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Year of the Nurse: The Frontline Phenom

Lacey Morris, Registered Nurse & Clinical Programs Manager, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center – McMinnville Clinics

Presented by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon By Ben McBee September 17, 2020

As the battle against Covid-19 rages on, it’s vital to recognize the brave men and women who, every single day, risk their health to protect ours. That’s why Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon is dedicating this special series of articles to eight local and regional nurses who, through their compassion and humanity, have made the difference for thousands of lives.

When Lacey Morris gets home from a long shift at VGMHC McMinnville Clinics, she and her husband have an agreement to leave it all at the door: the PPE, the stress of protecting themselves and others from Covid-19, the weight of living in an uncertain world—everything.

Lacey Morris at Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center – McMinnville Clinics

Image: Ben McBee

“I’m married to a paramedic,” she says. “We have an understanding that one of us is going to bring it home; it’s just a matter of when. (Knock on wood.) It hasn’t happened yet. We got into our professions knowing that we are going to take care of sick people. It’s what we were made to do. The biggest goal for each of us is that when we come home, we can just be together and enjoy each other’s company.”

Morris grew up wanting to be an operating room nurse like her mom. Instead, she became a traveling nurse, serving communities in places such as North Dakota, South Carolina, and her home state of Alabama before settling in Oregon. Now, as the Clinical Programs Manager in McMinnville, she runs point for coronavirus screenings, spending half of her day, four days a week, outside in the parking lot, making first contact with patients.

Though she’s the one asking questions, more often than not she’s also hit with a barrage of inquiries. When can I expect the results? What am I supposed to do? What do I tell my family? How long do I stay home?

“That’s been going on for months. I’m exhausted, but I’m happy that I’ve helped the patients I can help,” Morris explains. The rest of her time is spent trying to catch up on everything else on her to-do list. “My current role is more about being a resource for our nurses and medical assistants with subject-matter expertise,” she explains. “We problem-solve and try to figure out the most effective ways to take care of our patients.”

Many of those patients in need have transportation issues. An even larger number are experiencing food insecurity. It’s all very overwhelming, but VGMHC has adjusted, moving its food bank offsite while utilizing community partners to make some home meal deliveries. “I think that speaks a lot to what Virginia Garcia does and how we just love to take care of our patients,” Morris says. “I really feel like we’re making a difference in lives.”

From an early age, Morris learned to help others without expecting anything in return, but she urges kindness and patience as we all navigate this crisis together. Covid is not just going to go away, and the thought of dealing with the flu season simultaneously worries her. “We’re trying to change as many policies and procedures as we can, just to make sure that our patients and staff are safe,” she says. “People think that we don’t want to take care of them because we don’t want to bring them in for every office visit—and that’s just not the way it is. We are here for them.”

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