RN shares challenges of pandemic during nurse appreciation week

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Jennifer Ponstein loves being a nurse at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, where she has worked for the last 18 years.

“I love getting to know people and seeing them go from being so dependent on us when they first arrive, watching them get stronger, and the things they can do when they leave us,” she said.

Patients go to Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids when they no longer require the critical care of a medical hospital but still need assistance before they can return home.

Patients go to the hospital Ponstein works at after staying at a medical hospital, when they no longer require critical care but still need assistance before they can return home. (courtesy Mary Free Bed)

Nurses did not stay home when the pandemic began. They had no choice but to keep doing their job in person because people still got sick and still needed care.

Although Ponstein wasn’t exposed to COVID-19 patients who were contagious, her job did change. Patients in any hospital often rely on their families for support and that was no longer possible in person.

“I think we’re all affected by that, but unfortunately, being in the hospital, it affects you that much more,” she said. “That made us be the ones going into the rooms and giving them the extra support and the extra push they needed to get through that.”

Ponstein also explained that being a nurse takes dedication, patience and commitment.

“You have to really love what you do in order to come into work every day and care for patients the way they need to be taken care of. It’s definitely not easy,” she said. “When people are sick, they’re stressed. We need to be that source of comfort and calm for them in a time when they’re going through a major storm.”

This week is National Nurses Week. The focus on her profession does not go unnoticed or unappreciated, but when people tell Ponstein “thank you,” she doesn’t stop at “you’re welcome,” always adding, “It’s what I do.”

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