A Discovery Leader and Valor Coach on the Front Lines
For the past four years, Valor fans have seen Brooke Jelniker on the sideline at games, coaching Eagles Girls Basketball alongside Head Coach Jessika Caldwell. In addition to her leadership on the court, Brooke has led Discovery teams to Czech Republic and Israel. Lately, though, Brooke has been spending her time in the COVID-19 unit at Littleton Adventist Hospital, caring for patients in an intense trial-by-fire as she works her way through her first year and a half of nursing school. Just a few years ago, the health care field wasn’t one she thought she’d end up in – but as she’s learning, God had other plans.
“After working in sales and marketing for several years, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Brooke explained recently. “I essentially dropped everything, pursued my nurse assistant license and began applying to nursing school. Three months later I was accepted into school and had landed a job working as a nurse assistant in the ICU at Littleton Hospital. After working in the hospital and being in nursing school for over a year and a half, I can confidently say that this is what I was meant to do. I genuinely look forward to walking into the ICU and making an impact, even if that is in the smallest way possible.”
Interestingly, Brooke’s words come in the middle of the most exhausting stretch of her life. Recently, Littleton Adventist converted the ICU unit to a COVID-only unit.
“Our nurses repeatedly give of themselves for 12 straight hours, just to wake up and do it again,” she described. “But it’s not the hours that are exhausting, it’s the lack of protection that we have for ourselves, despite our hospital’s best efforts to provide us with supplies. It’s gowning up to go into a COVID patient’s room for upwards of two hours, providing care for them while wearing a gown, mask, goggles, face shield, and gloves, and coming out of the room drenched in sweat. It’s having to tell the patient’s family members that they can’t be in the room with their loved one as they take their last breath. It’s clocking out from your shift and changing your entire outfit before getting in your car, only to strip down out of that outfit in your garage, just in case you brought anything home with you, running to the shower and praying to God that you don’t get your family members sick. But nurses aren’t the only ones making this sacrifice, there are respiratory therapists, physical therapists, lab technicians, x-ray technicians, ultrasound technicians, IV teams, etc. that all put their safety, and their family’s safety, at risk every time they go to work.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this is the knowledge that this is what I was meant to do. During a time like this is when you get thrown into the fire and truly learn if the career path that you chose is for you. I thrive under pressure, I am quick on my toes, and I like a challenge, and as terrifying and uncertain as this time is for everyone, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but on the front lines.”
Still, this early in her career, Brooke is certainly feeling the learning-curve pains. Because she hasn’t yet completed her learning, she finds herself unable to help as much as she’d like.
“Because I’m still in school, I often have to sit back and assist in smaller ways than I would like. That said, the place that I have felt most prepared (lack of protective equipment aside) is standing in my ICU unit. The collaboration, teamwork and constant communication that takes place inside those hospital doors during a worldwide crisis is both fascinating and encouraging. Decisions are made quickly, people step up when they are needed, and there is a larger sense of community as everyone immediately has the same goal.”
On a daily basis, Brooke is finding herself moved by both the big and small moments. One moment, in particular, has really stuck with her.
“Since family members are currently not allowed into the hospital to visit any patients (COVID or not), we receive countless calls each day from family wanting to check on their loved ones. I can only imagine the worry, confusion, and heartbreak that many of them must be experiencing. Because of this, our ICU unit recently acquired an iPad to allow families and patients to FaceTime. During my last shift, I was able to FaceTime a patient’s sister who had been nervously calling every few hours for updates. The look on both of their faces when they were able to see each other was priceless. It was a moment that made me pause and realize how truly important relationships are. I feel like God is almost trying to tell us to slow down and appreciate what we have.”
There’s been a deserved outpouring of support for healthcare workers since the Coronavirus pandemic began its sweeping movement throughout the United States. At Valor, students have reached out, providing things like snacks and cards to encourage those serving on the front lines. In addition to the much-appreciated acts of service, hospital workers also find themselves coveting prayer. Brooke encourages people to pray for the families of those doctors, nurses and staff.
“Healthcare workers’ families are placed directly in the line of fire by having a member of their household exposed to the virus on a daily basis. Their lives may be altered even more-so, and they need support as well.” Brooke also expresses a need for prayer for the mental health of healthcare workers.
“During this time, most healthcare workers place their own needs on the back burner, no matter how many people tell them to take care of themselves. Their job is to care, and help heal, and keep you alive, and most other things are pushed aside. So please pray that God will provide each of them with even a moment of silence to realize that they are truly making a difference.”
To learn more about Brooke, or for additional encouragement opportunities, find her on Instagram at @brooklynj1.