Meet our Community Hero: Meredith Ayres

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Tell us about yourself

“My name is Meredith and I’ve been a perinatal nurse for nine years.  I started my nursing career in San Diego after graduation from San Diego State University, go Aztecs!  I moved back up to the bay area and love living in San Francisco!  I love my job because it’s unique in that I get to deal with all the different areas involving pregnancies such as postpartum, antepartum, labor and delivery, triaging, nursery, and the operating room/pacu. Being able to work in these different areas keeps everyday fresh and exciting.  On my off days, I enjoy exploring the parks in SF, traveling and love to cook. I make a mean bolognese sauce!”

What does your day-to-day look like?

nurse delivering a baby

“Out of all the areas I rotate in, I would say that I work more on the labor and delivery unit. I try to get to the hospital earlier so I can see what’s going on in the unit, what the flow is like, and what we have scheduled for procedures. Sometimes it’s really nice to have just one couple in labor to focus on the entire shift.  You can have all your attention on them and make sure you get a healthy and safe delivery outcome.  It’s really nice to bond with them in this special moment in their life.”

What are some challenges you face as a nurse?

tired nurse

“Being a labor nurse, everyone always thinks of the positives of delivering children and assumes ‘what a joyful unit to work on,’ but I don’t always share with people the bad days. They don’t realize that a lot of people do come in and their babies might’ve passed or were born with a diagnosis that won’t allow them to live for long. Dealing with those patients is emotionally difficult because taking care of someone on one of the worst days of their lives is not something that you learn overnight.  Even on these hard assignments, I give it my all to be there for them and consider it an honor to care for them in this hardship.”

How do you have empathy and not be desensitized?

morning office

“I’ve had a lot of the other nurses ask me this when I help them with the demise deliveries, and I think you just have to look at the whole picture scenario.  What’s going on in this person’s life, what this baby meant to them, and why it happened the way it did?  I try to rationalize what happened and why, and that helps me care for them but also allows me to distance my emotions when I’m done for the day.  I always have empathy for every patient, try to emotionally connect with them, and can relate to sad situations.  Allowing myself to accept/understand the consequences of why it medically happened, what we’re doing to treat them, and how I’m going to help them get through it helps me rationalize it all without taking on the emotional toll.  I really believe I was meant to be a nurse for these difficult deliveries and take pride in helping them.  In routine positive deliveries, I try to see every day as new and that this is someone’s new special day.  Every delivery is unique and the feeling you get when you see a couple of cry and hold their baby for the first time is always very special.  It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of that moment.”

How has covid affected your job and how do you stay positive?

“We’re still adapting every day to the new changes due to covid in the work environment.  As covid evolves, we do too. Making changes to our routines is tough, but it’s a must right now.  I keep telling myself that this won’t be forever, it’s just right now.  I try to make light of situations and have thought I’ll be able to tell nurses in the future of these hard times and how we endured.  Labor and delivery is such a fun unit normally though.  We used to hold many events and potlucks to celebrate staff.  Our gatherings have had to change obviously, but we try to keep upbeat on the unit and celebrate safely. We’ve been decorating more for the holidays and trying to have some fun decorations too.  For Halloween, we carved pumpkins with traditional jack o’lanterns faces, but the mouths were cut out to be the different dilation sizes.  We have to stay positive because even coming back to work, patients will be able to read if you are not emotionally there, so we have to keep strong and be there for the patients.  I really am thankful that coming to work is still a normal routine in my life and am actually grateful to be here.”

How has your personal life been affected since covid?

“A lot of video calls!  With my family on the east coast, I can no longer physically visit them as often as I used to prior to covid. I’ve done more outdoor activities with friends and sharing stories with each other at work. I was diagnosed with Covid and had a longer recovery than anticipated.  I’m young and healthy, so I was surprised by how much shortness of breath I had with just walking!  I’m now on two inhalers so that I can breathe more easily at work while wearing a mask all shift.  Even though having covid was rough, I appreciate being able to go back to work, having a normal work routine.  Having to quarantine by myself in a bedroom for two weeks was not fun. It made me really appreciative of so many other ‘normal’ things in life.  Post quarantine, I remember being on one of my first walks outside and being able to smell someone’s cigarette in the air. Never thought I’d appreciate certain smells like that!

How has your community evolved with covid?

“I’m on Facebook and there’s this group called ‘The Buy Nothing Group.’  I love it!  It’s so neat because at the beginning of the pandemic, every shopping store was closed which made it hard to get some essentials.  In this group, people give stuff out for free, hence the term buy nothing, and I’ve given stuff out as well. It’s been so nice to be in that type of community, helping people out during this hard time with food and random household donations. There’s a lot of positive in that group, and it’s nice to see that people still want to be positive and help each other out safely.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

class mer

“I’m really excited for the future of nursing; eager to see the new nurses coming into this profession at this time and knowing how passionate they must be to want to be a nurse right now.  I like teaching and training new staff, and am hopeful for the future generation of nurses to come our way!  I’m also known as the ‘potluck queen’ on the unit, and I can’t wait to throw potlucks or parties in the future when safe again!”