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National Nurses Week: What a lack of PPE showed this Houston Methodist nurse

Aileen Mazurek
Aileen Mazurek (Aileen Mazurek/Houston Methodist)

HOUSTON – KPRC 2 appreciates nurses and all the work they do. Here is one nurse who is keeping Houston healthy.

Aileen Mazurek is the medical surgical nursing director at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. She has been a nurse for 18 years.

Who inspired you to do what you do and why?

Our neighbor back home has a family practice clinic. I grew up visiting his clinic during the summer and spending time observing him treat patients. This perked my interest to become a nurse. Additionally, at the time, the United States was having nursing shortage and were hiring nurses from the Philippines. I took the opportunity to gear my career toward what was in demand at the time. My career grew and now that I am a nurse leader, I am continually inspired to advocate for the nurses I am serving within the Houston Methodist organization. My role is different as I am not working bedside. This gives me the platform to not just practice nursing, but more importantly, to influence the practice of nursing. I enjoy recognizing nursing talents and I make it my mission to develop and grow them to become bedside nurse leaders. Helping nurses build resiliency and always work with compassion toward their patients and prevent harm, gives me the satisfaction that I am doing my job well.

What do you think you will remember most about the coronavirus pandemic?

There a few things I will never forget about this pandemic. One is the PPE shortage. I am saying this since this has created a lot of turmoil among the nurses and the entire health care industry. We may have plans in place for a pandemic, but I didn’t think we anticipated the risk of running out of essential PPEs. This has created unnecessary risks for the nurses. As nurse leader, my primary responsibility is to ensure the safety, not only of our patients, but staff as well. The nurses are at the front line. In this generation, we are used to living in abundance and excess. The staff initially cannot grasp that idea that the entire country is running out of N95 masks. As the nurse leader of two COVID units, I have to make the nurses and the rest of the staff understand that the PPE situation is beyond everyone’s control. Houston Methodist has accomplished a tremendous job at ensuring the nurses and the rest of the staff have appropriate PPE by incorporating innovation and out-of-the box ideas. But as always, nurses are resilient, they knew and understand the need to serve the sick. The nurses adapted to the situation and made the best out of it.

Another thing I will remember most about this pandemic is how it has changed the way people in general lived. Social distancing became a household term. Now more than ever, people embraced the idea of virtual care. I believe this practice will continue even when we are done with the pandemic.

Have you been working with patients who have been diagnosed with coronavirus? If so, what’s the most challenging part of caring for people in this situation?

We’ve heard people have been apart from their families, for instance. As a nurse leader, I haven’t been directly taking care of patients with coronavirus. Part of my job is to make sure patients are placed appropriately, and advocating for staff to get the tools that they need to take care of COVID patients. I do see the struggle of patients not having their loved ones next to them, since we have restricted visitors. Recognizing this, we have created a process for the nurses to call the family members at home in the patients’ room, with the patients’ consent and help them connect through Facetime and phone calls. These are little things, but they meant a lot for the patients and their family.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the medical field?

I would probably be a business owner in my home country.

What do you think when people call nurses heroes?

I feel proud that people recognize nurses as heroes. There are times that nurses are also treated poorly by patients and their family. There are people that still look at nurses as “doctor’s assistants” and are there at the beck and call of some demanding patients and/or family. This pandemic has placed a brighter light into nursing in general. People realize (more) how nurses put their lives at risk just to serve the sickest of the sick, how they sacrifice their own families, isolating themselves at home for the fear of exposing their loved ones. This is a hero’s character: when you put yourself in front of others. This is what nurses have done in this pandemic.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing patients go home to their loved ones.


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