Health System Nurses Serving Others with Compassion and Empathy

Upon arriving to work recently, Laura Hardy, R.N., noticed that COVID-19 reports were suddenly down 10 cases. Given the latest surge of local COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, this news was initially puzzling to Hardy and several of her co-workers until being informed the decrease in cases was only because 10 more people had lost their battle to the virus overnight. Dealing with the loss of patients is a heart-wrenching struggle for these nurses and other Southeast Georgia Health System team members, day in and day out. They empathize with the patient’s family and hurt alongside them, sensing the pain and anguish families are undergoing.

In addition to working full-time at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-General & Vascular Surgery, Hardy is fighting the harm that COVID-19 has brought to the local community with her skills and limited extra time. Since the pandemic began, she has played an important role in working at testing sites, vaccine clinics, and all three Health System Immediate Care Centers (ICC). This work is often during the evenings and on the weekends, which includes a 30-minute commute each way to and from her home in Wayne County.

Beth Hall, manager, Physician Practices, Southeast Georgia Physician Associates (SGPA) says “Laura exemplifies what it means to be a team player. Evenings and weekends can be some of the busiest times in the ICCs, and her willingness to pitch in and be available on very short notice has eased the burden our regular team members experience. They truly appreciate her positive attitude and can-do spirit.” A warrior-like mentality is a must to keep the weariness at bay. Hardy shares “I had a friend come in with COVID-19. She did not get vaccinated because she was afraid of it.” Hardy now mourns the death of her friend who unfortunately succumbed to the virus. She adds “It is so sad and frustrating to see all these people passing away because they’re not vaccinated.”

Hardy, who has been a nurse and worked in several departments and physician practices within the Health System for nearly 20 years, is in good company in her sorrow and efforts to fight the pandemic. Believing she and her co-workers are closer than ever before, she explains “We all share in the sadness when we lose one of our patients. When we’re working in the vaccine clinic, it’s a friendly environment because we know we’re doing something beneficial for our community.” SGPA Physician Practice Managers Melissa Toler and Cassie Wilder have assisted with coordinating and working the vaccine clinics since the vaccines became available to the public in January 2021. Toler says “Countless nurses like Laura have given up their evenings, weekends and spare time to help vaccinate the community and their fellow team members while continuing to work their full-time positions.” Wilder adds, “Each of them have done so without complaint, serving others with compassion and empathy, and it has been rewarding to get to work alongside each of them.”

Hardy begs everyone to get vaccinated. “The vaccine may not keep you from getting sick, but it does a lot to keep you off the ventilator,” she explains. “We’re not making up numbers. We’re not here just for fun. We’re tired, stressed and constantly nervous about who is going to be next.”

Southeast Georgia Health System offers COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines for all individuals age 12 and older. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are accepted subject to vaccine availability. To learn more or to make an appointment, visit