BIDDEFORD, Maine — It's National Nurses Week, and as the world celebrates these dedicated health care professionals, we turn our attention to the untold trauma they have experienced during the pandemic and their ongoing journey of healing.
At Ferry Beach State Park frontline workers are finding solace and seeking new avenues of inner peace.
"Although some people think the pandemic is over, there are lasting effects that affect nurses and all gametes," Jessica Vaillancourt an ICU Nurse said.
The unprecedented nature of COVID-19 presented nurses with challenges they had never encountered before.
They were tasked with caring for critically ill patients without a cure in sight, a daunting responsibility that took a toll on their well-being.
"Some people think that if you're an ICU nurse, you signed up for this—you signed up for people to die and pass away. But before the pandemic, for every 100 patients, two died. It changed things so that for every 100 patients, two survived," Vaillancourt said.
Infinite Kindness, a local nonprofit, has stepped forward to support nurses on their healing journey to assist in the recovery process.
The organization recently hosted a retreat to help frontline workers heal from the inside out.
"The research shows that when people are out experiencing nature, it has healing benefits," Eliza Jane Adams, founder of Infinite Kindness, said. "So, it's doing that in a way that's purposeful and mindful."
The retreat was more than just a bonding experience. Nurses from across the state participated in activities aimed at transforming their post-traumatic stress disorder into post-traumatic growth.
"It's not something a nurse can go to therapy for. We have to bind together, talk about it, and heal from it in a way that typical therapy doesn't really work," Christopher Perkins, an ICU nurse, said.
"It's been a really nice experience to hear other people's traumas and know you're not alone," Vaillancourt said.
One of the activities involved creating artwork that symbolized a difficult moment.
Nurses bravely shared the stories behind their art, recounting personal experiences that had a profound impact on them.
For instance, Vaillancourt spoke about the heartwarming encounter with a young man she had helped save.
"That summer, I was grocery shopping with my son, and I saw him in the grocery store with his family," Vaillancourt said. "At first, he didn't recognize me, but then he asked my name and said, 'Are you, Jessica?' And I said, 'Yeah.' He hugged me and thanked me for saving his life. He was one of the two patients that I saved, and he will never know how much that meant to me."
This serves as a poignant reminder that while many are ready to put COVID-19 behind them, frontline workers are still grappling with the emotional aftermath of the pandemic.
National Nurses Week serves as a vital moment to honor their resilience and acknowledge the ongoing support they need to heal from the damage inflicted during these trying times.