kathy-nunez

Where are you from originally and what town do you live in now?
I’m from Lynn, born and raised there. I live in Peabody now, not far from my childhood home.

How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?
Two, a 12-year-old and 20-month-old. And two amazing rescue dogs!

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What’s your favorite family activity on the North Shore?
Year round we love the Peabody Public Library! I grew up as a bookworm, spending all my time there and now that I’m an adult I love bringing my family. They do activities for all of us – baby story time, video game tournaments for my tween, an annual Comic Con where we can get our nerd on. Even special classes I never knew you could take – I’ve learned how to 3D print, sew, and use Photoshop, all from the library.

Also (before the pandemic) drive-in movies at Winter island Park in Salem – they were a limited engagement during the summer, but it would be a fun place where I could take both kids and friends (and dogs) to go enjoy a classic movie from the trunks of our SUV. And I love the beach in general. I run along Nahant beach because it’s closer to me, but if I want to do a beach day, Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester is my favorite.

Now, it’s simply taking a walk anywhere that’s not crowded. The streets around our neighborhood are usually a safe bet.

Where’s your favorite place to eat and/or shop on the North Shore?
My favorite places to eat are all in Lynn! So many yummy, authentic, mom and pop restaurants that cater to all ethnicities. I love Green Tea, Pho Minh Ky, and Tipicos in Lynn. We love Mission Oak Grill in Newburyport for date night. For shopping, I love the MarketStreet Lynnfield for the variety and downtown Newburyport for a nice summer day. I feel like Newburyport looks like it’s straight out of a New England postcard. Salem also deserves a special mention because we love Bit Bar, which is a retro arcade/restaurant surrounded by lots of cool comic shops.

Tell us about your career.
I’ve been a nurse for 11 years, about a third of my life! I started as a nursing intern in the ICU, but when I graduated the hospital I was working at had a hiring freeze. I then started my career from scratch as a new grad; working in a nursing home, then a long-term acute care hospital. I dabbled per diem in homecare, school nursing, and geriatric day care – but bedside was always the main job. I was able to parlay that into travel nursing. After spending some time in Florida as a traveler I came to Beverly Hospital, where I stayed for six years–I was on the best floor–J3! Now I’ve worked at Boston Medical Center (BMC) for about 2 years. BMC works mainly with the underserved, inner city population. I am in the Surgical Step Down Unit, so we see lots of trauma, and more recently we have been converted into a full COVID-19 unit. A few months ago, I also started a job in the Operating Room at a surgicenter for the more mom friendly hours (no weekends and holidays); but with the pandemic that job has been furloughed.

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Why did you decide to become a nurse?
When I started my nursing program I honestly had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember it being the top major in my college. I had finished a summer program to bring my high school GPA up, and I finished top of my program. My school offered me a spot in the coveted nursing program, urging me to try it out, and I took it. Now I don’t see myself doing anything else. I like to be where the action is, and I love that I’m always engaged, on my feet, and that there are so many different types of nursing you can do. You also need continuing education to maintain and advance your practice, so there is always something new to learn.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The people I’ve met along the way. It is the best feeling seeing someone you took care of weeks, months, or years ago in normal  life at the grocery store. Knowing I was a part of their healing journey gives me purpose. I’m able to take that energy and bring it to work with me the next day, with my next patient. I always tell my patients, “WE are going to get you better, but it starts with you and it’s going to take work, time, and patience, but we’ll get you there together”. Fostering a, “we can do it” attitude motivates them. It’s a collaborative effort with the patient, providers, case managers, physical and occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants, etc. I have met so many amazing colleagues and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without them.

How have things changed for you at work since the COVID-19 crisis began?
We have full floors that have been converted into COVID units, and “Clean Floors,” to try to keep COVID and non-COVID patients separate. It’s hectic. No visitors–which is stressful for patients at times, but necessary to decrease spread. We were seeing a surge in COVID admissions, which was overwhelming at first. But also, because the clean floors were formerly outpatient units converted to inpatient, we are sometimes hard pressed to find the same resources we’d have on an inpatient floor. Simple things like TVs and toiletries aren’t available in a PACU recovery room, because it was originally meant for the patient to stay for only a few hours, not weeks at a time. Staff are also adjusting to protocol changes by the minute. It’s crucial to keep in communication, via emails, because what we were doing yesterday may not apply to how we’re doing things today. And I have to be extra careful about safety measures to protect my family. Changing out of scrubs and wiping down everything before I bring it home.

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What’s your advice to moms in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?
My advice for moms, is don’t be hard on yourself. We’re all doing the best we can with whatever means we have. When schools first let out I had a colored chart and my plan was structured learning and six hours of homeschool for my boy, while my girl and I did craft projects around the house. Boy was I out of touch! The reality now is that screen time is only limited by the battery life on our phones and tablets, and I’m pretty sure there were days that my son skipped a meal because he was holed up in his room playing Fortnite, while I was so lost in my Tiger King Marathon I didn’t notice. There’s no such thing as a Pinterest mom. Do what works for you: take naps, laugh, cry, tell yourself, “it’s ok to not be ok.” And check in at least weekly with friends and family to keep some sense of normalcy. We are not machines, we’re human beings. Maybe this is a good time to let go of routines and expectations, and just be present.

Any tips for balancing work & motherhood?
Again, my advice is do what works for you. Prioritize things you don’t want to miss. For me–before the pandemic–it was date nights with my husband, my son’s football games, or things like playtime at the library with my daughter. I’m lucky that in thr nursing world we have 12 hour shifts, which are long days but if you work 3 shifts, that’s a full time gig, and you have 4 days left in the week to spend time with family. For moms working from home, I think it’d be good to work in timed hour increments. Then take a break, stretch, get back to your family for a little while. My son only has online school for 3 hours a day, and I realize that time frame is way more realistic in working more efficiently without losing your sanity.

kathy-nunez

What’s one thing you are doing for your mental health or to de-stress during this crisis?
I run three times a week. I was training for a marathon that got cancelled during the pandemic. I’m now working to maintain my mileage so I don’t lose any fitness for when my race is rescheduled in the fall. I enjoy my own thoughts and company, and it helps me stay sane during a time where so many things are beyond my control. I’d also like to add, I’ve discovered sound baths and I’m obsessed. The idea is Tibetan sound bowls played in different ways release vibrational hums that resonate throughout the body and release different chakras. I’ve never been great at meditation or yoga, I always spent savasana planning my dinner for the week. But sound baths are so great for drowning all the noise out. I use a sound bath playlist on Spotify, pop in headphones, put on a sleep mask and then it’s lights out. Such a peaceful way to get yourself grounded.

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