Two Queens nurses share their stories of caring for the sick and elderly in celebration of “National Nurses Week”

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Photo courtesy of Mechelle Webb

In celebration of National Nurses Week, QNS profiled two local nurses who have made a difference for their patients.

Mechelle Webb, Jamaica Hospital

As a nurse, caring for the sick and elderly is Mechelle Webb’s love and passion.

“I love to care for people. When I’m taking care of my patients I feel so good if I can make a difference in their lives, it’s really satisfying to me,” said Webb, who was inspired by her cousin to become a nurse. “It brings me great joy. I love nursing.”

For 23 years, Webb has been taking care of patients between the ages of 18-94 at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she is currently working as a registered nurse in the Medical Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

At the age of 18, Webb decided to pursue a career in nursing at the Charles Rosa School of Nursing in her native country of Guyana. Shortly thereafter, she immigrated to the United States in 1992 and continued to persevere on her dream of becoming a registered nurse.

“That was my dream, my goal. I would bypass Jamaica hospital before I even knew I would work there,” said Webb, who began working at the hospital in 1996 as a supportive care associate. “I would say to my husband ‘I would love to work at this hospital.’ Everytime I would pass there and say that and it came to fruition…that’s exactly where I’m working.’”

Webb has worked on the Med-Surge Telemetry Unit for 13 years in various roles such as a Patient Care Associate (PCA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN). She has worked on the Critical Care Team floating to different Critical Care units: The ER, Recovery Room, Step Down Unit, and Respiratory Care Units.

Additionally, Webb was also the chairperson for the United Practice Council, where she created initiatives to improve the quality of care and piloted an inservice for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) for nurses on the Med-Surg Telemetry Units. 

In 2012, she was nominated “Nurse of Distinction” Preceptor of the Year in collaboration with the 1199SEIU/League, and in 2013 she received a GEM Award (Going The Extra Mile) at the hospital.

“A patient went home and he had to come back to be fitted for a live vest while he was in the telemetry Unit,” said Webb. “He went home before they came to fit him. I spearheaded a collection and donation to bring him back to the hospital. He got fitted for his vest and paid transportation to take him back home.”

On April 26, Webb was announced as the first runner-up winner for “Nurse of Distinction” in collaboration with the 1199SEIU/League.

The awards were presented by the 1199SEIU/League Labor Management Initiative, which is a collaboration of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York and the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds. 

For Webb, working as a nurse at Jamaica Hospital has been an “excellent rewarding experience.”

“I bathe my patients. I wash their face, clean their eyes, suction their mouth, brush their teeth, I do everything because I treat my patients as if they are my family,” said Webb. “This is how I want to be treated when I’m sick. I’m so passionate about my work. When I see something being done the way that it’s not supposed too, I address it.”

According to Webb, the job of a nurse in a nutshell is “compounded.”

“It’s like a web. The patient is in the center and everyone else is focused on the patient,” said Webb. “As a nurse, you have to be the carer, listener, counselor, you have to be the adviser and supporter.”

Webb added, “The job of a nurse is very hard because you’re watching someone in a position that can’t do anything for themselves. When you’re in the ICU you’re dependant on the nurse to do everything for you. You have to have compassion, empathy, and be caring. You have to put yourself in that person’s shoe.”

Jeanese Barriteau, Flushing Hospital

Jeanese Barriteau, nurse manager at Flushing Hospital (Photo courtesy of Barriteau)

Jeanese Barriteau, a nurse manager of the Telemetry Unit at Flushing hospital, shares the same sentiments as Webb.

A Long Island resident, Barriteau has been commuting to Flushing hospital for four years managing a staff of 48 members that include nurses, nursing attendants, ward clerks, and Telemetry monitor technicians, during both day and night shifts. Nurses in the Telemetry Unit take care of patients with bariatric, stroke, and heart problems.

At the age of 8, Barriteau knew she wanted to pursue a career as a nurse when she began helping to care for her grandmother.

I grew up in Grenada and in those days we didn’t have a doctor that’s readily available, so we had the nurses that would come into the house, like a community nurse,” said Barriteau. “I saw this stoic lady…she walked into the house with this bag and she was wearing a white dress with a navy blue apron and a white nurses hat. I looked at her and said who’s that…and what does she do? I want to be just like her.”

Caring for her grandmother lead Barriteau to become compassionate, she said.

“I think compassion drove me to start caring for other people who can’t take care of themselves,” said Barriteau. “That thought never left me.”

Though she’s a nurse manager, Barriteau recalls of her days as a young nurse on the floor connecting with elderly patients.

“As a night nurse I would sit and talk to them,” said Barriteau. “They would tell me ‘I don’t want to sleep at night because I’m afraid I’ll die in my sleep.’ A lot of them are very lonely and another I heard from them is ‘If I had to live my life over, I would choose my family over my career.’ Those were very lonely people that needed someone to talk too and that’s what gave me the biggest satisfaction — listening to patients and being there.”

Over the years, Barriteau has worked in various areas of nursing: Hyper-baric nursing, bariatric nursing and medical surgical nursing — all which have been very rewarding, she said.

According to Barriteau, if she had to use one word to describe nurses it would be “angels.”

“We were taught in Nursing 101 that when patients come to the hospital they’re sick. They’re not really themselves,” said Barriteau. “Sometimes they’ll say things that are not very nice to nurses or nursing staff and we’re not supposed to take it personally, and we’ve learned that.”

Barriteau added, “We really don’t take anything personally when patients lash out at us. Our job here is to take care of them, and we put all of that aside and leave our problems at the door.”

As a young nurse, Barriteau said, she wanted to know everything.

“Taking care of patients it’s not just nursing one leg, or one arm or nursing a part of them. I think you’re supposed to nurse the whole patient with their psychological health and physical health,” said Barriteau. “I love nursing and I felt that there wasn’t any other career that I felt I wanted to do besides nursing. I think I have made a difference over the years with the way I interacted with my patients and the care I gave them. I appreciate being a nurse.”


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