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Katherine Lockler spoke for many exasperated nurses everywhere during a blunt and funny Facebook video in January in which she gave tips on how people could avoid the flu as it swept across the nation.
Lockler, 35, is a mother of four from Milton, Florida, who has worked as a nurse at seven different northwest Florida hospitals since 2008 after beginning as a hospital aide as a teen in 1998. As part of National Nurses Week, she talked with TODAY about what brought her into the profession, what it's like to be a nurse and what makes her grateful to do the job every day.
I got into nursing because I think I just had a compassion for people who were in a state of desperation. I liked being able to comfort those people or make them laugh, anything to ease their suffering. I was the kid who grew up wanting to save every stray animal in the neighborhood.
I think a lot of it has to do with my faith. I'm passionate about who Jesus was. He sought out people who were struggling, begging or needed a drink of water. He was just a center of compassion.
I started working as an aide in a hospital in 1998 and that was my first taste of how hospital life worked. I saw people who needed help who were kind of in a humbled state. These people needed me and I kind of related it to if I needed somebody if I was in that condition. I would think, "Hey, you helped me stand up, you helped get me cleaned up." I would hope someone would take care of me if I was in that condition.
I just left smiling. I felt I was really making a difference in someone's life.
I think that before I did the job, I looked at it like there's gonna be angels singing in the background and you're holding someone's hand and wiping their brow or something. Then there's others who probably think you're elbow deep in doo doo or blood as someone else is vomiting in the corner.
When people are in that vulnerable state, they become honest about a lot in their life. You get in there and help them or clean them up and they might start talking about things that are happening that are rough in their life. You get intimately involved in an aspect of their life and they may be sharing things like they just got divorced or they lost a child last year. You just get to deal with them not only on a physical level, but also meet their needs in other areas.
The neatest thing about this career is that you can be compassionate and sincere, but you also can be a total goofball. Patch Adams, my hero, showed how you can bring goofiness to a tough situation. I worked in an oncology unit and sometimes, we turned on country music and line danced. When patients get good news, you get to celebrate with them.
Sometimes, I come across a little blunt and there's always going to be somebody who's offended, but most people receive it well when you are straightforward with them. In my heart is always to help.
I have learned just to keep quiet sometimes with parents whose children are suffering. I did pediatric nursing for a long time and it's so easy to want to say "It's gonna be OK," but they don't always want to hear that. Sometimes, they need to cry, they need to scream, they need to ask God why and you just need to be quiet.
Some people still view nurses like Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the vicious, heartless ones, but I've worked at seven different hospitals and these are truly compassionate people who have to shield their own emotions. The ones I've encountered truly love people. You might not be able to tell at first because that's how we cope. We try not to show our emotions.
There are some things you just have to leave at the time clock (before going home), but sometimes families are on my heart for weeks at a time. I'll have my kids pray for them. I think there's a sense of gratefulness. I'll thank God for my children's health and my husband's health, and it makes you appreciate what you have, and it motivates me to really help these people.
(Nurse Appreciation Day) is great because when someone says the smallest "thank you," it makes our day. Just to hear a "thank you" can be everything.