VU in the News

Hero nurse embodies compassion in pandemic

May 21, 2020

AVON, Ind.  – Nurse Kayla Cash is doing things during the coronavirus pandemic that aren’t in her job description.  The Vincennes University graduate is creating personal moments of connection for COVID-19 patients. From deciphering that one of her patients on a ventilator wanted to hear from his wife when he kept turning and holding on to Cash's wedding ring to using her personal cellphone to connect all of her patients via FaceTime with their family members since visitors are not allowed.

Kayla Cash, 2010 VU graduate

“They couldn’t talk, but they could at least hear their loved ones,” Cash said. “I would hold their hand and they could squeeze my hand. They were able to receive that love still. Obviously in a very different form, but it was nice to still be able to connect that way.”

Cash is a registered nurse in an intensive care unit at IU Health West Hospital in Avon, Indiana. She is doing more than suiting up in personal protective equipment and tending to patients’ physical needs. She is supporting their emotional needs and going above and beyond for their families.

 

 “I’ve watched Kayla care for our family when health needs arise,” said Kayla’s sister and VU Psychology Professor Kristin Jessee. “I always enjoy standing back to watch. It’s kind of like watching a gifted painter or sculptor. It’s easy to see the gift as the artist works. You stand in awe as you watch the final product surface. It’s like that with Kayla. I believe she has a gift to help bring loving care both physically and spiritually to all she encounters.”

The coronavirus pandemic is shining a deserving spotlight on nurses and all they do. The World Health Organization has named 2020 the “Year of the Nurse”.

It is a fitting tribute to nurses.

Cash, who graduated from VU in 2010 with an associate’s degree in nursing, is the embodiment of compassion, caring, strength, and courage.

"Vincennes University's nursing faculty have very high expectations for nursing students and graduates. With those expectations come a strong sense of compassion and willingness to do whatever is necessary to help a student and graduate achieve success. We send our students out to be world-changers in whatever capacity they are called. Our graduates are courageous, charitable, and true leaders,” College of Health Sciences and Human Performance Dean Michelle Cummins.

Empathizing with her patients and their families and responding to their needs is incredibly important to Cash.

“I know for myself how I would feel if I had a loved one that I couldn’t see and that was so sick with this new novel virus and everybody is terrified, and you have no idea how your loved one is doing,” Cash said. “So maybe I can bring them a little bit of peace if they can see their loved one.”

Typically, Cash cares for two patients at a time or one if the individual is very critical. She has taken care of as many as four at once due to the pandemic.

“It has been taxing, but we are supported very well,” she said. “At VU, a lot of the professors talked about nursing in a way that every single day is different and every single day you are presented with a new challenge. And that is exactly what we are seeing. Although COVID is new for all of us, as a nurse we really don’t do anything differently. We are always presented with challenges. We are always presented with how do we do this differently, what do we do, learning different things, and coming up with different ways to do them. Those were certainly things I learned at VU.”

Working as a certified nursing assistant as a high school student in Ferdinand, Indiana, confirmed Cash’s aspirations of wanting to become a nurse. Back then, she worked in an infirmary taking care of nuns at a monastery.

“I remember the days when Kayla was at VU for nursing,” Kristin Jessee said. “She shared how difficult some of the classes were, but she felt so prepared for the encounters she would have in the Terre Haute and Indianapolis hospitals where she has served.”

Cash is poised to be of additional assistance to those needing medical care. She is pursuing a degree to become a family nurse practitioner.

“I always have wanted to help people,” Cash said. “I don’t enjoy monotonous work. I like a challenge. I like things to be different so I really enjoy being able to take care of people especially in their really vulnerable times. I think it is a profound career that you earn the trust and respect of complete strangers. I enjoy being able to help in that way.”

The world is better because of it.

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