National Nurse's Week - Junie White

National Nurse's Week - Junie White

The Queen’s Gazette Local-Express

Friday, June 4, 2021 1:59 PM

With the recent celebration of National Nurses Week, there have been many nurses sharing incredible stories about their experiences on the COVID frontlines. One of the most inspiring is New York's Junie White.

A faculty member at St. Paul's School of Nursing in Queens and doling grandmother spent weekends volunteering at makeshift clinics in underserved areas of the city, helping patients who were elderly, homeless, HIV/AIDS-positive, or battling substance abuse. Her approachability and warmth helped her build rapport to quickly provide education, secure housing, and connect her at-risk patients to healthcare services. Even after contracting COVID-19 in December, she immediately returned to her work volunteering. 

She uses her experiences fighting COVID to help her nursing students understand their responsibility to their patients, remarking: "The world is looking at us to give of ourselves. Courage, humanity, and a willingness to help will heal the nation. When you're holding a patient's hand, you're making a difference."

NB: What do you love about teaching at St. Paul's School of Nursing in Queens?

JW: Teaching at St Paul's affords me the opportunity to impart my knowledge skills and experience to my students and to learn from them as well.

NB: What do you feel are the most important traits or characteristics that can help a nurse excel in their field?JW: Love to work with people, willing to adapt to situations and circumstances, have a thirst for learning (in the nursing profession one is always learning).

NB: What was your experience like as a frontline worker during the pandemic?

JW: My experience with COVID-19 has allowed me to speak to the student nurses about self-care, overcoming fear, and persevering despite the challenge. Some were battling COVID-19, and others-family members as well. Many speak to me about their fear of facing their exam, the anxiety they have because they do not want to get COVID-19, and still others inquire about staying focused and having perseverance when they want to quit, because the virtual learning experience is so challenging. I willingly share that one of the greatest things that gave me hope was my faith. I had to believe in someone greater than me, and then muster up the energy to do the things I had to do.These included practicing self-care, meditation, physical exercise, and having a single focus on my goal, which was to defeat COVID-19 in my body. As a result of sharing my experience with COVID-19, I gave my student nurses inspiration, I encouraged them, and many of them are now performing better because they are not fearful, but careful; they are not hopeless, but hopeful.

NB: What is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of the pandemic that you know now?

JW: That we would have a vaccine so early which would help to minimize COVID-19 symptoms thus having fewer deaths.

NB: What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

JW: That it's ok be afraid, but never lose sight of who you are - as a caregiver someone is depending on you to care for them, as an educator -someone is depending on you to educate them; therefore equip yourself. We the faculty at St Paul's are here to provide them with the knowledge to achieve a sound, up-to-date nursing education that will provide them with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills, empathetic disposition and help to empower them to face the challenges of the population that they work with.

NB: How do you feel the pandemic has impacted Queens?

JW: Small business has been greatly impacted, as well as the poor and elderly and those living in shelters; the health care facilities where most of the pnimary care facilities were closed, hospitals not having enough beds for patients -   I don't think there is a single person or business in Queens that the pandemic has not impacted negatively. Although churches were closed, they survived on connecting with members via prayer lines and helping the elderly with food and medications. I believe the pandemic has brought us closer as a community in Queens - our faith has been strengthened - we pray and care for each other more.

NB: Do you think about some of your patients or clients years later?

JW: Yes, I do, and sometimes they recognize me on the streets, in the mall, in the supermarket, I am humbled when I am remembered by a patient, that "you were my nurse."

NB: What are your favorite places to relax in Queens?

JW: I like Little Bay Park in Queens, the sight of the water is very relaxing.

NB: What responsibility is unique to teachers of nursing?

JW: Teaching nursing students affords me the opportunity to connect with each student, we all have different backgrounds and cultures, and can come to one classroom to learn and share; sometimes I feel like the "mother hen" with all my "chicks". I am not only an educator, but a counselor and advocate as well. I think the mentoring aspect is unique.

NB: How did the pandemic impact your role as a teacher?

JW: I was able to iunction in unusual circumstances, when I had to do "virtual teaching" or teach via Zoom. I felt a closer connection with my students -we were all (virtually) in each other's homes teaching and learning.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.