116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
This past year has been hard on everyone, but no one more so than the frontline nurses who have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although many of us are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, our nurses are still out there working 24/7, 365, to see us through this pandemic,” said Dayna Ballantyne, director of development for the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Each year, National Nurses Week is celebrated May 6 to 12 to coincide with the birthday of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse considered the founder of modern nursing. She was born May 12, 1820, served in the Crimean War, and spent her life training nurses before dying in 1910 at the age of 90.
Last year, hospitals received an outpouring of community support during National Nurses Week, from donated meals to yard sign fundraisers and mask donations.
UnityPoint Health, for example, has received 102,000 homemade cloth masks and more than 48,000 meals and snacks since March 2020.
A year later, while some needs — such as for homemade masks — have changed, the need to support nurses continues with COVID-19 still circulating throughout the state.
“Even though we’re post-one year, it’s still happening, it’s still going on,” said Mary Klinger, president of St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation in Cedar Rapids. “We need to still support health care workers, making sure that they are staying healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s been a trying one year.”
While it’s hard to get nurses to ask for anything for themselves — several hospitals’ wish lists are full of items for patients — you can show your support of the caregivers in several ways.
Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids
Early on in the pandemic, Mercy received nearly 22,000 homemade masks donated by the community that helped protect patients, visitors and staff when personal protective equipment was in short supply. The hospital is now offering disposable masks at their screening stations and no longer needs homemade masks.
Mercy, though, is still fundraising for its Employee Relief Fund with the sale of Hearts for Healthcare T-shirts through One Mission, which donates 40 percent of the proceeds to the fund. The Mercy Foundation created the fund to assist hospital employees facing financial struggles during the pandemic. Over the past year, more than $83,000 has been donated to the fund.
“Monetary gifts made to Mercy’s Employee Relief Fund help provide assistance where it is needed most, whether that be for housing or rent, day care, transportation needs, food assistance or other needs,” said Karen Vander Sanden, spokeswoman for Mercy Medical Center.
She noted the Aug. 10 derecho only added to the difficulties faced by some health care workers.
Direct donations to the Employee Relief Fund can be made at mercycare.org/giving. The public also can donate to the Mercy Foundation in honor of nurses or other caregivers by mailing donations to Mercy Foundation, Attn: Employee Relief Fund, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
Messages of encouragement and thanks can be left on Mercy’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MercyCedarRapids. Cards or letters can be mailed to Mercy Medical Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids
In addition to the thousands of masks and meals donated, UnityPoint also received 709,000 personal protective equipment items and has had $250,000 donated to its COVID Compassion Fund, which is run by the St. Luke’s Foundation to help team members with needs that arise.
Compassion Fund money helped health care workers with equipment, self-care and education. It also funded a treat cart for staff that circulated throughout the hospital this past year.
Klinger, St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation president, said equipment needs included buying pulse oximeters to give to patients who tested positive for COVID-19 but didn’t need to be hospitalized. The monitors allowed patients to go home without having to go to a pharmacy. This helped caregivers, she said, because they knew they were helping patients.
“Last year was amazing,” Klinger said. “We received so much support from around the community, from individuals, from volunteers, to really help to support our team members, our heroes here at the hospital.”
Of the $250,000 donated to the Compassion Fund, $67,000 came from sales of T-shirts through One Mission. Those sales continue, with a new design of “Choose Hope,” at unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/t-shirts-for-healthcare-heros.aspx
Donations of meals or other food treats can be coordinated by calling the St. Luke’s Foundation at (319) 369-7716 or emailing CR_Foundation@unitypoint.org.
Messages of support can be posted online at unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/thank-a-hero.aspx or mailed to the Foundation at Medical Office Plaza, 855 A Ave. NE, 1st floor, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402 or to St. Luke's Hospital, 1026 A Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.
For more information on ways to help St. Luke’s, visit unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/coronavirus-how-to-help.aspx
Mercy Iowa City
Mercy Iowa City is welcoming donations of personal protective equipment, including disposable gowns or jumpsuits, gloves, face shields and safety glasses, with do-it-yourself instructions on making disposable gowns through the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Donations of equipment or food can be scheduled by calling Mercy Material Management at (319) 339-3647 Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations made in the evenings or on weekends can be scheduled by calling Mercy Security at (319) 339-3694.
Monetary donations can be made at mercyiowacity.org/donations. One beneficiary option is to the nursing scholarship fund.
Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Iowa City
While the VA focuses its donations on veterans’ needs, those gifts help nurses and other caregivers by helping them care for their patients.
A needs list is at iowacity.va.gov/giving/index.asp and includes items like new clothing, hygiene products, transportation and prepaid cellphones.
Online donations can be made to the hospital through iowacity.va.gov/giving/index.asp. Checks made payable to Iowa City VA can be sent to Voluntary Service (135), 601 Highway 6 West, Iowa City, IA 52246; you can indicate what you’d like your donation used for in the check’s memo line.
Bryan Clark, outreach and marketing coordinator with the Iowa City VA Health Care System, said the public can tag the VA’s social media accounts with messages for nurses and they will be shared with staff during Nurses Week. The Facebook site is facebook.com/VAIowaCity.
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City
While part of nursing has always been the ability to think on your feet, at no time has this been more necessary than during the past year, said UI College of Nursing’s Ballantyne.
Nurses were learning about COVID-19 and ways to treat patients, what protocols to use to stay safe and how to use technology to keep patients and families connected when visitor restrictions were in place.
From an education perspective, the past year involved figuring out how UI nursing students could receive clinical experience safely. This involved buying additional personal protective equipment and sometimes laptops and Wi-Fi service so students could take classes online. A support line, supported by private donors, helped students seek out mental health counseling.
“Unfortunately, when you’re in the midst of it, oftentimes you’re kind of last on your list,” Ballantyne said. “So (nurses) may have been in the thick of it six months ago, but they’re now just getting the opportunity to kind of raise their heads and go, ‘I need to tend to myself, I need to tend to my family.’ ”
The need has increased, she said, for support services for frontline workers, like wellness and mental health services.
The preferred way for the public to support nurses during National Nurses Week and beyond is to make donations to the following funds:
• UIHC Nursing Excellence Fund (givetoiowa.org/uihcnursing) provides emergency support for nurses when they need it with things like child care or personal protective equipment. The fund is specific to the Department of Nursing at UIHC.
• UI College of Nursing Student Financial Aid Fund (givetoiowa.org/nursing) provides scholarships for UI nursing students.
• UI Center for Advancement (uihc.org/donations) is for the entire hospital (select either UI Hospitals and Clinics Caring Fund or UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Fund).
Gift cards also are accepted and will be used to recognize staff. Gift cards must be in the $5 to $25 range and for goods such as food, groceries, gasoline or merchandise (no services). Cards can be mailed with an in-kind donation form to UI Health Care, 200 Hawkins Dr., 1104 RCP, Attn: Concierge Services, Iowa City, IA 52242. If you would like to specify the gift is for nurses, indicate that under the “Donation Description” on the in-kind donation form.
The public also can post messages of thanks for nurses at kudoboard.com/boards/2rbUoBsJ.
UI Hospitals and Clinics also is offering a celebration cart, breakfast vouchers and gift distributions to staff throughout Nurses Week.
“Going forward, we’re really keeping an eye out for wellness and stress reduction,” Ballantyne said. “We don’t know what the fallout is going to be for being a pandemic health care provider for over a year now.
“But we do know extended periods in a high-stress environment does impact your mental health as well as your personal life,” she said. “So we are wanting to be as prepared as possible to be supportive of those who’ve supported us.”