinking if we came up with a vaccine, a week after it hit, everybody would be jumping for it. But we have the flu vaccine. It keeps a lot of it at bay and people still refuse to take it every year. That’s just my pet peeve. It’s out there, and the flu is just as deadly to your elderly, to your young, to the immune-compromised. That would be my advice. Get the flu shot!
What are you looking forward to doing most when things return to normal?
Being able to shake hands with someone, hug someone, and just being able to see people and walk by each other without a mask. I want to go out to dinner or leave work and be able to go shopping if I want to.
We already consider you a hero, Annette. But if you got to choose one superpower, what would it be?
Oh my. Probably to take all sickness away. And make everyone healthy from cancer patients on down. That would, of course, hurt my career, wouldn’t it? But yes, I would still do it.
Well we think you might already have a little of that superpower, Annette. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and we hope you have a great day and stay safe.
For sacrificing her time and her own safety to continue to care for the those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, we’re proud to award Annette with the Hardin’s Heroes title, certificate, and a donation of $500, split between her two chosen charities to battle homeless for all: The Rutherford County Pet Adoption & Welfare services, and the Nashville Rescue Mission.