Denise Dulude’s retirement was short-lived, but she doesn’t regret her decision for a minute. Returning to work at VA Boston Healthcare — even during a pandemic — was an easy choice for her.
“When my former supervisor called and asked if I wanted to come back, I thought, ‘Of course I’ll do it. If I can help, I want to be there.’ I’m a nurse. I have the skills. As they say, ‘Once a nurse, always a nurse.’ I admit I was a little nervous the night before my first day back.”
Dulude was just settling into retirement and adjusting to her next phase. She retired in January 2020 after 37 years with VA. But after that call, she knew that going back to help Veterans in any way she could was the right thing to do. On April 23, she once again walked through the front doors of VA Boston.
She says it felt good to be back, but right away she noticed several changes at the facility — offices moved, hallways re-routed and departments shifted throughout the expansive medical center’s campus. Changes had been made to safely and effectively prepare for receiving and treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her co-workers had to reacquaint her with the facility.
Helps train staff with PPE
Dulude served VA for years as a nurse manager. That experience serves her well in her current role, which includes managing inventory and helping to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff. She also helps train staff in the correct method for putting on and removing PPE, as pictured above.
But there are challenges when engaging with patients, and she’s had to adapt. “As a nurse, it is ingrained in you to comfort patients and be close to help them. That bedside manner comes naturally to me.
“Having to be physically distant from patients can be difficult, but I know it’s necessary. As nurses, we still provide that comfort and care even though we are faced with these challenges.”
While she doesn’t know how long her current work assignment will last, Dulude said she’ll stay as long as she’s needed. She welcomed the opportunity to come back from retirement to help Veterans, help her fellow staff members and serve the VA organization.
Committed to her work, she is also one of nearly 45 registered nurses recently hired back by VA to maximize the delivery of high-quality care during the pandemic and moving forward as the VA re-introduces services.
That’s my mom!
Dulude says her husband, daughter and sister were supportive, but concerned, about her returning to a work at the medical center. They were worried about her potential exposure to the coronavirus and getting sick. But she has her own strict routines and takes every precaution she can to protect herself and her family.
“When I get home, I always go in the same way — through the garage — and wipe down every door handle. Then I immediately remove my shoes and clothes and launder everything.”
She recently saw a social media post that made her pause, in a good way. Below a picture of her on Facebook, mentioning her work at VA, Dulude’s daughter responded with, “THAT’S MY MOM!”
“I guess that means she’s proud of me. That means a lot.”
Dina Ramon works for the VA Boston Healthcare field workgroup content team.