Darby Shockley ’13: A conversation with a pediatric nurse during COVID-19

Darby Shockley graduated from Colorado Academy in 2013. She graduated with a BS in nursing from Boston College in 2017. Darby is a pediatric nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

CA: First, are you and your family okay?

Darby: My family and I are all doing well. Thank you for asking. My dad retired from nearly 30 years working in the Emergency Department at Denver Health in January just before all this started, and the rest of my family are able to work from home with their current jobs, so we feel very, very lucky.

CA: What are you experiencing from this pandemic in your work?

Darby: I am very fortunate to work at one of the top Children’s Hospitals in the nation. We have been preparing for this pandemic for weeks. We have been increasing our precautions in terms of isolation, visitor restrictions, and conserving our supplies to the best of our ability while keeping our patients and ourselves safe.

I have been working at Children’s for about 3 years, and I have to say these past few weeks have been unlike any I have ever experienced. Our policies and protocols are changing daily, sometimes multiple times throughout the day. Most shifts I go through waves of fear followed by frustration for not having the PPE supplies we would ordinarily have to waves of gratitude and humility for our incredible patients and my coworkers.

It is an uncertain time, and while there are some pangs of fear going into work every day, I am reassured and re-invigorated looking down at our sidewalks covered in motivational sayings in chalk leading to our entrance. I am so proud of the hospital I work for and so humbled by the support we are feeling even in the midst of this scary pandemic.

CA: So much of what we are hearing is referencing past catastrophic events: Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the 2008 market crash, and others. Are there experiences or training that are guiding your work each day?

Darby: Certainly, we have never experienced something like this in healthcare and in the daily routines of our country, however, my day-to-day job remains close to the same. Sure, I now wear a face shield and respirator mask going into my patient rooms, but so much of my day as a pediatric nurse still consists of giving medicine to teddy bears before I give it to my patient, bringing prizes from our treasure chest into my patient’s rooms after a painful procedure, and explaining to terrified parents what they can expect during their child’s hospitalization.

I’m sure on an organizational level, the leaders at our hospital are looking to some of the aforementioned events to guide our practice, but I am struck by how “normal” some of my shifts really are amidst the chaos.

CA: Are there lessons that you can relate back to Colorado Academy? 

Darby: I think all of the elements that drive CA’s mission, and what I learned as a student there, can be related to what we are currently experiencing. I see courage every day at work from our doctors and nurses, to our housekeeping staff, to our patients.

As you can see in the sidewalk chalk photos, kindness has been everywhere. I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to my family and me asking how they can help. Finally, I am so thankful to witness leadership firsthand. This is a novel virus and we have never experienced global shutdowns of this nature, but the leadership I have seen on the frontlines at my hospital has been inspiring.

CA: Is there advice you would have for the CA community on any front?

Darby: I know the CA community has always had generosity and service for others woven into its integrity. I know people are asking what they can do to help healthcare workers during this time. I would say one of the main ways to help Children’s Hospital right now is by donating blood. Even though there is a pandemic going on right now, that doesn’t change the fact that we still see kids with chronic illnesses daily who rely on blood transfusions for their survival, and our supplies have been negatively affected by the stay-at-home order. As long as you are not experiencing symptoms or exposed to someone with symptoms, donating blood is still safe! You can learn more and schedule an appointment here.

Here are other ways to help Children’s Hospital.

My only other advice for the CA community for when this is all over (and it will be!), is to try our best to practice gratitude for all the things we have taken for granted prior to this pandemic—whether it’s playing on the playground with friends, participating in a sports game again, getting a high five from your teacher, or being able to hug your loved ones. It is easy to only see the gloom and doom of this pandemic, but there is always room to see beauty.

CA: Can you look down the road six months, nine months, or even a year… and predict how we will look back on this pandemic?

Darby: I think this is the million-dollar question! It is certainly something that everyone is wondering, yet no one really knows how long this will continue and what the impact will look like. I can say at Children’s, we are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. I think we have learned a lot from this pandemic.

Unfortunately, we know this will likely not be the last pandemic we experience, but maybe some of the hard lessons we have learned in preparedness will help guide our practices in the future. We are living through a period that will go into history classes. I personally would be interested in taking Dr. Davis’s “Lessons and Analysis of the COVID 19 Pandemic” history course years from now.

CA: Anything we haven’t covered?

Darby: I do want to say, while I am so grateful for the community in general respecting the stay-at-home order, I do know that as summer grows closer and hopefully we see a decrease in positive COVID cases, it will be tempting to loosen up our rigidity on staying home and social distancing.

Please continue to listen to our elected officials and health department guidelines. I know we are all going stir crazy and have plenty of fun activities planned that we do not want to miss, but prematurely stopping these precautions will only lead to prolonging this pandemic and secondary spikes in disease cases.

Thank you again for reaching out to the healthcare workers in the CA community during this time. Your continued support means a lot to my family and me.