Donna Burks was inducted at an early age to the world of medicine and health care.
Burks used to accompany her diabetic grandmother to doctor visits and remembers learning about insulin when she was 9 years old.
“It was fascinating,” Burks said. “I was really intrigued at a young age, having to be somewhat responsible.”
Burks lived with her grandparents as a child. Her grandmother died when Burks was 15, but the influence of those early years helped propel a nursing career.
National Nurses Week — May 6-12 — fell on a particularly troubling time for nurses and all other health care workers this year as they labor on the front lines of the COVID-19 health crisis.
For Burks, associate chief nursing officer of Eskenazi Health Primary Care, that means an almost endless (and virtual) work schedule. She might work 12 to 15 hours a day, going late into the night with conference calls and the responsibilities that come with being in a leadership role.
Burks’ husband, Lee, commended his wife for the work she’s done over her 26-year career, and especially for the dedication she’s shown over the last couple of months.
“You have to see it,” he said.
Everyone is being extra cautious right now, Burks said, because they know they have an important job to do, but it’s not as easy as isolating from everyone else outside of work. There are children, older parents, people to take care of.
So many things have shut down because of COVID-19, but significant portions of individuals’ lives haven’t been afforded that luxury.
One of Burks’ sons, Solomon, said his mother is a meticulous worker who worries about little things that others might find insignificant. He tries to lighten the load at home by offering to help around the house.
“I know it can be stressful,” said Solomon, who’s a senior at Pike High School, “but it’s cool to see her pull through.”
Receiving that kind of admiration from within your own home is one thing, but it’s become much more common recently to receive praise in very public ways.
Blue Angels flew over Indianapolis on May 12 as a salute to health care workers, first responders and other essential workers. In New York City, videos of people clapping for health care workers from their balconies frequently spread online.
Burks said she’s always felt appreciated during her nursing career, even though that gratification is secondary to the work.
“I think nurses are somewhat humble by nature,” she said.
But these aren’t normal times for health care workers like Burks, so it’s fitting the public’s praise for them also rises to the occasion.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.