kathy armstrong
CHRIS GAHLER / MANAGER OF AUDIO AND VIDEO SERVICES AT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Kathy Armstrong, BSN, RN-BC
Wound Care Specialist, Bayshore Medical Center, Holmdel
Hometown: Neptune

Kathy Armstrong retired from nursing in December only to return a few months later in April to help with COVID-19.

“My decision to assist with the COVID pandemic was not a difficult decision as I watched the crisis unfold rapidly in March,” she says. “I was aware [that] the risk to contract the virus was high. I decided there was no reason not to return to nursing.”

Armstrong was placed in a per diem position doing wound care and soon returned to her old job. “I was welcomed back by my colleagues with open arms, a wonderful feeling amidst the severe illness I was about to be a part of,” she says.

Her family had mixed feelings about her going back to nursing but in the end, they were supportive. “I reassured them I would do everything I could to be safe, taking every precaution, making decisions with careful thought and be the nurse I am helping others to help those in need,” she says. “Nurses have a way of making the best of a bad situation. My extended family and friends offered support and concern for my safety as well. Today, my family and friends are proud of my decision as I update them regularly of the progress I see, the support of my colleagues and that I have patients recover and be discharged.”Armstrong says she saw many patients she’d treated in the past and that they were happy to see she had returned.

“Many gave me extra emotional support to get through those toughest days,” she says. “Sadly, there were patients who did not survive COVID, for which I am deeply affected. I gained more spiritual insight within myself from this experience.”

“At Bayshore, when a COVID-19 patient is discharged, overhead speakers throughout the hospital play, ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by George Harrison. That song has an effect on everyone, including the patient. We stop for a few minutes, smile, talk to each other who are near or just sing the song to have some relief. Special moments are when the song is played several times a day.”

Armstrong went back into retirement in July, but she won’t ever forget the experience of working during the pandemic.

“I will always remember the true commitment of teamwork, support, gratitude, humanity, sacrifices, grief, despair, frustration, love, hope and endurance that nurses and doctors have experienced together,” she says. “Nursing is a strong and resilient profession that will move forward, being more prepared if COVID returns. Whether I return, I will have to assess at that time. I know my decision will be from my heart.”

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