Montana Nurses Association Foundation: Provide opportunities for MT Nurses
Yo! My name is Dylan Malloy. I was born in the small blue collared town of Butte, America, home to one of America’s largest superfund sites. Butte was once one of the largest and most diverse cities in the western U.S. because of its rich mineral deposits, mostly copper. The rough mining industry would forever change Butte’s landscape and it’s people. There are over 10,000 miles of underground tunnels, some reaching a mile beneath the earth’s surface, along with several open pit mines. Now, there is not a lot more to show than its scarred hillside and toxic lakes. But Butte is mending. So, I am here to tell you what I took from growing up there, what I am doing now, and how it all comes together. How inspirational things may arise from run-down and rough around the edges people and places. Mostly, how important it is to support each other.
Butte. You can almost see some people wince when they discover your hometown. Known for its rough and tough people not afraid to tell you what’s on their mind. Willing to go fisticuffs for almost any matter, regardless of the topic. But besides being a little rough and terraced around the edges, Butte has always had an involved community. The only thing bigger than the lake of poisonous mineral deposits, is the heart of the community. When it comes to helping its own, Butte is second to none. It’s not uncommon to see the same two people wrestling in the bar alley last night, come together today and help each other build the community's new soccer field.
I learned a lot growing up in Butte. Mind your manners. Be polite. Help those in need. Be careful what you say. Know when to shut the hell up. More importantly, when to make your voice heard and not back down. I learned there is both good and bad in everyone. I was taught to treat everyone equally. You should learn equally from winning and losing. And, no matter what, be Butte tough. That’s the extra layer of tough you have when everything else is gone. Others may know it better as perseverance, determination, or grit.
After leaving Butte, I spent a few years in college. The first few years I was learning more about becoming independent away from my family, friends, and away from Butte for the first time. I may have spent more time studying beer-genomics (How does one get the most quantity of cheap beer, for the cheapest price?) and the back of Totino’s Party Pizza’s cooking instructions than I did my schoolwork. But I had a decent head on my shoulders and managed to get through 3 years of college, collegiate soccer, and working part-time jobs. Then I got into the Montana State University (MSU) nursing program.
Another 3 short years later, I graduated with my BSN from MSU. I was a nurse. An RN. I get asked a lot if I had always known nursing was my calling or if I had just known that’s what I was supposed to do. To be honest, hell no. I kinda’ fell into the science classes, enjoyed them and kept going. I got a job in Billings at Billings Clinic Hospital on their Inpatient Medical (IPM) floor. That was 10 years ago this summer. Over the years, I realized why I enjoy nursing so much. You get to be with people. The lessons I learned from Butte, treating everyone as equals, meeting people where they are in life, sharing vulnerabilities and working together towards a common goal, all converge. Nursing is working with, and for the people. That is why I enjoy being a nurse. That is why I have stayed for 10 years.
Over the past decade, there were always ebbs and flows in the workplace. But Hot Damn! This past year and a half encountering a global pandemic has been nothing less than brutal. We all have had to make accommodations and sacrifices, but I have seen this Novel SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 or Covid) for the ugly dirt chicken bastard it truly is.
Covid has impacted every corner of the globe in one aspect or another. But, from approximately November 2020, through January 2021, Billings Montana was close to running out of resources for patients. We were the “Covid Hotspot” featured on the nightly national news programs. The National Guard was brought in to help staff units, units that didn’t exist before. They helped turn office space in the basement into rooms just large enough for a bed and nightstand. Our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) expanded its capacity to a whole other unit. We had patients sharing rooms and supplies. In creating all these new spaces for patients, our staff was learning and adapting on the fly. We didn’t have any other choices. We had nurses without ICU experience learning on the fly how to care for extremely sick patients. Learning new complex life saving machines and skills in real time. The margin for error is nil.
My floor, IPM, was designated as the “Covid Unit”. We were to take all the Covid patients that didn’t require ICU level of care. I was the charge nurse on our floor the day we admitted the first Covid patient to the unit. The stress and tension on the unit was already palpable. We had been preparing for this, but now it was real. Policies were changing 3-5 times per week. Sometimes multiple times per day. We saw what could happen as in Italy, New York, and Washington…. We knew this was not going to be easy and could not be taken lightly. At that time, there were still so many unknowns. Maybe that’s the worst part. Not knowing. People were scared to come to work. I watched as nurses and nursing assistants cried knowing they were going to have to take care of patients with a new disease. A new disease that was spreading quickly, deadly, and without a cure. Those staff have families. They are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles…… Who wants to put themselves in a potentially life and death situation day after day? For how long? What if I get the virus? What does that mean for me, my family, and my friends?
We had problems amongst our staff with fear and anxiety. We had multiple new units open. Even with a lot of emergency travel staff, it meant working short staffed for months. Staff from other units and departments did not want to come to the Covid Unit. It was not uncommon to see red swollen watery eyes behind a nurse's mask and eye protection. We adapted, we learned, we improvised, we helped, and we still cared for patients.
I don’t want to get bogged down on the lows, but don’t want to sugar coat things either. We watched a lot of people die. Grandmas and Grandpas. Mothers and Fathers. Sons and Daughters. Old and Young. Visiting was not allowed, and I can’t tell you how many times I peeked into a room to see if a nurse in the room needed anything. They were sitting at the bedside holding hands with the patient as the patient took their last breaths. Seeing a fish out of water is how a lot of people with Covid can appear. But watching a person struggling to take their last breaths can’t be erased from your mind. Those nurses would come out of the room later, take a few minutes for a break, then come back to take care of their 4 other Covid patients and get ready for a new Covid admit into the room once the body was removed. We took care of people we knew from the community, staff family members, and our fellow co-workers. Not all of them survived. We were caring for and losing our own. The ICU didn’t always have enough rooms and ventilators, so doctors would round on 3-4 people who needed an ICU bed and decide who needed it the most. That decision carries a lot of weight.
In the end, Billings was lucky. Other places were not as fortunate. We got creative and resourceful, but we managed to keep enough personal protection equipment (PPE) for our staff. We never stopped taking patients. We cared for anyone and everyone who needed it. Including those requiring medical attention that didn’t have Covid.
What I saw during that time was grit. It was selfless perseverance. It was Butte Toughness. People putting all of themselves, literally risking their lives, to take care of others in their community. It is inspiring and beautiful. But all that stress, fear, anxiety, and loss doesn’t always get resolved with toughness. It takes kindness and compassion. From others and oneself. It can take time to work through. This brings me to my cause.
I would like to raise money for the Montana Nurses Association (MNA), specifically for nurse's mental health across the state. Billings is not alone nor unique among the pandemic. We have had staff quit their jobs, retire early or not want to start working because of the stress of working during these crazy times. We have lost critical healthcare staff in Billings and worldwide to suicide from the amount of stress. I want nurses to have easy, affordable and unbiased access to help. Whether it be someone to talk with, or professional therapy, I want people to have the resources they need available. I chose MNA because they are a nonprofit organization that helps serve nurses across the state. They represent a lot of the nurses around the state and can put money raised where it can provide the most impact. To get people the help they need.
To raise money, I will be participating in a handful of athletic events this summer. The events are part of the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS). There are eight events held in beautiful Southwestern Montana near Ennis, Montana. These are fun and unique races I have done before and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun time. They are directed by this idiot named Sam (his words, but I can’t entirely disagree) and described as, “These Ain’t No Pansy Ass City Races”. They are small town, Big Sky Country races. Small crowds, high elevation, tough as nails, mostly self-supported, and a helluva’ lotta’ fun!
Sports, competition, and the great outdoors have been integral to me as an individual throughout my life. I love being outside in Montana anytime of the year. There is no off-season. Only a different love for different seasons… and more layers of clothing. Exercise helps me and my mindset stay healthy. I believe exercise is one of the best forms of therapy especially if done outside in nature. But I know all too well exercise is NOT a replacement for real professional therapy. Sometimes we all need help, and there is not a damn thing wrong with that.
I am asking you to kindly donate however much you can to help support access and availability to nurses mental health through the MNA. There are several donation options. One-time donations. Donations per mile or per Km. And other options I’ll let Sam sell you on. As of now, I will be completing the Madison Triathlon, Madison Duathlon and Madison Marathon. That will be a total of 130.7 miles in three days. I am committed to those as of now. But if we can raise some more money for the cause…… I am considering some of the other races. Races like the Water to Whiskey 5K, the Madison Ultra, and potentially the Tour de Gravelly gravel bike race…. Maybe more! I would love any contribution, and even better, would love if you donate AND register for a GYAS race! Get outside and get moving in the magnificent Montana summer.
There is nothing better than seeing a community come together to support each other. We will mend and rebuild together. I’ve seen a sports complex built on tons of toxic mine waste. One man's dream of building 90-foot statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was built atop the continental divide overlooking the town of Butte (The 4th tallest statue in the U.S.). A dirty ol’ mining town perseveres and continues to thrive in its own unique way and maintain its own unmistakable identity. Maybe Butte Tough isn’t as much toughness as it is unity. For together, we are all stronger when we support each other. If I know I got you. You know you got me. We got everything we need.
DonationsSee top donations
- Barbara Malloy
- Eric Sutphin
- Kim Mckiernan
- Karen VanDaveer
- Dylan Barnard