Nursing can be a roller coaster ride, especially during COVID-19




Daisy Award winner Angie Parsley tries to be the light for her patients and families that she needed when her own son was hospitalized: “Some days I go home and feel defeated, and other days I feel like a super hero.”

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

Angie Parsley always knew there was something more. She had a husband she loved, two kids she adored and a job she enjoyed.

But the call to nursing kept ringing in her head.

It was a rare quiet moment on the couch one day, she said, when she had an epiphany of sorts. It was time to follow her dream.

“In high school, I wanted to become a nurse, and I always knew I wanted to be a peds nurse if I was going to be a nurse. There was no other option for me.”

So while her kids were preschoolers, she enrolled in nursing school. Getting started was the hard part, she said, but she had good support from her husband and family.

Parsley family photo

Three months before graduation, she and her husband, Rob, learned that their son, Graysen, had type 1 diabetes. Now she was getting an education in healthcare from an entirely different vantage point.

Graysen, now 7, is doing well today. He sees Dr. Juan Sanchez in endocrinology at Riley Hospital for Children.


In a matter of months, Parsley became a Riley mom and a Riley team member, starting her tenure as a registered nurse on 9 East in September 2019.

“I don’t think there was a better choice for me at all.”

Just six months later, she and all of her peers at Riley were preparing for something they never expected – a pandemic.

“It felt like everybody else was learning together, like everybody was a new nurse then,” she said.

The hardest part in the beginning was the unknown, Parsley said. The virus has revealed itself over the months to be easily transmissible and deadly.

For that reason, Riley and all of IU Health instituted restrictions on visitors to the hospital. For pediatric patients, that means just one caregiver is allowed per day. The policy is hard on families, but it’s hard on nurses too, Parsley said.

It goes against their instincts. Nurses appreciate how important the presence of family can be in the recovery of a patient and how heavy a load it is to bear alone.

Parsley children embrace and look at the camera

“I remember with Graysen in the hospital, I couldn’t imagine doing it all by myself,” Parsley said.

She was lucky. She didn’t have to because there were no restrictions in place at that time.


The past 10 months have been an education in not only caring for patients amid a pandemic but caring for families as well.

Nicole Geist, Parsley’s manager on 9 East, understands the toll it takes on her team and their patients.

“We have families here sometimes for quite a bit of time. Mom and dad can switch out every 24 hours, but then they are going sometimes days, weeks without seeing each other or having time at home with their own family,” Geist said.

“Especially around the holidays it was really tough,” she added. “We just feel for the families because they’re tired and it’s hard to get a break when one person is always either at home with the other children or at the hospital with the sick child.

“All of my team – nurses, techs, secretaries – we want nothing more than both parents or both caregivers to be able to be at the bedside with their child, but we also know that that puts everyone at risk. It’s hard.”

Like her peers on 9 East and other units of the hospital, Parsley does her best to be an extra set of hands and a sympathetic ear for caregivers who are isolated in their child’s room.

Geist has noticed.

“Angie throughout this entire time has been such a positive light and is frequently recognized by her peers and by patients and their families for continuing to go above and beyond for her patients,” Geist said.


Parsley holds flowers and balloons

That positivity was recognized in the form of a Daisy Award for Parsley, presented last month. Once a splashy event with photographers and crowds of people, now even the Daisy presentations are limited to staff on the floor, individually wrapped Cinnabon rolls, flowers and the Healer’s Touch sculpture.

Created in memory of Patrick Barnes, who died in 1999, the award is meant to “ensure that nurses know how deserving they are of our society's profound respect for the education, training, brainpower and skill they put into their work, and especially for the caring with which they deliver their care,” said Barnes’ father, Mark.

In nominating Parsley for the award, the parent of a patient who now wants to become a nurse herself had this to say:

“Not only did Angie go above and beyond what was expected to help make this difficult process easier for her patient, my daughter, but she went above and beyond for me as well. Angie is always gentle and caring when checking vitals and administering medications. Her priority was always her job and my daughter. (She) would take a few minutes to talk to my daughter and ask her about school and her siblings. Angie treated my daughter like a friend and not just a patient. Angie displayed excellent professionalism and true compassion every time she came into the room.”

The recognition goes a long way in reinforcing Parsley’s commitment to her job and her patients. As a Riley mom herself, she knows the value of a kind word or an unspoken gesture, so she does her best to be that person for her patients and their caregivers.

“Some days I go home and feel defeated, and other days I feel like a super hero. It can be a roller coaster, but I love what I do.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,