Name: Kari Patterson
Location: Corvallis, OR
Occupation: CNA2/Unit Aide, Mother of 4, Maker of the Home
Certified Nursing Assistant and mother extraordinaire Kari Patterson is out on the front-lines with doctors and nurses every day, with or without a global pandemic.
“I love knowing that at the end of the day, I have made a positive difference in somebody’s day, maybe even life. Currently speaking though, it’s terrifying, but my coworkers are my trenchmates,” she says. “There’s nobody else that I would rather go to battle with than with the amazing nighttime staff at my hospital. There’s such a spirit of teamwork between the Nurses and CNAs, and a sense of cohesion as we steel ourselves to fight this as one united front.”
Growing up in Toluca Lake, California, Kari began her fledgling professional life by helping her father’s therapy practice on the administrative end, then by becoming a secretary for Melissa Etheridge’s music management company, and even working at the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens for a time. After her father went through cancer surgeries, and Kari helped as his caregiver, he was the first to notice her natural gift, telling her outright that she should consider nursing.
“I was always so dismissive of it, preferring animals more,” she explains. “Looking back, I should’ve known when the nurses freaked out over the fact that I was fully watching them empty stuff and change bandages while I looked on calmly eating my yogurt. As always, my father knew best.”
But it was when she was working as a caregiver at an Assisted Living facility that she was inspired to officially become a CNA.
“It was my best friend, an ICU nurse, who urged me to pursue my certification, pointing out that I was already performing most of those duties already, just for way less money, under horrible working conditions, and without any benefits. It was a no-brainer,” she recalls. “I opted for this route, as I consider having a good healthcare plan absolutely crucial given my family history of Lynch Syndrome.”
Working the twelve-hour long night shift on a cardiac Progressive Care Unit, Kari’s primary role is easing her patients’ bodies and fears as they struggle with pain, illness-related confusion, uncomfortable beds, and missing their loved ones.
When she’s not taking vital signs, assisting with call lights, adjusting her patients to prevent bed sores, charting, or restocking supplies, she is interacting with patients and families alike.
“Depending on one’s ailment or injury, one might see and interact with their CNA more than their Nurse or Doctor. We assist nurses when appropriate and in keeping within our scope of practice, perform post-mortem care, and are frequently the chest compressors during codes,” she explains. “But there’s so much unseen, unchartable and immeasurable care we provide.”
These days, the current fight against the Corona Virus is posing new and difficult challenges to Kari and her coworkers. The lack of PPE is affecting all healthcare workers, so that means not only doctors and nurses are working without proper protective gear, but CNAs as well.
“CNAs can have just as much exposure to infected patients, a fact largely unrecognized by the public,” she says.
“I don’t know the actual statistics but in my personal experience, CNAs often consist of moms returning to the workforce after the hiatus of having kids, oftentimes separated or divorced and in long, expensive legal battles. As a group we are barely living paycheck to paycheck, and more often than not we’re not only full-time working parents but also students as well.”
Knowledge that, on the whole, many CNAs nationwide are struggling with family life, nursing school prerequisites, or simply making ends meet, she’s concerned that some whom lack formal advocacy organizations, short-term disability, additional paid time off, or bureaucratic authorities sympathizing with their plight makes this particular time all the more daunting. Still, Kari finds her job to be extremely satisfying as well as taxing.
“I approach my patients with the knowledge that they are somebody’s loved one, somebody somewhere cherishes them, and their care is entrusted to me,” she says.
In the future, Kari hopes to become a nurse in Labor and Delivery or Women’s Health. When she’s not at work, Kari spends her time gardening, kid wrangling, cuddling her aging dogs, and educating herself and others on Lynch Syndrome, a hereditary cancer syndrome that leaves her genetically predisposed to certain types of cancer. She hopes to draw attention to the medical community and the public to the need for genetic screening and testing, especially for women.
For her tireless work as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and for her crusade to draw attention to Lynch Syndrome and other hereditary cancer syndromes, we think Kari Patterson is one very Cool Girl! Stay safe out there, Kari, and keep fighting the good fight!
Each Cool Girl gets to select a charity Sock It to Me will donate to, so we are donating to the Good Samaritan Employee Relief Fund on Kari’s behalf!
Kari truly inspired us at Sock It To Me, and thanks to her we’ve organized a #COVIDSOCK Drive to bring smiles and thanks to the medical staff on the front lines of the current pandemic. Why donate novelty socks during this crisis? Nurses and care-givers have been tucking scrubs into their socks and posting their #covidsocks on social media, bringing attention to the morale boost that fun socks can provide in these difficult times. Kari’s incredibly heartfelt personal request for help sent to Sock It to Me inspired an immediate outreach to local medical facilities. We were able to donate over 300 pairs to Legacy, OHSU, and Providence, but discussions with Providence led to a broader donation partnership. Through a new “Donation Pack” on our website, you can contribute to the effort: starting at $15 for a donation of 6 pairs. Once the goal of 800 pairs is reached, Sock It to Me will distribute the socks to 10 Providence facilities, and potentially expand the program to more facilities due to overwhelming response!