Nurse Appreciation

‘It Is Rewarding': DC Nurse Creates Spirit Days for Colleagues With Burnout

NBC Universal, Inc.

A D.C. local nurse is celebrating National Nurses Day in a special and spirited way. 

Rachel Watkins, MedStar Washington Hospital Center's nursing director, created special spirit days to help her fellow health care workers who struggle with burnout. 

“It’s been really challenging but it’s also been very hopeful and inspiring to see everybody banding together,” Watkins said. “I think it is rewarding knowing what we’re doing makes a difference.”

From crazy sock day to aloha day, she’s finding ways to inspire and lift her patients and nursing colleagues. 

Watkins is in charge of an all-COVID-19 unit and has picked up extra shifts on the weekends. She said she’s been there for loved ones who’ve gotten the news of a family member dying of COVID-19. 

“To sit in those rooms with those patients while they’re grieving has been very challenging, very draining. But it’s what we do every day, and they need somebody there,” Watkins said.

She also started a program called Code Lavender. If a nurse is having a tough time, they get a special goody bag filled with snacks and a note letting them know they are not alone. 

“For somebody getting out of the hospital that wasn’t sure they were going to make it out of the hospital, it’s just such a wonderful moment and it gives us the strength to keep going and see why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Watkins said. 

Watkins said her team recently voted to remain an all-COVID-19 unit because they wanted to keep fighting on the front lines and making a difference.

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