“I’m a nurse because taking care of people is what I do,” says Beth Fornier, RN from Massachusetts.
“I became a nurse in 1996 and worked for the same facility for 25 years and did agency and home care on the side. I ran a sub-acute unit for a while and got pulled into the more bureaucratic side of nursing. We would get caught up in the managerial details and cutting costs, so I always had to remind my coworkers that, at the end of the day, we still have to take care of our patients.”
In 2019 her facility lost everything in a fire, so she had to start from scratch. “Just a few months later, my boyfriend got diagnosed with cancer. So I decided not to work my life away. In management, you tend to do that.” After working with the same facility for over two decades, Beth made a life-changing switch and worked for Boston Medical Center in employee health.
“I also started to go for my RN, so I took classes on the side as well. So when my mother developed dementia, I switched over to IntelyCare because I needed to take care of her full time. I didn’t have to sacrifice my education or my family and loved ones to maintain an income.”
Beth made new connections and has helped new people during this transitional period for her. Solving new problems in new places has helped her keep a fresh perspective on nursing.
“In the past few weeks, I worked at a new facility where I was told there was a particularly tough patient. She was difficult to work with and particularly hard on agency staff. But when I was taking care of her, she said, ‘you’re not too bad at all.’ My coworkers kept saying, ‘if she likes you, you’re in.’”
In her many years of experience in nursing, Beth has learned a lot about what it means to be a caregiver.
“There are so many memories I have of helping people, but one that sticks with me was from when I was doing home care. I was caring for two brothers who were six and two when they passed away. Being a part of their lives was really special to me that I’ll never forget to this day. Taking care of the elderly, you get them better and get them home. But these little boys, no matter what, they’d smile and appreciate you and the world around them, no matter how many surgeries they had or how many difficult things they went through. They passed away eleven and twelve years ago at Christmas. Their mom and I still talk. Those were her only kids, and I’m just so thankful to have been part of her life and of her two boys’ lives. It actually taught my kids how precious life was. I’ve helped so many people but helping them through the toughest times of their lives, it’s something beyond words, I guess. I always believe there’s a better place they’re in now.”
With burnout rates amongst nurses at a high level, it’s evident that not everyone can pick themselves back up and keep giving care under those circumstances. But Beth has peace of mind in knowing that she gave the two young boys the best care she could have, going beyond just medical care.
“Before they passed away, I made a music video for them and their mother with their favorite songs,” says Beth, explaining that it was a token of their happiness to remember them by. She notes that after they passed, two birds would always sit by the front lawn so she and the boys’ mother believe it symbolizes them moving on to a better place.
Beth cherishes the time she has with her family. She has a daughter she talks to every day and eight grandchildren that she regularly video-chats with. “They grew up in the medical field watching mom,” she says, “they’re all very caring, and we have four people in the family in nursing.”
For compassionate people like Beth and her family, giving care is the air they breathe. But it’s a job that is just as challenging as it is rewarding. Throughout her years as a nurse, Beth notices that upper management isn’t always attuned to the needs of the nursing professionals that work the floors. “When you’re asked to take care of 20 patients, it’s hard to remember that each one has individual needs and should receive the time, care, and respect that a human deserves. And on top of that, nurses have to grapple with the loss of their patients like I did. So it can be tough when those experiences go unnoticed.”
Beth shares some life advice for nurses who are feeling burned out due to the highly emotionally stressful job of nursing: “No matter how rough life is, there’s always something good out there to pull out of it. That’s the only way to survive in this world, with all this tragic stuff that happens.” She adds that it’s important to remember the rewarding moments you’re proud of too.
“I cared for a retired police officer who was a double amputee. He never thought he was going to recover and walk out of the rehab facility on his own but we believed in him. When he did walk out on his own prosthetic legs I was so proud of him. The whole staff lined up in the front lobby to congratulate him. He came back every once in a while too. It’s always nice to see people when they are healthy after caring for them when they aren’t at their best.”
When Beth isn’t helping give her patients miraculous recoveries, she’s sledding with her four-year-old grandkids, taking them to ballet and tap dance classes, and going hiking. Going hiking with them is “always an adventure,” she says, “I never know what we’re going to find. With everyone stuck inside during the pandemic, it’s important to remember that feeling of wonder and exploration.”
Beth leaves with one final piece of advice she wishes she had when she just started her nursing career in ‘96: “Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and for your patients! I was always so nervous but over time I realized that it’s important to be confident in yourself so you can advocate for others. Always remember that that person in that bed could be your loved one. So do everything you’d do for them that you’d do for your family.”
Thank you, Beth, for your wonderful words of advice and for sharing your story of nursing with us. We’re here to care for our nursing professionals the way they care for our patients.