Honoring Nurses: Baton Rouge General ER nurse says ‘we do it because that’s what we do’

Pregnant BRG nurse recalls experience working in ER, and getting COVID-19 herself

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When you’re young, it’s easy to feel like you’ve got things figured out.

“All my life, I was going to be a teacher,” said Terra Eubanks. “That’s all I wanted to do.”

But then, life sort of happens.

“In 2008, my parents were in a very bad car accident and my mom and dad were both in the hospital for over a month," Eubanks said.

Eubanks says she had to change her plans.

“The compassion that they showed them was next to nothing else I can compare it to," she said.

Call it life-altering. She needed to be like the caregivers that picked her parents back up when they were at their lowest.

“I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this, but somehow I have to figure that out.’ If I can touch one person and save one life, then it’s worth it for me," said Eubanks.

BRG ER Nurse Terra Eubanks and best friend, Naomi Mire, who works in the burn unit at Baton Rouge General.
BRG ER Nurse Terra Eubanks and best friend, Naomi Mire, who works in the burn unit at Baton Rouge General. (Source: Terra Eubanks)

Eubanks jumped into the fast track nursing program at Southeastern Louisiana University and graduated in two years. Her next stop required her to hit the ground running.

“That’s just how my brain works. I go fast. I like fast-paced," she said.

The emergency room at Baton Rouge General is where Eubanks saves families and was nominated for nurse of the year. But even the great ones don’t get to the top alone. Her preceptor, Jim Ruckman, is always in the back of her mind.

“Always. What would Jim do?” Eubanks asked. “He was incredible. He taught me what I know.

During one of their frequent teaching moments, Eubanks recalls him saying, "I’m not going to let you drown, but I’m going to show you. I’ll be watching.”

Remember, Eubanks left teaching in the rear-view mirror for nursing, but the passion is still there. New grads now look to her. Her rule of thumb? Lead with dignity.

“Honor them, because no matter the age, when they’re elderly, you don’t know who and what they were when they were younger. Just because you see somebody the way they are today, is not their normal," she said.

You can call her a veteran now that’s she’s nine and a half years into her nursing career, but this novel coronavirus is like nothing she’s seen before.

“l think for us, yes, you’re nervous about it, but at the same token when things get bad, that’s when we go in," said Eubanks.

This mom of three, all of which are under the age of five, faced this head-on as the first line of defense in the hospital.

Her biggest worry is being a possible carrier and bringing it home to her babies though.

BRG ER nurse, Terra Eubanks, says she strives to show patients compassion and dignity.
BRG ER nurse, Terra Eubanks, says she strives to show patients compassion and dignity. (Source: Terra Eubanks)

“You have to run past them while they’re screaming for you to get to the showers that they don’t touch you,” Eubanks said. “That’s probably been to me one of the harder things on this end of it. I do it for other people so I can sacrifice that.”

One day during the hustle, the nurse started to feel different.

“I said, ‘Oh, I don’t feel good,’ but maybe I’m just getting a cold or maybe it’s because I’m pregnant I don’t know," she said.

Eubanks says even her boss noticed something just wasn’t right. The very next day, Eubanks tested positive for COVID-19.

“And it was very scary, if you will, because you don’t know. It’s an unknown,” she said.

Eubanks says she’s never had to miss work due to an illness. Her body was attacked by the same symptoms we’ve all heard about. She immediately thought about her patients.

“I see people every day who are dying from it and they’re alone. I got to come home, so I feel so guilty for having the diagnosis because I wasn’t as sick as other people,” Eubanks said.

Considered a team player, among her coworkers, she found a silver lining.

“I want to do the antibody testing to see if I can donate plasma,” she said. “I said that’s a positive that’s going to come out of this.”

Her first day back on the fast track was Monday, May 4. The virus didn’t scare this expecting mom away. She says the same goes for any other front liner.

“I never considered not going back into it. Do it all over again,” she said. “That’s how we all are. We do it because that’s what we do. We don’t need any praise. I don’t.”

We don’t have to call it praise if she doesn’t want to, but nurses like Eubanks deserve it.

“It’s intuition. You just go in with the mindset of what we are going to do today and what comes comes. To be able to respond to these people when they’re the most critical is... I love it," she said.

Eubanks says she would like to think we could celebrate each other every day, so starting today, say thank you to a nurse. And going forward, do it every chance you get.

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