When the COVID-19 pandemic took over in 2020, Brittany Brees, RN, and her team at Good Samaritan Society – Sioux Falls Village took safety precautions to protect residents and staff members. Then, they readied for a fight.
“We had this huge plan. If COVID came here, this is what we’d do,” Brees, a Society clinical care leader, says.
Even with a solid strategy, COVID-19 hit South Dakota’s largest skilled nursing facility early on the same way it impacted the surrounding community.
“It happened to land on my unit and I was not ever wanting to work with COVID. Just because I have small kids at home,” Brees says.
The 29-year-old is a proud “boy mom” with two under the age of five.
“I put all that aside knowing the risks involved and just led the team right through it. It was rough. I don’t remember much of the last year to be honest,” Brees says.
Ever Forward National Champion – Leadership
Her courageous, positive leadership during this crisis is landing her national recognition.
Brees is the Good Samaritan Society Ever Forward Leadership National Champion.
“I chose to nominate her just because of her presence in this building and the staff and how highly everyone thinks of her. I thought she deserved that recognition. For that to go national is just amazing to me. I couldn’t be more proud,” says Hannah Peters, Society social services supervisor.
According to the nomination form, a leadership champion must show extraordinary servant leadership and make decisions based on the best interests of the community.
“There really wasn’t enough space on the form to fill in how I truly feel about Brittany and all the things she does every single day,” Peters says. “Brittany, absolutely, conducts herself in a way that aligns with our mission, our vision, our values.”
‘Compassionate and caring’
Bethany Weber, LPN, not only considers her a great co-worker but a friend she can count on. The two started at the Society around the same time.
“Seven years. We’re an old married couple,” Weber jokes. “We used to work side-by-side before she was a manager. They always called us the “Bobbsie twins” because we always did everything together.”
Having someone you trust nearby during the pandemic has been invaluable.
“We were all trapped down here together. We were quarantined, literally, to this hallway. We all had to pitch in and be nurses and dietary and laundry and housekeeping,” Weber says. “It was emotional, stressful, isolating.”
Weber says it was like nothing she’s ever experienced and she doesn’t want to go through it ever again. She’s glad Brees was there to lead.
“She’s compassionate and caring and a hard worker and always willing to drop what she’s doing to help a person out,” Weber says.
A personal touch
88-year-old resident LaVonne Lindner says Brees has a “way” about her.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s been top,” LaVonne says.
When the two interact, it’s personal. The moments and conversations mean a lot to LaVonne who’s been recovering from hip issues.
“They’re special, extra special, because it makes you feel like a human being. You’re not just a number,” LaVonne says. “I’m not a number, I’m LaVonne. I’m a person, a human being. That means a lot when you’re having a tough time.”
The relationships between nurses and residents are even more important during the pandemic. Brees’ team provides social interaction and keeps families informed on how their loved ones are doing.
“Families are very willing and able to come to her quite easily with questions,” Peters says. “They know that they’re going to get solutions when they come with concerns.”
A young caregiver
So, where does this passion for caregiving come from?
“I’ve never thought of any other career. This is what I’ve always wanted since I was little,” Brees says.
Brees found herself taking care of others at an early age. She would help her grandma look after an aging step dad.
“So I would spend my summers in middle school going with her to his little house in Gary, South Dakota. Taking care of him just to try and keep him at home,” Brees says.
When he needed to leave home for a skilled nursing facility, she enjoyed being active there too.
“I gained lots of relationships with those residents. I’d help out with activities and bingo and pushing them to and from,” Brees says. “It brought me so much joy just to be able to help out other people and that’s kind of where it all started. That’s what kind of led me to where I am today.”
Residents ‘inspire me’
Watching over the care of residents living in her hallways. From trading stories to learning life lessons, every day is something new.
“They inspire me to be a better person. They inspire me to be a good mom,” Brees says.
Receiving the Ever Forward award is also inspiring and motivating her to give more.
“Being an Ever Forward champion, I was very shocked,” Brees says. “It makes me feel good. It makes me want to come to work and be here for my staff and residents.”
They’re glad to have her around.
“She gives us hope in all of her positivity. She’s so, so, so positive about everything,” Talulah White, CNA and medication assistant, says. “If there’s someone you can count on leading, it’s definitely Brittany. She puts her right foot forward in everything and is very confident in what she does. And very compassionate and caring.”