Many of us remember Seattle, Washington, as the site of the first recognized COVID-19 infections and deaths. These cases first appeared at private nursing facilities and, sadly, resulted in many lives lost. At the VA Puget Sound clinicians immediately responded by standing up a COVID-19 response team.

VA Puget South Health Care staff.

When VA activated its “Fourth Mission” to assist private health facilities by providing needed staff, VA Puget Sound deployed clinical staff to assist. Many of these staff members were nurses. They received heart-warming feedback from those they cared for and they reported that this was among the most fulfilling professional experiences of their lives.

The rewards of caring for people in need far outweighed their fears of exposure to the illness. It was in these moments of gratitude – gratitude for their skills in health care and the opportunity to help others – that the seed of an idea was planted.

What could be a lasting representation of their service in the community fighting COVID-19? Nurse Executive Geraldine L’Heureux came up with the idea of creating a quilt. A quilt represents comfort in time of need. It is a compilation of many parts – just as taking care of Veterans and supporting the community took many people.

Heartfelt concern for true frontline heroes

The materials for this quilt were selected to convey pride in serving Veterans and our nation (red, white, blue). The quilt squares were made by individual nursing staff. The squares represent the heartfelt concern and respect VA Puget Sound staff felt for the true heroes on the frontlines of those facilities hit hardest.

Medical staff from both Seattle and American Lake pose with a quilt..

VA Puget Sound nurse Bonnie Vanderstaay wrote a poem that was the centerpiece of the quilt. The poem recognizes the important contributions of VA nurses.  It also reflected concern among VA Puget Sound nurses for VA nursing staff across the nation, and a hope to send them inspiration and support.

VA Puget Sound gave the quilt to the Bronx VA because COVID-19 hit it hard and early. Its nurses who supported Bronx VA felt this small token would demonstrate their unity. It also provided a visual reminder of the tremendous sacrifice and contribution of VA nurses.

VA Puget Sound nurses also contributed to Fourth Mission activities in Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, New York, Arizona; Spokane, WA; New Jersey, and during Hurricanes Delta and Laura.

This blog is courtesy of the VHA Office of Communications. It is part of a VA series recognizing 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. VA salutes the more than 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly to serve Veterans in communities across the country. We invite you to show your support for these everyday heroes. Thank a nurse at your next telehealth or in-person appointment.

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Published on Nov. 6, 2020

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