Ebony Lampkin, a Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholar, graduated from Cumberland University in 2018 with her BSN and is currently enrolled in the graduate program for Nursing Leadership. She will earn her MSN from CU in August 2020. Ebony works for Fresenius Medical Care in Lebanon as a dialysis nurse.
It is apparent from her demeanor and personality that Ebony loves her patients and her job. Recently, she traveled to Suffern, NY and worked for Fresenius as a dialysis nurse in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ebony graciously accepted the challenge and was one of only five nurses at the facility where she worked. Three of the five nurses at the facility were visiting nurses. While in Suffern, she worked in a large clinic that treated more than 140 patients. As many already know, over the course of the last few months, New York has had a devastatingly high number of COVID-19 patients and a lot of the patients who have COVID-19 experience problems with their kidneys. During the last few months, Ebony has seen firsthand the increase in dialysis patients and how they have not had the staff needed in order to take care of the increased number of patients. Ebony stated, “People like myself are here to help out our fellow Fresenius Clinics and the patients who are suffering.”
She elaborated, “Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being treated and quarantined properly for 2 or more weeks, being cleared by the proper quarantine time, put back in the general population and then a few days later, they test positive again. In the dialysis clinic I was in, this has made it increasingly more difficult for us. The virus has been transmitted from ‘cleared’ patients who were actually still positive to other staff and patients. We treat the COVID-19 patients later in the evening so they do not have any contact with non-COVID patients.”
Ebony’s schedule was grueling. She was working from 8 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. each day taking care of the COVID positive patients. She was given her paper disposable scrubs, hair net, bonnet, N95 mask, another mask to wear over her N95 mask, a disposable waterproof lab gown, double gloves, shoe coverings, and a face shield. Ebony remarked, “All of the patients run 3 hours on the dialysis machine. You can’t imagine how hot it is under all that, but you know how important it is to stay as protected as possible. Many patients have decreased breath sounds, crackles, they were weak, and they experienced a shortness of breath. A lot of patients who used to be able to walk into treatment on their own were now being pushed in wheelchairs because they were too weak to walk on their own.”
The company Ebony works for, Fresenius, paid for her entire stay in New York for the two weeks she was there. She was surrounded by nurses from various companies and on her days off, she attempted to find normalcy in her routine by working on her school work, taking a drive around the neighborhood, grocery shopping, or doing laundry at the laundromat. She stated, “Most of the time though I was just unwinding from the long and stressful day I had the day before. The back of my ears were so sore from constantly wearing a mask for 16 hours each day. It is the law there to wear a mask when you are outside. I wore one in public everytime I went out, even here in Tennessee. I am terrified of catching the COVID-19 virus. One of the workers at the clinic knitted ear savers for the ladies and gave me one. It was so kind. They helped tremendously but my ears still needed the time to heal.”
Unfortunately, for Ebony and her co-workers, there was no downtime to be able to rest and recharge. Every minute was precious and spent taking care of others or thinking about what they might encounter the next day.
When Ebony was considering going back to school, her close friend’s husband encouraged her to pursue nursing because he said it fit her personality perfectly. He was right. Ebony loves helping people and advocating for those who can’t advocate for themselves. She was the perfect fit for nursing. Ebony enrolled at Nashville State and applied to nursing school at Cumberland. Ebony stated, “I absolutely love being a nurse. It has taught me that I was stronger than I thought, it is okay to show emotion, and that I had no idea as a dialysis nurse that I would become so close to my patients like they are a part of my family. I have attended funerals and cried with my patients. They call and check on me anytime I am not at work and even while I was in New York. Just because someone suffers from a chronic disease that may have been self-inflicted does not mean that they don’t deserve the best care and that they chose this willingly. Everyone deserves respect and mercy.” Many would agree that we need more people in the world, like Ebony, with this compassionate mindset.
When she returned to school, she realized that she was older than a lot of her peers. She remembers, “As a non-traditional student, Cumberland embraced me and I was asked to be a nursing tutor which I did for Health Assessment. I was a member of the Leadership Academy when it started. I was recommended to be in Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honors Fraternity which I am a member of Cumberland’s local chapter. I just earned an invitation and joined the Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society.” Ebony’s leadership and participation in extracurricular activities helped to enhance her education and her peers’ education as well. They looked to Ebony as a friend, leader, and mentor.
She credits the leadership classes in her master’s program with being the most meaningful for her in being an effective leader. Ebony remarked, “The Leadership classes in the Master’s program have been most impactful because I love learning how to be an effective leader. It is easy to sit back and point out a manager’s mistakes but it’s much harder to be in that role and have to manage staff needs and company expectations. I am grateful that my program is preparing me to be a great leader with integrity, loyalty, justice and a strong commitment to providing the best patient care.”
Her nursing professor, Dr. Ronda Landers, has positively impacted both her life and her work. According to Ebony, “I remember seeing her early on in nursing school but not realizing who she was. My final semester she was assigned as my faculty coach and mentor. She took the time to get to know me even though I had not been her student. She gave me her undivided attention and encouraged me to further my education beyond my BSN. She let me know from the first day we talked she knew I would pass the NCLEX exam and wanted to talk about the next chapter of my life. She had a confidence in me that I lacked in myself. After graduating, I took a break for one semester then entered into the MSN program. Dr. Ronda has still been just as encouraging. When you are around her, you are not just a number or any other student. She truly takes an interest in your life, your career, and in your future. She is always a listening ear and available to talk anytime. I admire her and appreciate the guidance she has given me.”
In addition to Dr. Landers, Ebony has had many individuals supporting her and cheering her on along the way including her husband, James, her son, Bryce, and her daughters, Kyiana and Jalynn. Ebony has had to spend much of her time away from her family in order to care for her patients but through it all, they have never complained and are proud of her role as a nurse. Her friend, Kaydian Wedderburn who graduated from nursing school with Ebony and is now in CU’s Master’s in Nursing Leadership program with her, was another individual who helped motivate her. She stated, “Kaydian encouraged me to keep fighting and stay strong with my studies even when I was tired. Many times, she helped get my children home from school when I had clinicals or work and I could not get them home. I am grateful to have met this phenomenal woman.”
Ebony recently returned to Lebanon from New York and was able to remain COVID-19 free.
We are grateful for Ebony and the many nurses who are on the frontlines helping others. Thank you for all you do to ensure our health and safety.