Ask any family who has spent time at the Sanford Children's Hospital about their experience and they'll tell you about the castle's unsung heroes. They don't always work the most flattering hours and often sacrifice their own time and energy to help others. That's why 2012 is the Year of the Nurse.
It's the start of a routine day at a job that is anything but routine. This is in the Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit at Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls. A young patient came in a few days ago with a high fever. His parents say he just seemed out of it. Since checking in, he's been under the careful watch of doctors and nurses.
"In the pediatrics ICU, we monitor them very frequently and they're watched very closely. We do vitals very often so we're in the room with the families and the patients pretty much the entire day," Pediatric Registered Nurse Tammy Bills said.
Bills is a Pediatric Registered Nurse. Her shifts here at the castle of care come in 12 to 13 hour doses. And with each small patient facing potentially giant health issues, it's a stressful shift to say the least.
"It is very much so, it can be. But it's also one of the most rewarding ones that I've found. I absolutely love what I do. I love seeing the children get better. I love helping them get better. I love working with their families; I very much enjoy what I do," Bills said.
Bills has been a nurse for seven years and in the pediatrics ICU for five of those years. It's a place she knew she wanted to be long ago.
"So I've always loved working with children. I was a nanny and kind of grew up around kids, so it kind of drew me into the pediatric area. When I went to nursing school, I found that I really enjoyed working with children in the nursing field," Bills said.
A few floors away, Kayleen Meyers is working through her day. Like Bills, there's very little down time and plenty to worry about.
"A kid can compensate so much when they're sick as opposed to an adult. They can be very sick for a very long time and then all of the sudden they can do what we call 'crash and burn and that can be very hard sometimes," Meyers said.
Meyers is a Clinical Care Coordinator RN, so in addition to checking on patients, she also coordinates shifts and works with patients and their families to organize their care. Because the patients here are some of the smallest who will even need a hospital bed, every bit of their care is specialized including the equipment.
"It can be tough sometimes. They can't always tell you what's wrong with them so trying to help and make them feel better can be tough," Meyers said.
To help recognize the care and compassion shown by nurses, Sanford Health has named 2012 the Year of the Nurse. The entire year is dedicated to nurses like those in the children's hospital who must have some of the biggest hearts to care for the smallest of patients.
"I love working with kids; I have two of my own. Helping them get better. When I was in nursing school, I got to come to the pediatric floor and that made my mind up instantly," Meyers said.
To celebrate the Year of the Nurse, special events are planned. However, ask those who dedicate countless hours to helping others and they'll tell you the only reward they really need is the one they receive when their care combines with modern medicine.
"Getting to see that smile on their face when they walk out the door is probably one of the best things. Hearing that 'thank you for helping me,'" Meyers said.
"They come in and they're very sick. They're at their very worst, the family is at their worst and then to see them get better and get to go home is absolutely the most rewarding part of the job," Bills said.
That's a reward that can't be measured, but is the benchmark goal every time a pediatric nurse punches the clock.