By Makenzie O'Keefe

(CBS4) – It’s Nursing Week, a time to celebrate the unsung heroes who work to protect our community every day. The past two years have exemplified their resilience and their dedication.

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“We get into this because we have a passion to care for people,” explained Briana Simpkins, a Registered Nurse at Denver Health.

Briana and her mother, both work as nurses at Denver Health. It’s a nursing position where Briana says it’s easy to make an impact on others, every day.

“Whether its holding someone’s hand, or getting ahold of a long-lost family member, or getting them a new pair of shoes to wear out of the hospital room,” Briana explained. “Every day is a chance to help somebody. Here it’s so easy to do and it’s the best part of my job.”

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It’s a job that got much tougher the past two years as COVID-19 hit our city bringing a lot of unknowns.

“We had to take care of the sick, we had to take care of the not-so-sick,” Briana said. “We had to take care of the people who needed us, and not coming to work wasn’t an option for us.”

While our nurses worked hard to protect our city, they also had to balance going to work while protecting their families at home. For Briana, the community support meant the world. As did the support of one another within the hospital walls.

“The way the nursing community, medical community held each other up,” Briana said. “I don’t think we realized we had it in us to do what we did or do what we’re doing still.”

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Resiliency is something seen often at Denver Health. In fact, Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Boyle said just before the pandemic hit they launched the Rise Program, or Resilience in Stressful Events. It’s a way to show support for employees and give them a place to separate from the work they’re doing every day.

“They have faced so many challenges and they have served people our patients and families in the midst of that,” Boyle explained. “They have saved lives, and at a time when they themselves are facing a huge physical and emotional demands.”

Those demands were exasperated with COVID, creating a deeper challenge with the nursing shortage impacting hospitals in Colorado and across the country. Denver Health said they work hard to provide pathway training for the community and other education opportunities for nursing students.

“We have over 800 clinical placements for nursing students every year,” Boyle said. “We love students, and we want them to come on board with us so we do whatever we can to recruit them.”

While it’s a job that is facing challenging times, nurses tell CBS4’s Makenzie O’Keefe they encourage others to take the leap.

“Whether its leadership or patient care, you’re making a difference for a person,” explained Tonie Moore, the Director of Nursing for Specialty Care Clinics. “It is the best thing I could have done.”

Nursing Week is May 6 – May 12.

Makenzie O'Keefe