We’re in this Together: Counting on Colleagues and the Stethoscope

Caitlyn Burkardt, BSN, RN, has always valued her 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope. It belonged to her mother, who gifted the stethoscope to Caitlyn when she became a nurse. Now, that same stethoscope is helping Caitlyn and her colleagues navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caitlyn is a medical-surgical pediatric nurse at a small, rural hospital in Southwest Oklahoma. Today, half her floor functions as a COVID unit.

“Pre-pandemic your day was dictated by rounding and medications,” Caitlyn explains. “You could visit your patients frequently and flit in and out of rooms. If you forgot something you could go in and out. It was a lot more open.”

Learning to adapt

Today, nurses on Caitlyn’s floor enter the COVID unit using a separate hallway. They purchased grabber devices to pass supplies and medications to each other through cracked doorways. They put baby monitors in patient rooms to remotely monitor patients. These added precautions help minimize risk of exposure for patients and providers.

When Caitlyn does enter a patient room, she must have a plan and make the most of her time. She needs a device she can count on – especially as she listens to patients’ lungs. Caitlyn has shared her stethoscope with nurses in training in the past, and she affirms that they’re always surprised by how well they can hear. She recalls having a similar experience as a nursing student, already hearing sounds she hadn’t yet learned.

Caitlyn wants to keep her stethoscope around for as long as possible, so she cleans it regularly.

“It struck me yesterday as I was cleaning my stethoscope how well it has stood the test of time and use. My stethoscope is over 20 years old … [it] has survived two careers and a pandemic.”

Answering the call

The WHO deemed 2020 The Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which seems fitting given how much the world has needed these clinicians amid a global health crisis.

Before she was a nurse, Caitlyn did odd jobs and worked as a dental assistant. When her parents took over the family farm in North Dakota, she applied to nursing school and lived with them while she put herself through school. Her heart had always pulled her toward nursing, and she knew she had to make it happen.

Of course, she didn’t anticipate starting her career during a pandemic. She’s grateful for the support she’s received from her colleagues and offers this advice to other nurses:

“Everyone here takes care of each other. There’s a lot of camaraderie and teamwork. We spend so much of our job taking care of people. We have to shift that energy into taking care of each other.”

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