BILLINGS — A lasting monument dedicated to the hard work and long hours put in by nurses at Billings Clinic was unveiled in the hospital's Healing Garden Monday to kick off a week of appreciation for the nursing staff.
“Last year was just tremendously tough for the health care organizations all over the world, but here in Billings, our nurses stepped up. They put aside perhaps their fears of what was going on. They left their families. Some nurses even couldn’t be at home with their families, but they came anyway because they came to serve their patients," said Penni Nance, Billings Clinic board member.
The sculpture is titled "The Healer's Touch" and was hand carved by the Shona people in Zimbabwe.
Laurie Smith, chief nursing officer for Billings Clinic pulled the cover off the statue and revealed it to a small group of other staff who were in attendance.
Smith told the group the work of art represents the bond shared between the people who give care and those who receive it.
"It represents nursing and how the healers in the Shona tribe feel about those that they care for and how those that they care for feel about their healers. We feel the same way about our nurses here at Billings Clinic," Smith said.
The sculpture is a larger version of a DAISY Award, given out to a select group of Billings Clinic nurses per year. The DAISY Foundation offers a service to health care companies that has a goal to facilitate the recognition of nursing staff.
Smith said past DAISY Award banquets would be attended by patients who would share stories of their recoveries.
“The greatest compliment that we could ever receive are kind words from our patients, telling us how we’ve touched their lives and made such a significant difference for them," Smith said.
From the very first virus cases, to a brand new vaccine, no one has had a front row seat to the effects of the pandemic like health care staff.
The week of appreciation comes as the nation has been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for about one year. Johnny Baker, a certified oncology nurse who has been with Billings Clinic for 10 years was right in the middle of it.
In the oncology department, Baker said it's not uncommon for him to be in some tough situations surrounding death. Those tough situations didn't get any easier when the hospital stopped allowing visitors, which sometimes cut family off of precious last moments with loved ones.
"We did have patients that did pass away from COVID-19 and family members could not go into their room. Nursing staff did have to be the line and we were kind of the ones holding their hands and taking care of that patient for the family members," Baker said.
Although the last year saw COVID-19 sweep through the Billings community, Baker said the nursing career isn't all doom and gloom. While the week of recognition is nice, Baker said the thanks from patients and family members is just as rewarding.
“Patients and family members, they kind of show us recognition every day, which is one of the great reasons to be a nurse," Baker said.
The week of appreciation will continue for Billings Clinic nurses at 1 p.m. Wednesday inside Dehler Park in Billings. Select nurses will be presented with the DAISY Award. People can attend in person, but will be required to wear masks. The event will also be streamed live on Billings Clinic's Facebook page.