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Harborview nurse on busy day-to-day work in Seattle ER

Chris Ledesma, an emergency services nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, talks about what it's really like to be a nurse in 2020. Sponsored by MultiCare.

To honor our health care heroes over National Nurses Week from May 6-12, we profiled seven nurses in the Puget Sound region.

Nurse Chris Ledesma is no stranger to emergency situations. He admitted he wanted to become a nurse to “do something that made a little bit more of a difference” and is now an emergency services nurse at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. 

It’s a very busy emergency department, and Ledesma pointed out it’s the only level 1 trauma center for a four-state region.

Ledesma moved to Seattle from California a few years ago and is very at home exploring outdoors.

He said it’s a good balance for his often dramatic job as a nurse in the emergency department. It’s the kind of job that’s dramatized on TV shows and movies, but it’s typically very different from what you see.

Ledesma was also quick to point out that we would be celebrating him on the last and symbolic day of National Nurses Week. It ends on May 12, which is Florence Nightingale’s birthday. She is considered the pioneer of modern nursing.

Tacoma nurse takes precautions to not spread COVID-19 to family

Nurse Subhneet Kaur Thiara is a rising star at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Her team say she quickly became a standout nurse and source of humor and positivity. That’s exactly the kind of passion and energy that makes Kaur Thiara so valuable during the COVID-19 crisis.  From her days at Franklin High School in Seattle to Bellevue College, Kaur Thiara got to stick close to home and cares for patients at “St. Joe's” in Tacoma.

We saw Kaur Thiara on a rare day off, and she shared just how different her duties have become during the virus. When work is over, the process of safely preparing to return home to her husband and daughter begin. That includes sanitizing her identification, her watch and other personal items.  She even brings a change of shoes so she doesn’t track any germs in to her home. Her clothing goes to the wash, she heads for the shower and her family retreats to the other side of the house until she has prepared safely to play mom again.  

It’s a constant challenge that Kaur Thiara seems to embrace with a smile and genuine belief that we will all get through this together.

RELATED: Tacoma nurse feared she’d bring coronavirus home. Now her husband is on a ventilator

Mary's Place nurse offers health and hope to homeless families amid COVID-19

Nurse Tricia Nora brings unique perspective to the current obstacles nurses face. 

After many years as a pediatric nurse in Washington D.C and California she came to Washington state to work with Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Five years ago she transitioned from that role to one of the more challenging and rewarding nursing positions she’s ever faced. Nora is the health care coordinator with Mary’s Place, which offers shelter, resources and medical services to women and families transitioning out of homelessness. 

Many of Nora’s patients don’t have traditional medical records. Many come from traumatic experiences, and Nora focuses on not only providing medical care but also striving to build a trusting relationship with everyone she cares for. 

She’s one of just a few nurses who care for hundreds of families and coordinate treatments of all kinds. She works with pregnant mothers, sick children and focuses on creating a culture of safety, empowerment and healing. 

Providence St. Peter nurse juggles ICU work, raising twins

Providence St. Peter nurse Colleen Patillo may be as northwest as it gets. She grew up in Olympia and earned her nursing degree from South Puget Sound College. She's also a local surfer.

Patillo followed in her family's footsteps to become a nurse at the same hospital her mother worked for for 35 years. She's been working with Providence St. Peter for 13 years now and even met her spouse while working at "St. Pete." 

Together, the couple juggles opposite nursing shifts and raising six-month-old twins. 

Nurse Patillo started on the medical floor but has spent more than nine years working in the intensive care unit.

She says the coronavirus has completely changed her life and work, but somehow is able to make it all work as a nurse and mother with virtually no time to spare. 

Veteran Seattle nurse cares for concerned moms-to-be during pandemic

UW Medical Center Nurse Leondra Weiss is approaching her 30th year in nursing. 

She’s seen medical advancements and new technology change medicine in amazing ways. Nothing could prepare us for COVID-19 but Weiss is quite confident and focused on adapting to new ways to care for her patients.

She a self-proclaimed “product of U Dub.” She’s a UW graduate and a former researcher and teacher who also spent time nursing at Harborview Medical Center before returning to campus. She is now a nursing manager for the maternal and infant care clinic at UW Medical Center.

Working with expecting mothers has become uniquely challenging under the pandemic. 

“In the beginning it was tough keeping up with patients,” Weiss said. “They didn’t want to come in.” 

She spent her birthday working late into the night trying to accommodate all the patients that could be monitored through telemedicine.

Weiss says she draws strength from her four children and husband. 

Weiss is trying to juggle the safety of her patients with an extra helping of emotional support.

“We have to be nimble, but we also have to be strong,” Weiss said.

EvergreenHealth overnight charge nurse on pandemic challenges

Hannah Pankratz is in her mid-20s and represents the newest generation of nurses.  

We got together with Pankratz on her way to work at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. We met at 5 p.m., just after breakfast for Pankratz. She is among the many nurses who often work overnight, but her passion for helping people isn’t based on office hours.

Pankratz is a true local who’s living her dream nursing in her backyard. She graduated from University of Washington School of Nursing. Pankratz worked as a volunteer with Evergreen before she was hired on and is now a few years in to her journey.

Pankratz, who serves as an overnight charge nurse, is also one of the first nurses to experience working in a “negative airflow space” that’s critical for the current virus outbreak.

She is also representative of many of us who recently celebrated a birthday alone and without much fanfare. The selfless lifestyle of the average nurse is certainly worth celebrating.

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Bremerton nurse 'honored' to lead Harrison Medical Center's COVID-19 ward

Matt Kuffel was quick to point out that he is first and foremost a father of two and devoted husband who also happens to be a nurse. 

He’s been working at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton for seven years and has seen a lot of change in his profession.

For the past two years Kuffel has worked on a floor exclusively focused on respiratory issues. Because of his expertise he was chosen to help care for COVID-19 patients.

He leaves his wife and children each day to act as a charge nurse, and that means he oversees all aspects of the COVID-19 ward and trains nursing residents. It’s a lot of responsibility, and each day is a new challenge. 

“I never know what I’m going to walk in to each day, but I’m honored to do it,” Kuffel said. 

Kuffel’s wife Maria wrote on Facebook that “when he goes to work each day, he’s willingly walking into what we’re all trying not to catch.” 

Recently Kuffel was named a recipient of the prestigious DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The DAISY Foundation is a national effort to “honor the super-human work nurses do for patients and families every day.” 

Kuffel’s team of nurses are excited to honor him, and this is just the latest accolade.

This series is sponsored by MultiCare.