I should be celebrating and absorbing a moment I have looked forward to in finally obtaining my degree as an acute care adult gerontology nurse practitioner. I should be extremely disappointed this moment will not occur due to the pandemic, but I am not. My disappointment seems trivial at this point in comparison to the disappointment many of those I work with and the population we serve. This is not about promoting a company or brand, it’s about recognizing an incredible group of long-term care and skilled nursing healthcare workers across America who deserve to be walking across a stage absorbing a moment of appreciation and applause.

You see, for the last 14 years of my career I have been a nurse who goes to battle each day in the long-term care and skilled nursing facility industry. Many I am sure ask why I say battle. This is an industry of healthcare that is under constant regulatory fire, media criticism and demand for perfectionism. Often these humans provide a service that no one wants or ever looks forward to. A service that is the most intimate with personal cares, emotional support and even spiritual compassion to our most vulnerable human beings. These healthcare workers over the past two months have continued to do this as they always have, completing mission impossible every day with a lack of resource, staffing challenges, and the relentless scrutiny of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Let me emphasize we are humans caring for other humans. Imagine their disappointment in putting their residents home in lockdown, scared and trying to do all they can to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19 including wearing an N95 for sometimes 12-16 hours’ day after day, again trying to stay perfect in all aspects of their jobs, for they know all too well mistakes will be broadcasted by the media, legal action ensues, and the regulatory hammer will be brought down.

Imagine their disappointment seeing others in the healthcare field being celebrated for “being on the front lines,” while their part of the healthcare world is only becoming the “horror stories of the pandemic.” They have been in the trenches of this war protecting the most fragile among us, being in battle is not new for these COVID-19 warriors. I see this new accomplishment of mine as only another piece of armor to help me fight alongside my fellow nursing home hero’s. I am grateful and inspired by their thousands of daily moments of silent acts of kindness, compassion, and caring many never see or acknowledge in our nursing homes.

It is my hope and my graduation wish that this message will be shared across the nation to help in spreading some much-needed support and praise to this industry’s heroes.

Misty Thomas, MSN-AGACNP, is vice president of clinical operations for EmpRes Healthcare Management LLC in Vancouver, WA. She recently obtained her personal goal of graduating with her Acute Care Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner master’s degree through the University of Northern Colorado.