Appreciating Our Essential Workers

Paying Tribute to Some of the Amazing Women in Our Community

In this annual Women’s Issue, we wanted to pay tribute to those Essential Workers who have shown amazing attitudes, stamina, patience and creativity in dealing with one of the most challenging times in our recent history. We’ve highlighted just a sampling of those workers, chosen by the community, to be featured here. And what better way to show you their hearts than with their own thoughts and words when asked about their experience during this COVID-19 pandemic:

Jen Stuhlman is a firefighter for the Cottleville Fire Protection District. She says one of her greatest challenges has been the "social distance" they’ve had to keep from people and wearing masks, especially during 911 calls. “Often times, when we’re called to respond to emergencies, people are emotionally distraught or completely panicked. The ability to express empathy, comfort and reassurance is in part done through facial expression; a smile or an understanding look. While having that small gesture compromised doesn’t impact the actions we take, I think it does make coping with the emergency more difficult for the people involved,” she explains. "I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be able to serve our community and count myself as blessed to be able to do so. However, it’s never lost on me, that while the service I provide is considered ‘essential,’ not all workers and businesses are able to be considered that. What we all share is a responsibility to provide for our families and loved ones. I hope we are able to return to a healthy and safe ‘normal’ as soon as possible.”

Kimberlyn Tihen is a paramedic for the St. Charles County Ambulance District. As a Mobile Integrated Health Captain, she has been vaccinating first responders, as well as those in Independent Living Facilities in St. Charles County. “My greatest challenge has been trying to meet our patients’ needs when so many of their community resources have been shut down during the pandemic. One positive thing I’ve seen in my experience is watching the amazing team of people I work with come together and think outside the box to help our patients. When you work with great people you can overcome any adversity!”

Lizzy Stoinksi started her EMT training during the pandemic and is now employed at Total Access Urgent Care. She says her biggest challenge has been balancing the usual needs of patients with the heavy influx of COVID patients. “It’s difficult to create connection and comfort for patients while wearing a mask and them not being able to see me smile,” she says. “I’ve learned so much throughout the pandemic and it’s been amazing to see the strength and courage of frontline health care workers. It inspired me to continue and grow in this field. While there’s been tremendous loss, there will be an end to the pandemic and we will be able to hug each other again. That helps me remember that no matter how difficult things can be, there is always hope.”

As Director of Health Services at Clarendale Senior Living in St. Peters, Mackenzie Bruner feels her role has always been to keep the staff, residents and their families in good spirits, hopeful and healthy. “But, as a new senior living community opening in the heat of the pandemic, COVID-19 threw us a few curveballs we weren’t expecting,” says Mackenzie. “It taught me how to be an even stronger leader and it shows through the strength and confidence my team has gained while working in such an unexpected situation. I also feel we’ve connected in ways with our seniors that we typically wouldn’t have because we became those people that they relied on, their shoulders to cry on, and ears to listen when their families couldn’t be there with them. Being an essential worker during such a challenging time has been the single most difficult thing I’ve experienced as a nurse, yet such a humbling experience. It has been a pleasure to care for our residents this past year and be there for them in many different facets.”

Amanda Grover, an L&D RN at SSM St Joseph’s in Lake St Louis, says it's been hard dealing with all the “unknowns” of what the virus is capable of doing and living in fear of being a cause for the spread of it. “Working in healthcare, we worry about catching the virus and bringing it home to the family, but my far greatest fear is catching it and giving it to my patients and their newborn babies,” she says. “This virus has been unlike anything ever really seen before and it effects so many different people in so many different ways. Just the thought that I could be the cause of potentially creating that type of heartache to my patient’s lives has been terrifying to me.”

But Amanda says a positive aspect of the pandemic is that it has caused families to learn how to reconnect and spend more quality time together. “I also feel it has opened people’s eyes to how short life can be and how easy it is to take everyone and everything for granted. I have always felt blessed to be able to be a nurse and care for people in some of the worst times in their lives. COVID has opened my eyes to just how much more I truly love being able to be there for people and how proud I am to be able to live through God’s mission and touch those who I get to cross paths with. This pandemic has really brought to life how much value ‘essential workers’ bring to the community and makes people really appreciate what others do on a daily basis…and not just those in health care, but teachers, grocery store employees, and frontline workers, just to name a few.

Dr. Kate Flick is an OB/GYN at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital - Lake Saint Louis. She feels it has been an especially difficult time to work in health care. “When the pandemic began, I had just come back to work from maternity leave. It was really disheartening because normally it would have been a celebratory time. I was ready to see friends and introduce them to my daughter, but instead we had to hunker down with only our immediate family. With three active kids, and being on call to work with pregnant patients, it was emotionally draining. Unfortunately, my baby came down with COVID-19. She was just over a year old when she contracted it from her daycare provider, who was only doing her job so that I could go to work. It was scary, but we got through it. The good thing is we’ve seen kids most of the time do really well against this infection.”

She says the outreach and support from the community has been unbelievable. It’s been challenging but also very rewarding. “I’ve also been impressed by the resiliency our nurses and office staff have shown during such a difficult time. They did everything they could to adjust and keep our environments safe for our patients.

“I’ve had a few patients ask if it was safe to deliver their baby at the hospital, which is understandable, but I explain to them I work in the hospital every day and feel safe going home to my kids because we follow CDC guidelines and have the proper safety measures in place. SSM Health and the pandemic task force have done a wonderful job supporting us so we can get back to providing our patients with all essential health care services including screenings and wellness visits.”

Tina Miller, who has worked in grocery retail for 40 years, currently as Deli/Seafood Manager for Dierbergs, says it’s been hard having to wear a mask all day and trying to communicate. “I think all essential workers are trying their best to do their best. Sometimes things are out of our control and it becomes frustrating for those who don’t know or understand how our businesses work,” says Tina. “But it’s been good spending more quality time with my family since things weren’t open. Everyone was not able to be ‘on the go’ all the time, so that was nice.”

Rhiannon McKnight, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Medical Director of Vet Stop Animal Hospital, says it’s been hard not being allowed to let clients enter the hospital. “So much of our practice relates to the human-animal bond and having to leave pet parents outside has been very hard and stressful for both us and them. We had to literally re-invent the way we practiced medicine in just a few days,” says Rhiannon. “But one positive outcome of COVID was that I had the opportunity for my two grown children to come home for extended visits! My daughter lives in New York and my son is at university in Canada. We have spent more quality time together, laughing and playing board games than we have in several years. But I do miss the interaction and genuine friendship of so many of my clients. I can’t thank them enough for their support and understanding. I feel truly privileged to have been able to continue to serve our patients and our community during such unprecedented times. All of us essential workers share the same deep commitment to serving those around us. I’m just doubly blessed that my service is sometimes rewarded with a wagging tail and a puppy cuddle.”


Related Businesses

Related Articles